Don't get burnt at the BBQ

Summer is finally here. The sun is shining, birds are singing in the trees and our spirits have lifted. In these long, bright evenings, the last thing we want to do is slave over a hot stove. The hearty stews and warming soups that have brought us through the winter are finally losing their appeal and at this time of year, we are more inclined to go for the lighter option, as salads and pasta dishes replace the wholesome casseroles of winter.

It is also the time to hand over the title of Head Chef to the man of the house, to sit back and relax with a glass of wine and await the feast of charred sausages and not-quite-cooked burgers. Yes, it’s barbeque season.

Barbeque, bar-b-cue or BBQ – no matter how you spell it, it boils down to the same thing: huge piles of meat and bowls of salad. You might think that barbequing is a healthy way to cook – and it is, to a certain extent. Cooking meats slowly and a good distance above the flames allows the fat to melt and drip away. But, like anything else, there are traps lurking at every corner, waiting to catch out the healthy eater.

Now, a big problem with barbeques is that there is usually a huge variety of food there and, if you’re anything like me, you’ll want to try one of everything, or maybe even two of everything. This is probably because of the novelty factor in using a barbeque and, especially is this country where the sun doesn’t shine too often, we tend to cook everything in sight.

Unfortunately, this can be a fatal trap for those of us watching our waistlines – a bit of this, a spoonful of that, just one of everything, please – it all adds up. And have you ever stopped to count up those char-grilled calories? Prepare to be amazed and horrified for here is the low down to what’s what on the grill:

Food Serving

1 sausage: 64 kcals, 5g fat

1 burger: 114 kcals, 8.5g fat

1 lamb cutlet: 212 kcals, 17g fat

1 serving of pork ribs: 175 kcals,2g fat

1 medium baked potato with butter: 238 kcals, 8.4g fat

1 serving of coleslaw: 116 kcals, 12g fat

1 serving of potato salad: 224 kcals, 22.5g fat

1 portion of garlic bread: 400 kcals, 15g fat

1 tablespoon of mayonnaise: 104kcals, 11.3g fat

1 tablespoon of Thousand Island dressing: 57 kcals, 5.7g fat

1 tablespoon of French dressing: 72 kcals, 7.5g fat

1 tablespoon of BBQ sauce: 20 kcals, 0.5g fat

1 serving of tossed salad: 30 kcals, 0.5g fat

Okay, you might be able to summon some will-power and not have one of everything but if you are not among the iron-willed (who must be few and far between, if we’re honest…) your grand total for your ‘healthy’ BBQ meal is a staggering 1,761 calories and over 120g of fat. That’s more than a whole days’ worth of calories for many of us and around twice our recommended daily fat intake.

And that doesn’t include the baked bananas with chocolate and ice-cream to follow or the beer to wash it all down. One serving of this dessert will add another 320 calories and 12g of fat, while having even one glass of beer will boost your total to 2,230 calories and 133g of fat. Unbelievable.

But, thankfully, there is a better way to enjoy your barbeque. Swapping the fatty meats such as sausages, burgers and lamb chops for leaner cuts like steak, pork or reduced fat sausages will dramatically cut your calorie intake: you can save around 200 calories making these meat swaps alone.

Hold the butter on that baked potato and there’s another 75 calories saved. Go for the tossed salad with low fat dressing instead of the mayo-rich coleslaw and potato salad and full fat dressings and that’s 300 calories and over 34g of fat you’ve saved. And having a wine spritzer, with only 40 calories, instead of a pint of lager will save another 90 calories or so.

Don’t forget that veggies are brilliant on the BBQ – make kebabs with cherry tomatoes, onion wedges, slices of courgette and mushrooms and marinade with orange juice or low fat dressing for a tasty side-dish. Or how about grilling slices of aubergine, oily fish such as salmon or even going for vegetable or quorn burgers. The ideas are endless and it can be enjoyed healthily. Use it as an opportunity to ignite your imagination.

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