Summer is the season when we traditionally fire up the bbq and enjoy fun times and celebrations outdoors. While the traditional bbq menu generally includes a lot of meat there are ways to add healthy flavour to the menu , boost your veggie intake and reduce excess salt, sugar and saturated fats.
Fire up the barbie
When it’s too hot in the kitchen take the cooking outside! Tenderise your meat by marinating it in a little balsamic vinegar or pineapple juice and add flavour with chopped fresh herbs like rosemary or thyme.
Instead of a truckload of tomato sauce on your barbequed meat use a homemade freshly cooked sauce of tomato and onion with a grind of pepper, or top your steak with a large barbequed mushroom drizzled with a teaspoon of olive oil and another of balsamic vinegar.
You could also try grilling fruits and vegetables such as mango, peach or avocado on the barbecue. The natural sugars in the fruit will caramelise when cooked, adding flavour and sweetness. The avocado adds fibre and heart-healthy fats to the meal.
Recipe idea: For a salad that everyone will love, grill mango cheeks, avocado halves and some fresh prawns on the barbecue. Then combine with crunchy cucumber and cos lettuce.
Add some pizazz to your salads
Fresh seasonal produce can make all the difference when it comes to making a delicious salad. By choosing fruits and vegetables that are in season, you’ll help your waistline, your wallet and the environment! Best picks for the summer months include fresh berries, mango, nectarines, peaches, Asian greens, butternut pumpkin, squash and zucchini.
Salads can be as simple or as complicated as you want; they can be an accompaniment or a whole meal. For a whole meal start with a carbohydrate – potato, rice, couscous, pumpkin or sourdough bread, cubed and toasted, for a base – and add some protein like lentils, three bean mix, or shredded cooked chicken. Mix in some greens such as baby spinach leaves, broccoli florets, sliced cabbage or mixed lettuce leaves (mesclun) and add some texture with tomato wedges, cucumber slices, grated carrot, nuts, seeds or crumbled feta. Add one or more herbs – chopped mint, parsley, coriander, chilli, garlic, or ginger. After tossing your salad try a drizzle of lime juice or balsamic vinegar, mix it with a tablespoon of a extra virgin olive oil or macadamia nut oil.
Recipe idea: Roast some butternut pumpkin, squash and zucchini. Toss with baby spinach, toasted pine-nuts and a splash of balsamic vinegar.
Dress to impress
Salad dressings can have a lot of energy (kilojoules) even if eaten in small amounts, so it’s important to watch your portion size. When choosing oils for salad dressings, cold-pressed nut and seed oils, such as olive and canola oils, are the healthiest choices. Coconut and palm oil are high in saturated fat and not recommended. Make your own dressings using cold-pressed seed and nut oils, lemon juice, garlic, ginger, vinegar, fresh herbs and spices.
Recipe idea: Everyone loves a Caesar salad dressing but it’s traditionally high in fat and salt. For a healthier, yet just as tasty, version mix low-fat natural yoghurt, Dijon mustard, anchovies, white wine vinegar and a pinch of parmesan.
Add some sweetness to your life
There’s been a lot in the media about sugar – so most people know a little is okay but a lot is not so good. If you use sugar, then try using less. Instead of icing a cake try dusting it with icing sugar. Instead of shop bought sweet and sour sauce use a generous squeeze of lime juice and some chopped fresh mango and red chilli. You’ll be getting the sweet and the sour without all the sugar.
For a dessert add seasonal fruit plain yoghurt and add a sprinkle of chopped dry roasted nuts or natural muesli – cheap, easy, and simple. For something more exciting check out our mango sorbet recipe on p 29.
Keep an eye on salt
Salt is often added to pre-prepared foods so try not to add extra salt to your food. You’ll find it can open a whole world of flavour you didn’t know existed as salt masks the flavours of other foods. It also counteracts the sweetness of foods, so by not adding salt you can use less sugar in recipes. If you do use high salt ingredients, choose the reduced salt varieties or use less of them.