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Natural Awakenings Washington DC Metro

How to Stay Healthy with Summer Barbecues

Jun 29, 2016 10:08PM
By Elizabeth McMillan, MS, CNS
Summer is finally here along with the heat and that sizzling barbecue smell. We are all busy planning picnics filled with potato salad, pasta salad, brats, burgers, chips with dip and all kinds of fun treats and alcoholic beverages. Unfortunately, the typical American barbecue feast is not ideal for our waistlines. The good news is that there are many ways to help trim off the unwanted calories. Here are some survival tips for the summer barbequing season.

First, create a marinade for your grilled meats or poultry. Marinades are an excellent way to add a healthy dose of antioxidants to your barbeques. They are also a great barrier against the potentially cancerous byproducts of charcoal grilling. A Caribbean chicken marinade might include orange juice/zest, lime juice, ginger root, garlic, red pepper flakes, oregano and olive oil.

Second, you can alter traditional recipes to cut out the calories and add extra healthy benefits. For example, try using avocado in replace of mayonnaise in salads. Avocados will lend a color to your salads while increasing your intake of healthy omega 3’s.

Try this delicious recipe for an Avocado Dill Potato Salad


  • 3 avocados, smashed
  • 1 bunch fresh dill
  • ½ red onion
  • 2 lbs cooked red potatoes, cubed and cooled
  • ½ cup chopped dill pickles
  • 1 ¼ tsp Lemon Juice
  • 3 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients together and serve chilled.

For pasta salads you can try using gluten-free pasta. Another alteration to pasta is by creating “noodles” by spiralizing vegetables like zucchini, sweet potatoes or carrots.

Third, remember to load up on your summer produce. Summertime allows for a bountiful harvest full of bright colors. The brighter and more colorful your plate, the more phytonutrients are available. Phytonutrients are natural chemical substances found in plants that act as antioxidants, anti-inflammatory substances and detox promoting substances.

In-season summer produce includes: beets, blackberries, blueberries, cabbage, cantaloupes, cucumbers, eggplants, green beans, nectarines, peaches, peppers, tomatoes and watermelons. If you have questions about what is in season, check out your community farmers’ market. In addition, grilling vegetables decreases the bitterness by creating a caramelized coating. Many picky eaters find that grilling vegetables opens up their palate.

Finally, watch your added sugar intake by choosing either a starchy carbohydrate dish or a sweet dessert. Although a patriotic-themed dessert filled with blueberries, strawberries and whipped cream may look healthy, it is probably a sugar overload. High-sugary foods like desserts, large quantities of fruits, alcohol, sugary drinks like lemonade or juices causes blood sugar to spike. We are more susceptible to this in the summer heat especially if we are not staying hydrated with water. Sugar spikes lead to energy deficits, weight gain, headaches and decreased immunity.

There are many eating challenges at the summer barbecue, but hopefully these tips will provide some guidance.

Elizabeth McMillan, MS, CNS is a board-certified integrative nutritionist at Rose Wellness Center in Oakton, VA. She specializes in digestive health, food sensitivities, chronic inflammation, energy optimization and weight problems. She will work with your physician and your personal goals in order to create energizing wellness for a lifetime to come. For more information, visit


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