Tuesday, 4 June 2013

The good, the bad and the barbecue

The sun has finally got his hat on ... hip hip hip hurray!

Not only will this cheer us up and give our vitamin D levels a boost but it also means we have a good excuse for lots of picnics and barbecues.

I love both - there's something wonderful about the combination of informal outdoor eating, finger food and getting friends together.

I'm also a fan of any social gathering where you can choose from a range of foods rather than having to eat whatever you are served. Depending on your choices a picnic or barbecue can be either very healthy or very unhealthy! So here are some pointers to stay on the right side of the tracks!

Bad: mayo and creamy sauces are an easy way to add on the saturated fat and calories so go for mayo free. For sarnies cucumber and smoked salmon is always a good choice and go for mayo-free pasta or potato salads with tomato based sauces. The same applies to dips - thousand island and cheese and chive are best avoided, go for hummous, salsa and guacamole.

Good: salads and crudites usually get served so make sure you have half a plate of veg dishes. Go for easy to eat cherry tomatoes, cucumber sticks and veggie crudites. Venture beyond carrot sticks and include strips of peppers and babycorn. Iceberg leaves can also be used as wraps for make on the day sandwich alternatives - take a large lettuce leaf, fill with a few salad bits (grated carrot, pepper strips, potato salad) and some protein: smoked salmon/parma ham/boiled egg/falafel. Rollup like a tortilla wrap and tuck in. New potatoes dressed in olive oil and lemon juice or a dressed couscous salad are best for the carb side options.

Bad: I hate to break it to you but any charred meat is bad for you. Ultimately it's cancerous which is why bbqs aren't for everyday cooking, and bbq cuts are also usually the most laden with unsaturated fats. Pork is unfortunately the least healthy (bye bye sausages), whilst chicken and fish are the better options.
If you really want to go all out on the meat then keep the rest of your meal low carb. This will keep your insulin levels down so you'll store a lot less of the fat you're eating. This does mean no ketchup - it's 60per cent sugar - have some tomato puree instead.

If you want to be really good avoid meat altogether and have a tuna steak or a veggie burger/sausage in a wholemeal roll. I honestly don't miss the meat at a bbq, the bbq taste still comes across with veggie food and I always loved all the salad bits on the side more than a burnt burger!
Just as with picnics you'll usually have a good selection of salads and possibly a table to sit at making them easier to eat. Fill your plate with grilled corn on the cob, salad, vegetable kebab and half a jacket potato - you'll easily get your 5 a day in one meal.

Good: water (yes boring I know) or diluted fruit juice. If champagne's going have a bucks fizz (the vitamin c from the orange juice helps minimize your hangover) or if there are spirits have a gin and slimline or a vodka-cranberry.

Bad: Fizzy drinks (pure chemicals), but especially the full sugar variety. If you really want some fizz have an appletizer or some shloer. Beer and cider are bbq staples but can mean you easily put away an extra 1000 calories. If you do fancy either, match them pint for pint with water, which will significantly slow you down and keep you safe from sun stroke.

Strawberries are the obvious and delicious healthy choice. If they're good they don't need the cream. To be honest any fruit salad is going to. Be the healthiest option. If you need to dress it up add a dollop of greek yoghurt and a drizzle of honey.
For a bbq baked bananas are great - wait til the bbq has cooled a bit, take bananas and slit them down one side. Push a few squares of dark chocolate into them and then put on the bbq til the chocolate has melted. Eat out of their skins with a a spoon - yummo!

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