by Deb Petitta, Club Julian Wellness Director 

Summer is the perfect time to “relax and play in the kitchen” or try new recipes on the grill or barbecue.  If you have kids, it’s always a good idea to get them involved, so you can share in some family fun, and later enjoy the best part – eating what you prepared together!

Lovin’ the Barbecue Season! 

On the summer barbecue front, people should focus on building a better burger by taking control of the ingredients and portion size.  Here are a few tips:

  • Make your own burgers, rather than buying pre-packaged ones. 
  • Use lean ground beef or turkey; don’t compress the patty too tightly (this helps to avoid drying out the meat too much on the barbecue). 
  • For more flavor, add cracked black pepper, fresh garlic and other spices to the ground meat. 
  • Make your patties about three inches wide and one-half to three-quarters of an inch thick; about the size of the palm of your hand. 
  • For food safety, cook your meat thoroughly. Take the time to cook the meat slowly at a moderate heat, rather than scorching both sides of the patty at a high heat and flipping them too many times. 
  • For those who like it, add one ounce of cheese (rather than a large chunk) to the patty. 
  • Serve the burgers in whole grain buns, along with fresh lettuce and a large tomato slice. 
  • Offer fresh coleslaw, veggies and watermelon as healthy sidekicks. 

Summer is prime time to investigate locally-produced meat products, such as bison, beef, lamb or pork.  Local meat products can offer great taste; aim to choose leaner cuts or products, rather than fatty choices such as large sausages.  Self-made veggie burgers are another option by grilling some zucchini, eggplant and onions, spicing them a little while on the grill, and then stacking them in a whole wheat bun. Sounds yummy, huh? 

Avoid Greasy Foods! 

Barbecue choices don’t have to be limited to burgers and hot dogs. Try barbecuing a lean beef roast, pork loin or fish.  If you “must” have a hot dog, watch your portion sizes. Choose a smaller size hot dog and avoid ones with high fat content. For instance, many stores offer dogs that are made from soy or turkey.

For a healthier balance, serve your hot dog or burger with raw carrots, fresh salad or coleslaw served with a low-fat dressing. If you have a baked potato, go easy on the toppings by avoiding bacon bits and using less sour cream or butter.  To liven up your coleslaw add dried cranberries or nuts, apples and green onion, and a small portion of low-fat dressing.   Pre-packaged coleslaw can be high in fat; you can get fresh heads of cabbage at your local farmer’s market, slice it thin or chop it up in a food processor, or bags of pre-shredded cabbage, add some flavorful ingredients, and you’ve got another healthy option on the table!

Try the Mediterranean Salmon Burger Recipe linked to this post and let us know what you think!