Healthy Cookout Recipes

Summer is right around the corner, and with it comes mosquitoes, cookouts, and warmer days. While we’re not exactly excited about mosquitoes coming back (ugh!), we are looking forward to BBQs and cookouts. Don’t sit out on the fun just because you want to avoid unraveling months of healthy eating, there are plenty of healthy summer recipes, healthy BBQ sides, and lighter cookout dishes that fit into any lifestyle or eating habits. 

Whether you’re firing up your own grill or heading to a friend’s backyard BBQ party, you’ll be sure to impress if you try out one of these healthy cookout recipes. Side dishes and main courses can all be healthy, too. No, we’re not blowing smoke! Check out these healthy grilling recipes for main dishes, sides, and everything in between.

How to Eat Healthy at a Cookout or BBQ

Healthier lifestyle choices are just that, a lifestyle. This means that healthier eating should be achievable for your lifestyle and routine, but it shouldn’t hold you back from visiting your neighbor’s cookout or your friend’s birthday party. If you’re not hosting the cookout or bringing healthy sides to share, there are still ways to eat a little healthier at the next BBQ you attend.

Follow these tips for eating healthy at a cookout or BBQ:

  • Go sauce-less. BBQ sauce, especially store-bought sauce, can be loaded with hidden sugars and other ingredients that you may be working out of your diet. Eating grilled meat on its own can keep heavy sauces out of the equation. Going low and slow to smoke meats can infuse them with tons of flavor without heavy sauce. 
  • Keep a colorful plate. Fruits and veggies aren’t just pretty for Instagram, they’re great for healthier eating. Make sure your cookout plate is colorful with different fruits and veggies. And no, we’re not just talking about eating heaps of potato salad or coleslaw. Choose fresh, minimally-processed produce, such as grilled vegetable skewers. 
  •  Enjoy some of your favorites. Life is about moderation, and cookout food isn’t inherently “evil.” So, if you’re seriously craving BBQ ribs, go for it! Just do so in moderation, so enjoy just a few ribs instead of the full rack.
  • Swap some ingredients. Choose lettuce over burger buns, swap heavier red meat for turkey or fish, choose a pinch of sour cream over heavier cheese. Small switches can add up for a healthier cookout. 
  • Savor what you’re eating. Mindful eating has a place in every meal, yes, even backyard BBQs. Slow down and truly enjoy the food you’re eating at a cookout or barbeque so you’ll seriously enjoy every bite and keep your eating at a healthy pace. 

Healthy Cookout Side Dishes 

One of the best ways to eat healthy at a cookout is to bring some dishes of your own, specifically healthy BBQ sides. Here are a few healthy cookout sides to prepare for your next barbeque. Browse our Youniverse blog for more tips and healthy recipes

Confetti Corn. This recipe calls for 5 ears of corn (about 4 cups), ½ of a red onion chopped, a small diced orange bell pepper, and fresh herbs. Saute the onion over medium heat until soft, then stir in the bell pepper and cook for another two minutes. Add in about two tablespoons of unsalted butter, the corn, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for about 6 minutes, then stir in herbs such as basil, chives, or parsley. Get the full recipe here

Healthy Broccoli Salad. This classic BBQ side dish takes a lighter walk with honey mustard dressing over mayo. Chop a pound of broccoli florets into bite sized pieces and combine with ½ cup of finely chopped red onion, ⅓ cup dried cranberries, and ½ a cup of grated cheddar cheese. Add about ¼ cup of honey mustard dressing, mix, and serve. That’s it! Get the full recipe, plus steps on how to make your own honey mustard dressing, here

Grilled Watermelon. This is a dish you’ll need to finish at the cookout, but it’s surprisingly fast. Combine juice and zest from one lime, ¼ cup of honey, and a tablespoon of your favorite olive oil. Whisk the mix together and brush over one inch thick watermelon wedges. Then, grill until grill marks form, for about two minutes. Top with mint and sea salt and you’re done. Full recipe here.

Healthy Grilling Recipes for Main Dishes

The method of grilling meats and veggies is actually a healthy approach to cooking when done the right way. It’s the BBQ sauce, butter, and other additions that can burn up your healthy eating routine. Try some plain grilled shrimp, chicken, steak, or other meats prepared simply on the grill for a smokey dish that’s as delicious as it is easy.

Feeling a little fancier? Here are some of our favorite healthy grilling recipes for main dishes.

Chicken Inasal. This Philippines inspired grilled chicken dish calls on a variety of ingredients including ginger, lemongrass, garlic, and even Sprite. The recipe involves creating an Achiote Oil in advance and then marinating chicken legs in garlic, lemongrass, shallots, ginger, vinegar, and Sprite. After marinating for 6-12 hours, the chicken legs are skewered and roasted on the grill and then placed on the cooler side of the grill where they’re basted in the Achiote Oil and turned every 5 minutes, for about 35 minutes. Get the full recipe here

Whole Grilled Bass. Grilling an entire fish is easier and healthier than it seems! This recipe uses a cleaned 1 ½ – 2 pound whole black bass or branzino that is sliced down the middle and seasoned with salt and pepper on the inside. Stuff the bass with one torn bunch of cilantro and a thinly sliced lime (with the seeds removed) and then tie closed with kitchen twine spaced about two inches apart. Place the fish on a heated and oiled grill. Cook for about 6-10 minutes per side, carefully flipping until the thickest part of the fish is done. This can be served whole or cut into filets once cooked. Full recipe here.

Chicken Sausage Skewers. This recipe is an update on a grilling favorite of meat and veggie skewers. Swap heavier meats for chicken sausage and combine on a prepped skewer with your favorite vegetables. Grill until perfectly crispy and you’re done! 

Molasses BBQ Pork Chops. Combine one cup of cooled coffee, 6 ounces of molasses, 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon of dijon mustard, 2 cloves of minced garlic, ginger, and thyme into a marinade for your pork chops. Marinate for at least 2 hours, or overnight, and then separate pork chops from the marinade. Reduce the remaining marinade into a glaze while grilling the pork chops for 3 to 4 minutes per side. More on the recipe here

Summertime Fitness Routines

Staying active is also an important part of any summertime routine, so be sure to take advantage of our group fitness classes at Youfit! With an affordable gym membership, you’ll be on track for feeling your best this summer.