Food & Drink

Healthy Barbecue Eating


Healthy food choices at barbecues and cookouts can be enjoyable, satisfying and empowering. Here are the top foods you will find this summer at cookouts that are healthy and consistent with an anti-inflammatory diet. Go, eat and have fun with these simple choices:

Grilled Fish & Meat: The best choices here are grilled chicken and fish – kabobs are very popular - but it is OK to reach for a hamburger or hot dog, just avoid the bun and load up on the lettuce, onions, tomatoes and side toppings for your burger and extra sauerkraut with your hotdog.  Sauerkraut and other fermented foods are very good for digestion, too.

Fresh Fruit: Watermelon, standard fare at barbecues and cookouts, is a good choice for desert and keep your eye open for fresh fruit salad full of locally grown strawberries and blueberries that are in season. Berries are high in antioxidants and relatively low in natural sugar so load up on Jersey berries for a nutritious and sweet treat. Better yet, bring a fresh berry salad as a hostess gift!

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Side Salads: Green salads- spinach, romaine, kale – are all the perfect base for your burger or grilled shrimp kabob. Hopefully the dressing is on the side so you can control the portion. The best choice is vinaigrette. BTW, coleslaw is a great choice, too. Especially the vinegar based coleslaw. It is great for fiber and can really fill you up. Mayonnaise based ‘slaw needs smaller portions, though.  Keep your eyes open for bean and quinoa salads, too. Also on the list.

Vegies and Dip:  Be sure to load up on the vegies and go easy on the ranch or blue cheese dressing. Better yet, look for the guacamole, and use that plentifully with the crudités and skip the nacho chips. Avocado is high in nutrients, antioxidants and high quality fat. It can even go on your bun-free favorite grilled meat.

Grilled Vegetables: Another all in item. Grilled corn is common at cookouts but if it is boiled, find a sweet ear that does not need a lot of extra butter.

Beverages: Keep hydrated with seltzer or mineral water with lemon. Lemon water helps with digestion and also curbs appetite. Unsweetened tea is OK, too. Alcohol is just empty calories, period.

Be creative and thoughtful with your food choices at cookouts. Scan the buffet and look to make healthy combinations of foods based on this list. If you are really concerned about your potential food choices, just bring your favorite food as a hostess gift and you'll be sure to have your grilled vegetables and chicken kabobs for everyone to enjoy with the watermelon and corn.

Dr. Donald DeFabio is a dual board certified Chiropractic Physician in Berkeley Heights, NJ and  the Chief of Chiropractic Services at  DeFabio Spine and Sports Rehab, LLC where Acupuncture, Chiropractic, Functional Medicine, Nutrition, and Physical Rehabilitation are integrated for a comprehensive approach to your health management. The office may be reached at  or  #TheDeFabioDifference

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