NITK Tips: Keeping The Balance In BBQ Season

Nutritionist in the Kitch // Keeping the Balance in BBQ Season!

We all know when BBQ season rolls around it can mean greasy burgers, fatty hot-dogs, white buns, heavy potato salad, creamy coleslaw, beers, wine, sangria, and sugar-laden barbecue sauce! … trying to keep a healthy balance with nutrition can pose somewhat of a challenge. 

Fortunately, whether you are hosting your own BBQ or going to one, keeping the balance is possible!

Here are some of my favourite tips for enjoying this wonderful Summer season with all it’s BBQ bounty…without feeling like you’ve overloaded or thrown all caution to the wind with your nutrition goals.

1. Contribute Something Healthy. Typically when you are asked to come to a BBQ, you are also often asked to bring something. Well, here’s your chance to bring something healthy! Opt to bring a healthy bean dip with veggies, or a vinaigrette coleslaw, a tasty garden salad, or hummus and whole grain pita! If you bring something healthy, then you know there is going to be at least ONE healthy dish on the menu!

2. Be sure to Hydrate! Drink water before you go, while you are there, and after! Staying hydrated will prevent you from overeating, or over-drinking your calories! Water before a meal will keep you feeling more full, and you’ll be less likely to overfill your plate. Also, if you make it a rule to drink a glass of water between any alcoholic beverage you may have, you’ll drink less and save yourself the empty calories there (and the next day hangover)!

3. Take One Plate & Stick With It. When you get to a BBQ, there are usually paper plates or actual plates set out to fill up with. Take your plate and use it for everything, the appetizers, your meals, the dessert. By actually putting the food on your plate, you will be less likely to grab here and there and pop little bites of food into your mouth… which all add up. This is especially important with appetizers. Putting your allotted or portioned food on your plate allows you to stay accountable and actually keep some track of what you are consuming!

4. Take Your Sweet Time! Eat slow, enjoy each bite, chew! The more time you take to eat, the more able your body will be to compute when you are full, and the more satisfied you will feel when you are finished your meal. This also won’t leave the opportunity for the host to ask to fill your plate again for you!

5. Pay Attention to Portions. Just because you are out at a friends or family members doesn’t mean your portion control should be thrown to the wind! Be mindful of your portions like you would be at home. A good tip for your portions is to stick with a meat portion similar to the size of your palm, or about 3-5 oz, a clenched fist size for your starch or carb (if you choose to have a bun with a burger, forgo another starchy side like potatoes or corn), and no more than a thumb tip (the size of your thumb past the knuckle) of sauce or dressing.

6. Make the Best Choices Possible, mostly.
 Go for the leaner meat option, i.e. chicken over beef, fill half your plate with salad or veggies, use only half the bun if you are having burgers, take only a small portion of anything with a creamy sauce (potato salad or coleslaw). By staying mindful, if you have a little dessert in the evening, it really won’t make a big dent in your health goals!

7. Watch the Sauce! I don’t mean booze by this… but you should watch that sauce too! What I’m talking about here is BBQ sauce, creamy ranch dressing, butter, etc. Most of these sauces are full of sugar, saturated fat, and sodium. Stick with seasonings like spices, herbs, salt and pepper for your flavorings, and vinegar based dressing for your salad!

8. Choose Healthy Grilling Foods. You can really grill A LOT.. grilling does not have to be limited to greasy burgers and fatty hot-dogs. Look outside the box and go with healthy options. For proteins choose lean meats like chicken breast, lean ground turkey or chicken burgers, fish, shish-kabobs with chicken, prawns, veggies, or go with a vegetarian option like portobello mushrooms, grilled tofu, or homemade black bean burgers! Grill up all different types of veggies… my favorites are zucchini, bell peppers, sliced tomatoes, asparagus, and bok choy! You can even grill your starches… try sweet potato on the grill, or baby potatoes in a grill basket with onions and garlic!

9. Offer Healthy Sides! Pass on the traditional potato or macaroni salad and go with a lighter potato salad, mixed greens garden salad, a vinaigrette coleslaw, or baked (or grilled) potato fries!

10. Grill a Healthy Dessert! Yes, you can do dessert on the grill too! Try grilled fruit kabobs, or grilled pineapple over frozen yogurt or coconut ice cream! Or have something more indulgent and let that be your treat in the midst of your healthier, mindful choices.


I hope this helps you feel a little more equipped to take on all the BBQ’s this Summer has to offer! Have a wonderful rest of the week…

…happy grilling!


Nutritionist in the Kitch

Author: Christal Sczebel

Christal is the creator of Nutrition in the Kitch. She's a Certified Nutritional Consultant, twice published author, gluten and dairy free recipe developer, food photographer, speaker, wife, and mama. Christal loves good food, all things wellness, and loves to travel. Her wellness philosophy is centred around balance and sustainable health, life's way too short for boring diets and restriction!

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  • I love all of these tips! I love making my own food and bringing a party size for everyone to share! I tend to binge on anything teriyaki grilled! I think fruit skewers and single-serving pieces of meat are the best options. BBQ salmon is the best!