Summer Barbecue Recipe Makeovers

Last Editorial Review: 5/18/2007

Make your barbecue menu healthier, from finger foods to dessert.

By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD/LD

Memorial Day is so much more than a three-day weekend. Formally, and most importantly, it's a day to remember all the people who gave their lives defending our nation. (Interestingly, Memorial Day was proclaimed in the 1800s, before both world wars were fought.) Informally, though, Memorial Day weekend kicks off summer - and the barbecue season. And that's where I come in.

Nothing says summer like barbecues featuring burgers, mayo-drenched salads, chips and dip, and colorful cakes. But from finger foods to dessert, there are ways to lighten up barbecue offerings without changing the featured foods and how much we enjoy them.

Lighter Barbecue Appetizers

There are plenty of light alternatives to potato and tortilla chips. Experiment until you find a brand you like.

A fresh-style salsa is better for you than a mayo-based dip, of course. But if you go the creamy dip route, substitute fat-free sour cream for the real thing, and use a mixture of fat-free sour cream and light mayonnaise in place of real mayonnaise. It works every time! Keep creamy dips cool by placing the dip bowl in a slightly bigger bowl that is 2/3 filled with crushed ice.

If an appetizer is fried, nine times out of 10 you can get away with oven-frying it. This dramatically reduces the amount of oil the food picks up. For an example, check out the Oven Fried Blue Cheese Olives recipe below.

Also consider super-healthy appetizers like fresh fruit and vegetable platters. Fresh fruit is plentiful this time of year, so enjoy strawberries, grapes, or cut-up melon. Vegetable platters are easy to pull together using baby carrots, sugar snap peas, broccoli and cauliflower florets, zucchini sticks, and cherry tomatoes.

Experience has taught me that people really do eat them. Put fruits and vegetables out there on the table, make them look good, and bada-boom, bada-bing -- they will disappear.

Lighter Barbecue Salads

Macaroni salad, potato salad, coleslaw, green salad ... name your salad, and it probably involves a jar of mayonnaise. I'll make this easy for you. If the recipe calls for a cup of mayo, blend 1/2 cup of light mayonnaise with 1/2 cup of fat-free sour cream instead, and you've just cut the fat by 75%.

If the recipe calls for a bottled salad dressing, find one that is lighter (with around 6 grams of fat per 2 tablespoon serving) and tastes good, and you'll be doing everyone a big favor. If your recipe calls for pasta, switch to a whole-wheat blend or 100% whole-wheat pasta.

To boost nutrients in your green salad, use a darker green lettuce (like romaine). And add plenty of colorful vegetables like cherry tomatoes, broccoli florets, chopped carrots, etc.

Lighter Barbecue Meats

Go for lighter and leaner cuts, whether you are grilling beef, pork, or poultry. Then, the trick is keeping them lean by marinating it or serving it with a lower-fat, lower-calorie sauce/marinade.

Make hamburgers with an extra-lean ground beef. When grilling steak, look for the cuts with more red and less white (like top sirloin, top round, chateaubriand, and filet mignon). For pork, one of the leanest bets is the tenderloin (see recipe below). When grilling pork chops, use center-cut chops and trim any visible fat.

Take the skin off the chicken before you marinate and cook it. Or choose seafood in addition to or instead of your typical grilled meat fare.

Lighter Barbecue Desserts

Ice cream is often part of summer barbecues, so look for light ice cream options -- they are there, and they are good!

For cakes or brownies made from mixes, remember that you usually don't have to add the oil or butter called for (the mix already contains around 3 or 4 grams of fat per serving). Substitute something lighter, like fat-free sour cream, yogurt, strong coffee, or fruit juice, for the fat. (See the recipe below for Coconut Cream Cake.)

Summer Barbecue Recipe Makeovers

Here are four recipes perfect for summer barbecues, each lightened up.

Oven Fried Blue Cheese Olives

Instead of filling the center with blue cheese, we're using a mixture of blue cheese and light cream cheese. And instead of deep frying the olives, we're coating them with canola cooking spray and baking in a hot oven.

15-ounce can jumbo pitted black olives, drained well on paper towels
1 1/2 ounces blue cheese
2 tablespoons light cream cheese
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/3 cup egg substitute
1 cup Italian-style dry bread crumbs
Canola cooking spray

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a 9x9-inch baking dish with canola cooking spray. Add blue cheese, light cream cheese and black pepper to a small bowl and blend well with a fork. Using your fingers or a pastry bag, fill each olive with the blue cheese mixture.
  • Add egg substitute to a custard cup. Add breadcrumbs to a shallow bowl. Dip olives in the egg mixture then roll in the breadcrumbs to coat well. Place olives in prepared dish and coat the top with canola cooking spray.
  • Bake in center of oven for 12-13 minutes or until golden brown. Let them cool, and then serve.

Yield: 7 servings (6 olives per serving)

Per serving: 88 calories, 3.5 g protein, 7 g carbohydrate, 5 g fat, 1.7 g saturated fat, 2.6 g monounsaturated fat, 0.3 g polyunsaturated fat, 6 mg cholesterol, 1 g fiber, 530 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 51%.

