Healthy Eating

Give Your Barbecue A Health-Over

Whether you’re the host or a guest, here’s how to enjoy dinner al fresco this summer without overindulging

If you’re the host…

Make your own marinade

“Marinades can often be loaded with added sugars, salts, colours and preservatives which can be detrimental to our health,” says nutritionist Clarissa Lenherr (@clenherrnutrition). “Make your own marinade to avoid these concerns and opt for ideas that include herbs, such as a lemon, garlic, coriander, olive oil and sea salt rub.”

Switch to olive oil

“Olive oil is the oil of choice in the Mediterranean diet,” says registered dietitian Helen Bond. “Did you know that it contains more cholesterol-lowering monounsaturated fat than any other oil? Extra virgin is perfect for making salad dressings and for bread dipping, while regular olive oil is better for cooking. Use a tablespoon or a spray bottle to control portions as, like all fats, it’s high in calories.”

Don’t fear serving veggie options

“There are delicious, plant-based options that you can serve at a barbecue now, that don’t rely on vegetarian faux-meats or plain salads,” says Clarissa. “Grilling some vegetable skewers, aubergine steaks and Portobello mushrooms can be a great way to boost vegetable intake and bring colour and nutrients to everyone’s plates.”

Cook oily fish

“One of our recommended two portions (140g) of fish a week should be oily, as they’re brimming with heart-healthy omega 3 fats,” says Helen. “Unfortunately, us Brits are falling well behind our Mediterranean cousins with adults aged 19 to 64 managing just over a third of a portion a week (56g). If you’re not a fan of salmon or mackerel, then there are lots of other oily fish you can try, such as sardines, pilchards, trout and herring and, don’t forget that canned oily fish also counts – plus it’s cheaper and lasts a lot longer.”

Serve wholegrains as sides

“There is a temptation to serve buns, breads and potato goods at a barbecue, but wholegrain side dishes can be a great healthy option,” Clarissa explains. “Swap out buns and baps for mixed bowls of brown and wild rice, dressed quinoa dishes or, if you need something to wrap the meat in, reach for wholemeal wraps and pittas. Looking for a potato salad alternative? Whip up a sweet potato salad or roasted butternut squash wedges.”

Pack in more fruit and veg

“Look for ways to add more veg into your barbeque dishes,” Helen advises. “Throw in grated vegetables to homemade burgers or add extra veg, such as sweet peppers and mushrooms, to pasta and rice salads. Swap sugary shop-bought ice lollies for 100 percent fruit juice lollies, which you can make at home. To do this, simply pour 100 percent orange juice into ice lolly moulds, poke in sticks and freeze until solid. Ta-da! They won’t contain any added sugar or artificial ingredients and are an easy way to tick off one of your five-a-day with very little effort. You can also take some inspiration from Spain and try sliced strawberries and bananas with orange juice poured on top for a deliciously refreshing fresh fruit salad. Remember, fruit and veg don’t have to be fresh to count as a portion – tinned, frozen, dried and 100 percent fruit juice all count!”

If you’re a guest…

Fill half your plate with veggies

“Fill half your plate with greens and vegetables and use the other half to add protein sources and wholegrain options (if they’re on offer), such as brown rice,” says Clarissa. “If you think your host might not be so healthconscious, bring a colourful salad dish as your contribution to the barbecue and fill some of your plate with your own cooking.”

Opt for fruit

“Lots of traditional desserts served at barbecues contain cream, and that’s obviously a no-go if you’re trying to be healthy,” says David Weiner, nutrition specialist and fitness app Freeletics ( “The best dessert option would be a fresh fruit salad, which can help with weight and fat loss. Some of the best fruits for weight loss are strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and cherries, so stick to those if possible.”

Hydrate with water

“When the temperature rises and the grill comes out, we can find ourselves drinking one too many Pimm’s,” Clarissa tells us. “Make sure you hydrate between every alcoholic drink with some plain water. Also, barbecue food tends to be high in salt, so make sure you quench your thirst with a glass of water before chugging down a cocktail or beer.”

Wait 15 minutes before having seconds

“Our bodies need about 15 minutes for our hunger and satiety cues to kick in and tell us that we’re full and satisfied,” says Clarissa. “If you find yourself feeling tempted to have seconds, wait 15 minutes and see if you’re still hungry. If it’s a craving, you might find it passes. If not, have no more than half a plate of seconds, or fill up on some vegetables instead.”

Easy BBQ recipes

Add these recipes from nutritional therapist Terry Fairclough ( to your repetoire for a healthier summer.

Homemade burgers

Add 500g beef mince, two egg whites, chopped parsley, two teaspoons of English mustard and seasoning to a blender. Blitz until smooth and mould into a size you like. Remember, if they are thicker, cook them on a slightly lower temperature to avoid them burning on outside before middle is cooked through.

Chicken thighs

At least five hours before the barbecue, marinade chicken thighs in this delicious, dairy-free tikka marinade. Simply mix together 4g ground coriander, 5g cumin, 6g paprika, 2g fenugreek, 5g turmeric, 4g cinnamon, 5g ground black pepper corns, 1g ground cloves, 5 crushed garlic cloves, 10g finely chopped ginger, juice of 2 lemons and 100g coconut yoghurt. Cook slowly on the barbecue for around 30-40 minutes, depending on size.

King prawns

Marinade in crushed garlic, lemon, finely chopped shallots and finely chopped chilli. Cook fast – two minutes on each side. Serve with a salad of mango, pistachios and ground black pepper.

Lamb cutlets

Simply cook as they are with a little seasoning, for four to five minutes each side. Serve with mint sauce – strip the mint and chop, add a teaspoon of caster sugar, and cover with a little boiling water. Leave to cool and add some white wine vinegar to your personal taste.


Cut the salmon into large cubes and place in foil. Fold up the edges to create a little bowl and place the salmon in the centre, then add a little white wine, the juice of one lemon, dill, finely chopped leeks, finely chopped sticks of carrot, a few capers and seasoning. Fold the top so the foil is completely sealed, then place on the barbecue and cook for 15-20 minutes.

Roasted veg

Slice aubergine, courgettes, whole mushrooms, whole baby plum tomatoes and peppers cut into quarters with the stalk removed, crushed garlic, rosemary, paprika to taste, seasoning and mix with an oil with a high smoke point, such as macadamia nut oil. Place on the barbecue and cook on a medium heat for three to four minutes each side.


You can make a quick and easy guacamole using avocados, lemon, coriander, salt and black pepper. Alternatively, try making a hummus – simply blend 200g chickpeas, the juice of a lemon, a tablespoon of tahini-crushed sesame seeds, a teaspoon of cayenne pepper (optional), two crushed garlic cloves, two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and a little water.

Health & Wellbeing