Once again, I’m staring down a table of macaroni salads, chips, festive brownies and giant burgers. I realize there’s not an ounce of healthy food to be found. I’m much happier at parties now that I’ve realized it’s not about avoiding BBQ food, but about making simple changes to the foods that people already love.


1. Swap out the bun. As the burgers or chicken are being grilled, throw on a red pepper cut in half, sprayed lightly with olive oil. It makes a delicious “bun” for your meal. The pepper gets so sweet and flavorful that it also eliminates the need for sugary ketchup.

2. Swap the pasta. Watch people as they scoop out pasta salad – they dig for the “good stuff,” not noodles. I’ll take a pasta salad recipe and omit the pasta, triple the veggies, and add chicken or sausage for flavor. It’s eaten up at every party! (photo credit)

3. Swap the alcohol. If you can’t skip it totally, at least alternate your drinks with a bottle of water. My favorite drink at BBQs is fresh brewed green tea on ice with a lime. (photo credit)

4. Swap your dips. The store bought veggie trays are a BBQ staple, and they always come with that yummy, creamy dip in the middle. That dip is usually pretty high in fat and/or sodium, so don’t do that to your poor vegetables! You can make fantastic dips using just a few seasonings and nonfat plain Greek yogurt. Here’s a great Greek Yogurt Vegetable Dip from A Couple Cooks.

5. Swap out the usual meats. By the third week of summer, I’m up to my eyeballs in hotdogs and hamburgers. Why not grill a nice pork tenderloin or make some foil packets of tilapia? You’ll save a ton of calories and people will appreciate the variety. (photo credit)

6. Swap for salad. I’ll always offer to bring a green salad. If you can swap one side dish on your BBQ menu for a nice salad with vegetables, then it guarantees at least one healthy dish to fill your plate with.