The perfect summer Sunday = chilling on a friend’s patio with a plate of grilled food and a variety of brews or rosé (#AllDay). But as much as we love slathered chicken and mountains of potato salad — chased with a slice of pie, duh — the resulting food coma just isn’t the dream.
Our solution? Search for the best better-for-you barbecue classics — and oh man, did we find them. Here are 13 nutritious grilling recipes that’ll bring friends and fam back for seconds.
1. Mushroom Swiss burgers
Few pleasures in life compare to the first bite of a really delish burger. This part-meat, part-chopped mushroom burger packs more flavor than the classic, and it’s also way cheaper than buying extra pounds of ground beef. Bonus: Mushrooms are brimming with antioxidants, minerals, and fiber!
2. Veggie hot dogs
OK, you got us: This isn’t a “real” hot dog. But it is a super-tasty veggie version packed with beets, potatoes, peas, and carrots. We know it has a lot of spices (and you can omit the ones you don’t have!), but if you’re able to run out for garam masala and cumin, your dog’s flavor will increase tenfold.
3. Barbecued dry-rubbed chicken
While barbecue sauce tastes incredible on chicken, we’ve found that we’re spending more time grabbing extra napkins (gotta protect those summer whites!) than eating. Plus, most bottled sauces are packed with sugar — no bueno.
For this tasty chicken on the grill, you’ll massage the meat with a dry rub of chili powder, paprika, dry mustard, and just a hint of brown sugar and cayenne. The beauty of dry rubs like these is that you get alllll the flavor without adding oodles of sugar and fat. If you want to boost the health benefits even more, slice off that chicken skin before eating to reduce saturated fat.
Salads and veggies and bacon, oh my!
4. Mediterranean pasta salad
A few words of wisdom: There’s more to pasta salad than sweet mayonnaise and cheddar cheese. This grown-up variation trades in tired flavors for fresh veggies, tangy feta fromage, and a bright lemon vinaigrette.
Wanna boost the health factor even more? Swap the regular pasta for a whole-grain version!
5. Greek yogurt potato salad
We love Grandma’s potato salad, but we can’t say we’re excited that it’s made with 3 cups of mayo. Pull back on the fat content and dial up the probiotics by mixing potatoes with Greek yogurt and Dijon mustard instead. While dried dill will taste just fine, fresh herbs are really the way to go with this recipe.
6. Cilantro, lime, and paprika grilled corn on the cob
We’re all tempted to smear that ear of grilled corn with butter, but have you considered alternatives?
This nutrient-rich grilling recipe calls for just a few dollops of coconut oil (you could also use olive or avocado oil) to help the paprika and cilantro stick to those juicy, fiber-full kernels. A squeeze of lime, and it’s time to get munching. Who brought the floss?
7. Greek yogurt coleslaw
A creamy side that tastes just as great layered on a burger as it does next to a pile of grilled chicken, coleslaw is a barbecue must-have.
We’re especially into the idea of a creamy dressing that’s a perfect pairing of Greek yogurt and classic mayo. Swapping Greek yogurt for some of the mayo is a sneaky way to pile on the calcium and probiotics, all while reducing fat!
8. Maple bacon baked beans
Check out this alternative slow-cooked with turkey bacon, maple syrup, and balsamic vinegar. Challenge: See if you taste the difference.
9. Sweet potatoes with tahini dressing
This plant-based nutritional powerhouse can be whipped up with an oven or grill, making it perfect for a picnic or classic barbecue night. It’s oozing with nutrients like potassium, vitamin C, and plant protein, so stick around for second and third helpings!
Pro tip: Prep the tahini dressing in advance to make clean-up a piece of cake. And if you don’t have tahini on hand already, look for a high quality tahini paste at your local supermarket or international food store.
10. Bacon fat-roasted Brussels sprouts
We know what you’re thinking — bacon fat? On a list of *healthy* grilling recipes? Well, nutritious food doesn’t always mean fat-free food. Even animal fats can be fine in moderation — after all, super-restrictive dieting isn’t a great way to nourish your body either. Occasionally roasting your green veggies in a little bit of bacon grease is A-OK for most folks following a keto or paleo eating plan.
What really makes this recipe sing are the brussels sprouts, which are high in fiber and bone-loving vitamin K. 💪
It wouldn’t be a proper cookout without dessert, right? Here’s our top choice for a healthy-ish sweet finish.
11. Vegan blueberry pie
What’s a barbecue without dessert? (Answer: not one we want to attend.)
Get ready to dye your teeth the most pleasing shade of purple, because there’s no way to daintily eat this blueberry pie. This better-for-you treat’s crust is all thanks to spelt flour and a filling that crams in as many antioxidant-rich blueberries as possible. Top it off with a dash of lemon juice for a pleasing sweet-and-sour flavor.
Barbecue bashes don’t need to be full of sugary sauces, saturated fats, and empty calories. But that doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice flavor.
These better-for-you grill recipes and picnic snacks are delicious and nutritious. They’re practically guaranteed to get you an invite for the next hangout! We call that a win.