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  • Noa Miller

It's Barbecue Season!

Updated: Nov 27, 2019

Spring, the time of year when people break out of their indoor dwellings toward the outdoor sunshine and breeze, is a time of transformation, enthusiasm, and cranking open the winter-worn barbecue.

When relaxing over freshly grilled food with family and friends, how can we ensure that we can participate fully in the social event and keep our bodies feeling good?

If you are a guest at a barbecue: 1. Realize that there is a social dynamic to eating and it’s ok to differ from your “norm” at social events or even family barbecues. I have relatives that prefer a vegetarian diet, but I'm impressed when they join us for a “meaty” meal at a family function.

2. Take care of yourself by surveying everything on the menu and choosing options that will satisfy you physically and psychologically. If you love burgers or regular buns, consider whether only choosing the grilled chicken breast and whole wheat bun will really do it for you. If your immediate food environment has something available that you want, it’s usually best to have some of it rather than restrict, especially if others are partaking. If you are worried about overdoing it – remember that once food is “allowed”, it loses its sparkle. Allowing yourself to have the “forbidden” option will actually free you up to enjoy the rest of the spread.

If you are the host: 1. Congratulations - you are in control of the menu! It’s your job to choose a variety of foods that will satisfy your crowd. You can feel free to experiment with some delicious and nourishing side dishes – keep reading for some fun recipes!

2. Make sure to sit down and enjoy the party! Some people suffer from “host syndrome” (no – not a real term 😊) where they prepare food for others but will barely partake of it themselves. Whether the underlying cause is thinking that eating with your eyes during food preparation is sufficient, or being “too busy” to partake – these are often excuses. Sometimes grazing occurs when the host spends a lot of time preparing food and ends up snacking on it throughout. Pay attention to what is driving you. If you are hungry and it’s a couple hours before the meal, sit down and have a snack. If it is a habit, keep in mind that meals are usually more satisfying when you sit down and give yourself time to enjoy them properly. As well, giving your digestive system some food and then a rest, instead of consistent trickles of food, is helpful in regulating itself properly. Staying aware of your grazing empowers you to make choices that will ensure the most satisfaction.

Here are some healthy and fun ways to spice up your grilling:

1. Include vegetable sides. Incorporating a grilled veggie side is a fresh way to include vegetables during this season. Corn is a fun barbecue vegetable which can be paired with a greener vegetable side for better balance.

2. Kebob your food! Kebobs a great visual dynamic, are fun for kids (and adults!), and makes it easy to add in veggies. Grill mushrooms, grape tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, onion, pineapple, stone fruit or anything else you might like!

3. Tenderize your meats. Meat is tough to chew and digest; make it easier by tenderizing via marinating in an acidic solution or mechanically pounding or piercing your meats. Some are religious about tenderization, with the family getting together the night before a barbecue to pound out steaks and then marinate them overnight. It’s good upper-body exercise and the results are succulent!

4. Consider whole grain buns. The fiber contained by whole grains makes them satisfying and heart-healthy.

5. Add turkey and chicken. Adding the option of grilled chicken breast along with hamburgers is a great idea for guests who may not enjoy meat. For some more variety, you can also make delicious homemade burgers with a combination of ground chicken/turkey with ground red meat, or try the turkey burger recipe below!

6. Keep meat moist: Dry, overcooked meat is a great way to make meat even harder to chew. It can be a real choking hazard for older adults and children. Consider purchasing a meat thermometer so that you don’t need to guess, and err on the side of caution when it comes to ensuring that your food is safely cooked. Once steak has reached a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees F for 15 seconds, it is safe to eat. Ground beef requires 15 seconds at 155 degrees, while chicken requires 15 seconds at 165 degrees. 165 degrees is the highest necessary temperature for food safety, so if in doubt, cook food until the inside reaches 165 degrees. A digital instant-read thermometer is the best kind of thermometer for thin pieces of meat such as burgers and chicken breasts. Insert the probe a half inch into the food and temperature will register in about 10 seconds.

7. Don’t burn! Burnt meats and other food pose health risks if eaten in large amounts. Lowering the temperature of the barbecue and keeping meat away from real flames is the best way to keep it safe from charring.

And now, some recipes for the grill!

Party Chicken Marinade: Here is a delicious and natural marinade that can be used on chicken and other meats at your next barbecue. Marinade can be used before baking as well.

  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

  • 3 1/2 tablespoons freshly minced garlic

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh sage

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons honey

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper

  • 3/4 teaspoon salt


1. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, rosemary, sage, honey, pepper, and salt.

2. Place meat of choice in a resalable plastic container, add the marinade, and toss.

3. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or overnight, turning the chicken at least once.

4. Preheat grill to high and cook until done (or min internal temperature reaches 165 degrees

You can find the recipe here.

Turkey Burgers:

  • 3 pounds ground turkey

  • 1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs

  • 1/4 cup finely diced onion

  • White Onion, Large

  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten

  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper


1. In a large bowl, mix ground turkey, seasoned bread crumbs, onion, eggs, parsley, garlic, salt, and pepper. Form into 12 large patties or more smaller ones.

2. Cook the patties in a medium skillet over medium heat, or on the grill, turning once, to an internal temperature of 180 degrees F.

You can find the recipe here.

Enjoy the fresh air, food and company!


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