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Smart swaps for healthy grilling

By Stacey Stein

Summer in Canada is associated with time-honoured traditions like camping in the great outdoors, relaxing lakeside at a cottage, and enjoying backyard barbecues, reveling in the warm weather and longer days.

With Father’s Day and Canada Day around the corner, many of us will be firing up the grill as we celebrate these holidays. Well-loved staples like hot dogs and burgers first come to mind when we think of barbecuing, but why not try our hand at healthier options for our celebrations this summer?

Ditching packaged, processed foods in favour of homemade alternatives gives us an opportunity to cut out calories and fat while adding in more nutrients and good-for-you ingredients.

This Father’s Day or Canada Day, try some of these smart swap ideas for a healthy barbecue that’s sure to impress even the most die-hard burger or hot dog fan.


The staple: Burgers and dogs

It’s hard not to be tempted by boxed burgers and packaged hot dogs – they’re quick, easy, and a crowd pleaser with kids and adults alike. But these highly processed foods are high in sodium and calories, and low in nutritional value.

Savvy swaps:

Mushroom and black bean burger with goat cheese: Featuring meaty mushrooms and protein-packed black beans, this plant powered option is filling and loaded with nutrients. Serve on whole grain buns for long-lasting energy.

Mediterranean Halloumi sliders: Another meatless alternative, these handheld mini sliders feature a variety of textures and flavours: tangy Halloumi cheese is paired with smoky roasted red peppers and creamy tzatziki. Dial up the flavour even more by spreading olive tapenade – full of healthy fats – on the buns.

Grilled chicken caprese skewers: These grilled chicken skewers are easy to prep ahead of your family festivities. Fresh basil pesto dresses up chicken cubes, while juicy cherry tomatoes play nicely with creamy bocconcini balls. Growing a herb garden this summer? This recipe provides a perfect opportunity to use up some fresh basil.


The staple: Creamy potato salad

A ladleful of goopy potato salad may seem like the perfect accompaniment to grilled mains, but beware: doused in mayo, this popular side is loaded with fat and calories.

Savvy swaps:

Creamy herb-grilled potato salad: This herby potato salad features the flavours of the traditional version, minus the added calories and fat from the mayo. Chopped celery and radishes add crunch; for a hit of protein, toss in some quartered hard-boiled eggs. Lighten up this potato salad even more by using Gay Lea low fat sour cream.

Creamy cucumber raita: The perfect cool side for a hot summer barbecue, this cucumber raita pairs well with grilled mains. Fresh mint provides a flavour boost, shredded cucumbers add texture, while Gay Lea sour cream lends a satisfying creaminess.

Quinoa salad with grilled veggies: Balancing nutty quinoa and a rainbow of veggies with cottage cheese, this flavourful side packs a powerful nutritional punch. This is a great make-ahead dish that stores well in the fridge and will taste just as good (maybe even better) the next day!


The staple: Salty snacks

Bowls brimming with chips or processed veggie straws are a ubiquitous feature at most barbecues. While these snacks satisfy a craving for salt and crunchiness, they often have frighteningly high levels of sodium and are devoid of nutrients.

Savvy swaps:

Caesar popcorn: Make a big batch of popcorn, drizzle lightly with Gay Lea butter, then sprinkle with some Caesar rimmer. Place in large paper cups or mini paper bags so everyone has their own popcorn pack.

Healthier chip n’ dip: Swap salty chips for a mix of corn tortilla chips and crunchy veggies, paired with a lightened-up version of this veggie-loaded fiesta layered dip. Simply substitute Gay Lea Low Fat sour cream for the Gold Premium version.

Summer snack mix: Toss popcorn with some mini pretzels, banana chips, and chocolate-covered raisins for a fibre-rich sweet and salty snack kids (and adults!) will love.


The staple: Packaged frozen treats

There’s nothing like cooling off with a frozen treat after a satiating barbecued meal. Boxed frozen goodies are tasty, satisfying, and – you guessed it – high in sugar and low in nutritional content.

Savvy swaps:

Grilled fruit kabobs: Jazz up summer fruit by making these colourful grilled kabobs. Served with a creamy sour cream honey dip, this is the perfect sweet finish to your Father’s Day or Canada Day celebration.

Honeydew and coconut frappe: Who needs a fancy (and pricey) concoction from a posh coffee shop when you can make this delicious homemade frappe? Combining refreshing honeydew with tropical coconut, this dairy-free beverage is a cool and creamy treat the whole family will love.

Summer berry protein popsicles: Loaded with berries and packed with protein, these fruit pops are a healthy alternative to boxed popsicles or ice cream bars. Bonus: you can make these ahead of time and store them in the freezer.


The staple: Lemonade

Is there a more quintessential summer beverage than a pitcher of ice-cold lemonade? This iconic drink is sweet, refreshing, and has heaps of added sugar: there’s about six teaspoons’ worth in a 12-ounce glass of the store-bought variety.

Savvy swaps:

Mint-infused water: For a fresh, fizzy drink, muddle some mint leaves in a pitcher, toss in some lemon slices and ice, then fill with sparkling water.

Fruity iced tea: Make a pitcher of unsweetened iced tea, then add in lemon wedges and a large handful of blueberries for a fruity, thirst-quenching drink.

Elevated iced tea: For a summery spin on a London Fog latte, make a batch of iced Earl Grey tea, stir in some milk, and finish with a splash of vanilla extract. Served in a mason jar over ice, this is a perfect way to wash down your barbecue meal.

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