Driver Health, Nutrition

Fun times and barbies

Imogen Tear from Diabetes Australia offers a few tips to help make your barbecue meals both flavoursome and healthy.

Summer is the season when we traditionally fire up the barbecue and enjoy fun times and celebrations outdoors. While the traditional barbecue menu generally includes a lot of meat there are ways to add healthy flavour to the menu, boost your veggie intake and reduce excess salt, sugar and saturated fats.

Fire up the barbie

When it’s too hot in the kitchen take the cooking outside! Tenderise your meat by marinating it in a little balsamic vinegar or pineapple juice and add flavour with chopped fresh herbs like rosemary or thyme.

Instead of a truckload of tomato sauce on your barbecued meat use a homemade freshly cooked sauce of tomato and onion with a grind of pepper, or top your steak with a large, barbecued mushroom drizzled with a teaspoon of olive oil and another of balsamic vinegar.

You could also try grilling fruits and vegetables such as mango, peach or avocado on the barbecue. The natural sugars in the fruit will caramelise when cooked, adding flavour and sweetness. The avocado adds fibre and heart-healthy fats to the meal.

Recipe idea: For a salad that everyone will love, grill mango cheeks, avocado halves and some fresh prawns on the barbecue. Then combine with crunchy cucumber and cos lettuce.

Scintillating skewers

Make colourful vegetarian skewers with onion, capsicum, zucchini and cherry tomatoes, or alternate your veggies with lean meats.

Prawns are quintessentially Australian and go beautifully on skewers. They are naturally low in kilojoules but packed with nutrition. Serve with a squeeze of lemon or a dash of garlic.

Salad pizazz

Fresh seasonal produce can make all the difference when it comes to making a delicious salad. By choosing fruits and vegetables that are in season, you’ll help your waistline, your wallet and the environment!

Best picks for the summer months include fresh berries, mango, nectarines, peaches, Asian greens, butternut pumpkin, squash and zucchini. Cauliflower and broccoli are also still good value at the supermarket and can be thinly sliced into a salad for some added crunch.

Salads can be as simple or as complicated as you want; they can be an accompaniment or a whole meal. For a whole meal start with a low GI, high fibre carbohydrate – potato, long grain rice, pearl couscous, pumpkin or sourdough bread, cubed and toasted, for a base – and add some protein such as lentils, three bean mix, or shredded cooked chicken.

Mix in some greens such as baby spinach leaves, broccoli florets, sliced cabbage or mixed lettuce leaves, and add some texture with tomato wedges, cucumber slices, grated carrot, nuts, seeds or crumbled feta.

Add one or more herbs – chopped mint, parsley, coriander, chilli, garlic, or ginger. Toss all the ingredients together and try a drizzle of lime juice or balsamic vinegar, mixed with a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil or macadamia nut oil.

Dress to impress

Salad dressings can have a lot of energy (kilojoules) even if eaten in small amounts, so it’s important to watch your portion size. When choosing oils for salad dressings, cold-pressed nut and seed oils, such as olive and canola oils, are the healthiest choices.

Coconut and palm oil are high in saturated fat and not recommended. Make your own dressings using cold-pressed seed and nut oils, lemon juice, garlic, ginger, vinegar, fresh herbs and spices.

Recipe idea: Everyone loves a Caesar salad dressing but it’s traditionally high in fat and salt. For a healthier, yet just as tasty, version swap the mayo for low-fat natural yoghurt and mix with Dijon mustard, anchovies, white wine vinegar and a pinch of parmesan.

Added sweetness

There’s been a lot in the media about sugar – so most people know a little is okay but a lot is not so good. If you use sugar, then try using less. Instead of icing a cake try dusting it with icing sugar.

Instead of shop bought sweet and sour sauce use a generous squeeze of lime juice and some chopped fresh mango and red chilli. You’ll be getting the sweet and the sour without all the sugar.

For a dessert add seasonal fruit to low fat plain yoghurt and add a sprinkle of chopped dry roasted nuts or natural muesli – cheap, easy, and simple.

Keep an eye on salt

Salt is often added to pre-prepared foods so try not to add extra salt to your food. You’ll find it can open a whole world of flavour you didn’t know existed as salt masks the flavours of other foods.

It also counteracts the sweetness of foods, so by not adding salt you can use less sugar in recipes. If you do use high salt ingredients, choose the reduced-salt varieties or use less of them.

MasterChef cooking tips

There’s no need to add oils to your barbecue. Most models have a non-stick coating, making your barbecue even healthier!

Cook on the grill rather than the hot plate so excess fat can drain away.

Avoid overcooking or charring your meats – research has shown this can increase your risk of some cancers.

Use lemon, garlic, herbs, spices and chilli to create a taste sensation rather than oils and salt.

IMOGEN TEAR is the editor at Diabetes NSW & ACT. For more healthy lifestyle tips and other helpful information on diabetes head to the Diabetes NSW & ACT website or call the Helpline on 1300 136 588 to speak with a health professional.

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