Southwest BBQ Chicken Salad

A lighter barbecue chicken mixture uses skinless shredded chicken breast blended with barbecue sauce and green onions. Instead of French fried onions, this recipe calls for black beans. A light dressing finishes it off.

2 cups shredded boneless, skinless roasted or grilled chicken breast
1 cup black beans (from can), drained and rinsed
1/2 cup barbecue sauce (mild or hot, depending on your preference)
1/2 cup fresh, chopped cilantro (optional)
1/4 cup finely chopped green onions
8 cups dark green salad greens (from a bag or from lettuce heads, torn into pieces and rinsed)
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 cup frozen corn, very lightly microwaved and chilled in refrigerator
1 cup black beans (about one 15-ounce can, drained)
1/3 cup light ranch dressing (light blue cheese can also be used)
Handful of tortilla chips (optional)

  • Add chicken, beans, barbecue sauce, cilantro (if desired) and green onions to a medium bowl and toss to blend well; set aside.
  • In large salad bowl, add salad greens, tomatoes, and corn and toss to mix. Portion mixture evenly into 4 individual salad bowls and top with a fourth of the chicken mixture.
  • Drizzle light ranch dressing evenly over the top of the four salad servings. Garnish each serving with a couple of tortilla chips, if desired.

Yield: 4 entree salad servings

Per serving: 318 calories, 30 g protein, 30 g carbohydrate, 9.5 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 2 g monounsaturated fat, 4 g polyunsaturated fat, 64 mg cholesterol, 7 g fiber, 710 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 26%.

Apricot-Orange Grilled Tenderloin

You can have your pork tenderloin marinating in the apricot-orange glaze the night before your barbecue. Instead of coating the outside of each tenderloin with a tablespoon of oil and then brushing it with the glaze as it grills, we're marinating it directly in the glaze.

GLAZE 1 cup apricot jam (apricot-pineapple can also be used)
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 pork tenderloins, about 1.25 pounds each

  • Add glaze ingredients to a medium bowl and whisk until blended. Reserve a couple tablespoons of glaze to serve with cooked pork. Keep this in the refrigerator until pork is served.
  • Cover tenderloins well with remaining glaze in a large plastic container. Cover the container and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight, turning once or twice.
  • To cook the pork, get your barbecue going if using coals. When the coals are good and hot, cook the tenderloins over direct heat about 2 minutes, then flip over for 2 more minutes. Reposition the pork for indirect heat, cover the grill, and continue to cook about 30 minutes longer.
  • Let meat rest for 10 minutes, then cut into 1/2-inch thick slices and arrange on a serving platter along with a small dish of the reserved glaze.

Yield: 8 servings

Per serving (with one-fourth of the glaze being eaten): 200 calories, 31 g protein, 7 g carbohydrate, 5 g fat, 1.8 g saturated fat, 2 g monounsaturated fat, 0.5 g polyunsaturated fat, 85 mg cholesterol, .1 g fiber, 112 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 24%.

Light Coconut Cream Cake

You can make this cake a day ahead of time. It travels well because it rests safely in the baking dish and can be easily covered. If you can't find light canned coconut milk, use 3/4 cup fat-free half-and-half plus 3/4 teaspoon coconut extract.

1 box (18.26 ounces) white cake mix
1 large egg (use a higher omega-3 brand if available)
1/2 cup egg substitute (or 4 egg whites)
1/3 cup fat-free sour cream
1 cup water or low-fat milk
3/4 teaspoon coconut extract

3/4 cup light coconut milk (available in cans; see substitute suggestion above)
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon fat-free sweetened condensed milk

3 cups light or fat-free Cool Whip (light whipping cream can also be used)
1/2 cup flaked coconut (regular or toasted)

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9x13-inch baking pan with canola cooking spray.
  • Add cake mix, egg, egg substitute, sour cream, water, and coconut extract to a large mixing bowl and beat for 2 minutes on medium speed. Scrape sides of bowl after a minute of mixing. Pour evenly into prepared baking dish and bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in cake comes out clean.
  • In a 4-cup measure, blend sauce ingredients until smooth.
  • When cake comes out of the oven, poke large holes evenly over the top with chopsticks or a barbecue fork. Pour milk mixture slowly over the top, so it soaks into the cake. Cover and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.
  • Just before serving, spread light Cool Whip (or other whipped topping) over the top of cake and sprinkle with the coconut.

Yield: About 18 servings

Per serving: 195 calories, 4 g protein, 31 g carbohydrate, 6 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 2 g monounsaturated fat, 1 g polyunsaturated fat, 11 mg cholesterol, 0.5 g fiber, 223 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 28%.

Published May 15, 2007.

Recipes provided by Elaine Magee; © 2006 Elaine Magee

Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, is the "Recipe Doctor" for the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic and the author of numerous books on nutrition and health. Her opinions and conclusions are her own.

©2007 WebMD Inc. All rights reserved.

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