Tips for a Healthy Backyard Barbecue

Posted by Chelsey Hegge on June 28, 2019

As soon as summer is upon us we are often antsy to get outdoors and enjoy the beautiful weather after our long Minnesota winters. Spending time outdoors usually is accompanied by an increase in barbecuing and campfires. Typically when we think of barbecues we think of burgers, hot dogs, chips, potato salad, etc. Some people may even think of it as a time to be a little more relaxed in regards to their healthy eating habits. However, it is possible to have a good time while still enjoying some healthy and delicious foods.

Here are some tips to help keep your backyard barbecues delicious and nutritious:

  • Plan ahead. Try to eat a healthy breakfast and/or lunch ahead of time that is well balanced with a combination of healthy protein, fats, and carbohydrates. People may think it is best to “save their calories” for eating at the barbecue, however, if you have not eaten all day you will arrive to the party starving and may overeat and feel uncomfortable. If you eat balanced meals and snacks prior to the barbecue you will be more likely to make better choices and eat a suitable amount of food without overeating.
  • Bring a healthy dish to pass. If you are not the person hosting the barbecue you may not know what kinds of foods will be available to select from. If you bring a dish to pass you know you will have at least one healthier option to fill up on while eating smaller portions of the other food options. Some healthy options might include a fruit and vegetable tray, a fresh salad, cowboy caviar or bean dip with whole grain chips or cut up vegetables, or even a healthier dessert made with fresh berries.
  • Plan out your plate. Before filling up your plate make sure to scan the entire spread and pick a few foods that you really want to try as it may be tempting to try everything and then feel over-full. Aim to try to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables and then fill the remaining half with a leaner protein source as well as a carbohydrate source. This will make sure you get a variety of filling nutrients while enjoying some fun foods at the same time.
  • Cut out the empty calories. Another way to cut out some unnecessary calories is to forgo those sugar sweetened beverages. Instead of reaching for regular soda, juice, or punch try to reach for bottled water or a Kombucha if you are looking for something sweet. You can also place fresh fruit in your water to give it a sweet, fruity flavor. If alcoholic drinks are going to be consumed try to keep it to a light beer or liquor mixed with a zero-calorie mixer like soda water. Make sure to alternate an alcoholic drink with water to prevent dehydration. Also, if you are making a dish try using healthier condiments such as substituting mayonnaise in potato salad with plain Greek yogurt or using Bolthouse Farms (Greek yogurt based) dressing in place of regular dressing.
  • Be present and enjoy the company. Try to make spending time with everyone at the party the focus of the barbecue instead of the food. Keeping the focus on catching up with friends and family will take your mind off of thinking about the food as well as preventing grazing throughout the duration of the party. 
  • Get some movement in. Whether it be playing backyard volleyball, yard games, or chasing kids around, try to get up and move throughout the day. Not only can lawn games help guests of the party “break the ice” and have some fun, it will also help digest the food you ate.


If you are in need of a healthy, delicious recipe to take to your next backyard barbecue try out this Mojito Fruit Salad that utilizes fresh summer fruits and everyone will love!

Chelsey Hegge

Chelsey Hegge

Chelsey Hegge, RD LD, ACE-CPT has a BS in Community Medical Dietetics. She has a passion for health and enjoys assisting people in leading healthier lifestyles by focusing on creating healthy and sustainable long-term habits while incorporating a balanced diet where all foods fit in moderation. Chelsey enjoys being active through lifting weights, walking and has completed several half marathons. In her free time you will find her trying new recipes, hanging out with friends and family, and spending time outdoors.

Contact Chelsey Hegge at (507) 287-9335 ext. 355.

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