Last week I went on the Progressive Radio Network’s I Eat Green with Bhavani Jaroff to talk summer barbecue and What The Fork Are You Eating. Let me start by saying this—I am all for the traditional barbecue, but how about we start to add a little conscience to your consumption.
For starters, instead of the creamy dip and chips aim for the vegetable crudité with a beautiful bean dip like hummus. If chips are a must (admittedly, I am a sucker for the crunch), then go for the non-GMO corn sort and a salsa where nutritious meets delicious like my favorite Green Mountain Gringo.
Mealtime should be a healthy balance of vegetables, starch (as in potatoes and grains, even legumes) and protein so I always begin with a beautiful green salad simply drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and vinegar versus bottled concoctions boasting low fat or sugar free. These dressings are loaded with unnecessary (and potentially “toxic”) additives, so please just stick with the real deal. A plate of grilled veggies is a nutrient dense addition and a dollup of pesto can give these tender bites a subtle boost. As I am not one to leave my starch on the sidelines, adding a lentil or quinoa salad are my favorite choices. Potatoes, roasted with olive oil, garlic and rosemary are always a winner. Consider pasta passé (just not a lot of nutrition there).
As for your meals “main attraction”, I urge you to put a lot of thought into what goes on the BBQ. If beef, go for the sort that’s not dosed up on drugs like hormones and antibiotics (USDA Organic, Animal Welfare Approved and Certified Humane can verify this for you) and aim for 100% grass-fed certified by the American Grassfed Association. Always marinate your meats (other than ground meat for burgers) as doing so not only offers flavor but also reduces potentially carcinogenic chemicals that are inherent in foods cooked at high temperatures. Poultry without antibiotics is a must and the only real assurance for this is USDA Organic, Animal Welfare Approved and Certified Humane. If you can’t get your hands on that, look for more mainstream brands like Murray’s and Bell and Evans (the latter has a USDA Organic version) that have a healthier bend. For anything animal, if you can buy from your local farmer, it’s the way to go. And if you are into hot dogs, opt out of Oscar Meyer and aim for Applegate Farms. Without nitrates and nitrites —those carcinogenic compounds used for lunchmeat preservation—they are the better alternative to the wonderful wiener. Onto fish, if you live in a coastal community, see if you can join a Community Supported Fishery (CSF) like Dock to Dish so you know that you are truly getting the catch of the day. If you don’t have the CSF as an option, I urge you to navigate fish with Seafood Watch by your side and only make choices that are truly sustainable and hopefully from the United States (versus imported—FYI, roughly 91% of our seafood, despite a large percentage being caught here, is from overseas).
But the meal doesn’t stop there. Multiple combinations of condiments like pickles and relish are an integral part of any barbecue. Please choose those without the all too common food dye. And definitely avoid the ketchup with the commonplace GMO corn syrup.
Definitely die for dessert, but do it right with watermelon or fresh berries, your lowest calorie and most nutritious option. If you want to dress your berries, add homemade whipped cream or a little parfait could surely turn up the volume. And if that doesn’t satisfy your sweet tooth then surely get something freshly baked from your local confectionery versus something in a box. Ice cream, so long as it’s the real deal versus the “Skinny” junk, is perfectly fine by me.
And I can’t forget hydration. My family loves to make mocktails with seltzer, a splash of real juice and a squeeze of lemon or lime. Authentically brewed tea (versus the kind that comes from a powder) is also a great option. Of course there is water, seltzer, juice (not juice beverages) and soda (though please don’t subscribe to mainstream pop, rather a better for you alternative). And on alcohol, if you adore, don’t necessarily abstain, but do in moderation.
Happy edible summer!