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Barbecues are synonymous with lots of booze, over-charred meats, fatty burgers and poor quality sausages, and side dishes that are far from diet-friendly. Why not make your BBQs this summer a little different?

Take a look at your average barbecue.

First up, the meat. Typically you’ll have low quality burgers, either packed full of rusk, wheat flour and additives, or so loaded with fat you may as well eat a stick of butter. The sausages, hot dogs, lamb chops and pork often don’t fare much better either.

Couple that with the fact that to avoid the deadly raw meat scenario, most folks greatly overcook barbecue meat, not only leaving it dry and tasteless, but also producing nasty carcinogenic compounds when it’s burnt.

Moving on – the sides.

Bread rolls are a given, as people like a handy receptacle to hold their meat in, and don’t forget the liters of sugary sauce, to help mask the taste of your dried out, burnt meat.

Salads? Maybe, but most barbecue salads tend to involve either pasta or potatoes – hardly a dieter’s best friends.

If there is any green stuff, it’s usually limp, lifeless and not at all appetizing.

As for the drinks, the less said about those the better – beer, fizzy drinks, fruit juices and cocktails are all incredibly easy to overdo, and your liquid calorie consumption can often outweigh the calories from food.

Overall, barbecues don’t seem like the healthiest summer option. That is, unless, you implement strategies to make them physique friendly and taste even better.

Grilling Guidelines

Meat is the centerpiece at BBQs, there’s no getting around that, so here’s how to make it awesome and healthy –

1. Pick Mostly Lean Meats

There’s nothing wrong per se with fatty meats, but by cutting the fat content of your meat, you save calories for other higher-fat, higher-carb items.

Chicken and turkey steaks work well, as do certain types of fish – tuna steaks, king prawns or swordfish, for instance. The secret to cooking these well is a good marinade to stop them drying out (more on this later) and baking them wrapped in foil so they retain their moisture.

2. Choose Your Fatty Meats Wisely

A barbecue isn’t a barbecue without burgers and sausages, but go for the good quality ones. These will have a higher meat content, less added rusk, fewer additives and more natural flavorings. They might cost a little more, but the health benefits and taste are worth it.

For fatty fish, opt for salmon or mackerel.

3. Get the Marinade Right

Ditch your store-bough, sugar and fat-packed marinades for homemade ones.

If you’re not much of a culinary whizz, just go for something simple, like olive oil, lemon juice and a spice mix.

Get a little fancier with a Southwest mix, containing chilli powder, cumin, garlic powder, crushed black and red pepper, coriander, cayenne, salt and oregano. Add some olive oil and lime juice and start rubbing.

Jerk goes well with anything too, and once again, is super easy. Use minced onion, thyme, allspice, black pepper, cinnamon, cayenne, salt and oil. The key to this is using the right amount of cayenne to get it to your desired fiery-ness.

If all else fails, go to town and just whack some oil, tobacco sauce and curry powder on whatever you’re cooking and feel the heat.

4. Veggies

Meat should still be the main player in your healthy BBQ and you might have veggies and salads as side dishes, but grilling veggies shouldn’t underestimated.

Throw a few spears of asparagus on the grill while the meat’s cooking, or make some veggie kebabs with tomato, pepper, aubergine, zucchini – anything you can think of. You might be surprised that event the most ardent carnivore will reach for one of these between mouthfuls of steak.

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