Top tips for a healthy BBQ

By June Shannon Nutrition News   |   3rd Jul 2018

With the heatwave expected to continue, read our top tips for a healthier barbecue.

A barbecue is a great way to get friends and family together and enjoy the great outdoors. The good news is that there are ways to ensure that your barbecue feast is both delicious and heart healthy.

We caught up with the Irish Heart Foundation’s resident expert dietitian Sarah Noone for some top tips for a healthy barbecue.

Pay attention to your portions:

As we all know during the barbecue season it is very easy to eat too much, particularly meat. Did you know that one serving, or portion of meat should be about half the size of the palm of your hand? Sarah advised trying to beat the temptation to overdo it on meat by filling up half your plate with vegetables and salads or by using a smaller plate.

Load up on veggies:

Why not try making vegetarian kebabs with peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms and onion, piling your burgers high with cherry tomatoes, lettuce, red onions and cucumber or making a summer side salad. “Increasing the proportion of veg and salad on your plate is a simple trick to reduce the calorie content of your meal,” Sarah said.

Rethink your drink:

Strike up the barbecue crack open a few beers, right? Wrong. Alcohol is high in sugar and calories and drinking more than the recommended amount can be harmful to your heart as well as your overall health. A pint of larger has about 210 calories, around the same as a packet of crisps. Therefore, Sarah advised alternating alcoholic with non-alcoholic drinks, using a smaller glass and avoiding “top ups” as they can make it difficult to keep track of how much you are drinking.

In Ireland the recommended low-risk limits for alcohol consumption are 17 standard drinks (=170 grams (or 210 mls) of pure alcohol e.g. half a pint of beer, spread out over the course of a week, with at least two to three alcohol-free days for men and 11 standard drinks (=110 grams (or 140 mls) of pure alcohol), spread out over the course of a week, with at least two to three alcohol-free days for women.

“Increasing the proportion of veg and salad on your plate is a simple trick to reduce the calorie content of your meal,"

Sarah Noone, Dietitian, Irish Heart Foundation

BBQ Fish

Why not make some room on the grill for some fish? Omega-3 fatty acids in oily fish such as salmon, trout, sardines and mackerel have been shown to lower the risk of irregular heart beat and a build-up of plaque in arteries. Sarah advised trying to boost your fish intake by making garlic prawn skewers, grilled salmon with a lime yogurt sauce or mackerel sizzled with tomatoes and garlic.

Stay hydrated

We can sometimes mistake thirst for hunger meaning that you might be tempted to reach for more food when in fact what your body really needs is fluid. Sarah posed the following challenge: “Whenever you feel hungry, try first drinking a glass of water. Don’t like plain water? Add a few cucumber slices, lime, lemon or strawberries for an extra kick.”

Watch the sauce

Some sauces can be surprisingly high in calories. Did you know a tablespoon of mayonnaise contains around 100 calories, while a tablespoon of mustard contains around 10 calories and a relish around 20 calories? Why not try using the Irish Heart Foundation’s handy food shopping card to help you reach for healthier options when choosing sauces.



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