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Summer Barbeques: Part I

Now that summer is officially with us, barbeques (or cookouts as some New England residents might say) are on the minds of many a people!

Naturally, food is the key ingredient in a barbeque.  So what are some popular choices?  Well, hamburgers and hot dogs seem to steal the show.  Are they good for us?  It depends.  A hot dog with relish and mustard yields about 280 calories and 12 to 13 grams a fat.  A hamburger with cheese, ketchup, lettuce, and tomato, could mean over 600 calories (and close to 30 grams of fat).

Deviating from our diet once in a while is usually not a mortal sin; still, there can be healthier options in outdoor grilling.  The ideas below are some thoughts to consider.

  • Hamburgers. If possible, try to choose beef that is 95% lean (it is more expensive, however).  This will cut down on some of the saturated fat.  Also, turkey burgers, veggie burgers, and bison burgers, might be “lower-fat” alternatives to explore.
  • Hot Dogs. The type of hot dog you choose means a lot.  There are some varieties that could cause some of us to lose our lunch.  It is always wise to read the packaging and try to choose brands that do not have a lengthy ingredient list.  Turkey or veggie dogs may be a healthier choice (still, it is wise to read the ingredients).
  • Sausages. Okay, it might be somewhat difficult to find a non fat-laden sausage.  Consequently, if this is something you truly love, perhaps try eating it in smaller amounts.  There are veggie sausages out there, but unlike burgers and hot dogs, they really can’t pull off a reasonable facsimile on the grill (although they are great sauteed with onions and peppers!).
  • Lean-cut steak or steak tips. Less is best.  Some people enjoy devouring a 12-ounce steak.  Still, 4 ounces is usually the recommended amount.  Anyway, steak can be expensive to serve, so if you do make this part of your culinary offerings, maybe cut into smaller pieces so everyone gets a taste.
  • Marinated Chicken breast. Chicken is great on the grill, and the breast area is lower in fat.  If you like a seasoned flavor, perhaps marinate the breasts in low-fat Italian dressing or barbeque sauce.  NOTE:  Do not put chicken on the hottest part of the grill; the outside could burn and the inside might possibly remain uncooked.  Instead, find a moderately-heated section so the pieces will cook evenly.
  • Fish (fresh is best). Some varieties of fish are meatier than others.  The more solid types like tuna or salmon tend to cook nicely on the grill surface.  More flaky types like trout or haddock may require a metal basket so the fish does not fall through the grates.
  • Veggies. Most veggies taste phenomenal on the grill (and they are healthy to eat!).  Eggplant coated with olive oil (and maybe a little salt and pepper) is beyond wonderful!  If sliced large enough, it can cook directly on the grill surface.  Smaller veggies like zucchini and cut peppers may need a metal basket.

Cookouts are a great way to socialize because of their informal nature. For the most part, the house stays tidy (as the fun takes place outside).  Whether you have a small yard or large, outdoor entertaining is a refreshing change.

Next week we will look at some accompaniments to complement your barbeque experience: salads, drinks, desserts.  But until then, Bon Appetit!

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