Labor Day is fast approaching, and there’s no better way to end the summer than a cookout with good friends. While it’s tempting to splurge on your favorite party foods, you’ll actually enjoy the get-together more if you make healthier choices. You won’t experience indigestion, bloating, or heartburn, and you won’t wake up the following day feeling guilty about overindulging, either. This Labor Day, why not check out some great barbecue recipes that won’t leave you and your guests feeling sluggish? Serve up main courses, sides, and desserts that are healthy, delicious, and satisfying, paired with lower-calorie cocktails and other drinks.
Healthy Barbecue Recipes Your Guests Will Love: Grilled Vegetables and More
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying traditional fare like burgers, hot dogs, and potato chips at a barbecue—in moderation, of course. It’s when you’re hanging around with friends for hours and munching mindlessly that you can run into trouble. It’s easy to overeat when you’re busy socializing and not giving your full attention to how full you feel. So if you know you’re going to be grazing all afternoon and into the evening, why not make lighter dishes available as well? That’s where these healthy grilling recipes come in. They’ll fill you up more quickly, and they pack more nutrition, too. And yes … they’re also tasty!
Grilled Summer Veggies
When you’re firing up the grill for burgers, chicken breasts, or sausage, it’s easy to toss these summer veggies on too. It’s no sweat to customize this barbecue recipe if there are particular veggies or herbs you happen to prefer. Here is a crowd-pleasing and colorful combination to get you started.
- 2 bell peppers, cut into quarters
- Eggplant, cut into ½” round slices
- Summer squash or zucchini, cut into ½” round slices
- 2 tablespoons fresh herbs, like rosemary, basil, or garlic
- 2 tablespoons vinegar
- Salt and pepper to taste
Grill the veggies on high heat: three to five minutes for the squash and zucchini, six to eight minutes for the eggplant and peppers. Then remove from heat, allow to cool, and chop into small pieces. Toss with the vinegar (or extra virgin olive oil, if you prefer), herbs, and salt and pepper. These veggies are delicious served hot or cold. Serves four. Recipe: Whole Foods.
Chicken Barbecue Recipe for Your Cookout
Chicken is a great choice for a backyard barbecue. For one thing, it’s lower in fat and cholesterol than beef burgers and steaks, and it’s an incredibly versatile main ingredient. That’s why it’s a staple in so many healthy grilling recipes.
Are you looking for a lighter sandwich option than burgers for your get-together? Check out this savory bbq chicken sandwich recipe with sweet potatoes, mozzarella, and cilantro. (It’s easy enough to leave the cilantro off for guests who hate it since it’s a pretty controversial flavor!)
For a sweet and summery barbecue recipe that’ll wow your friends, check out these rosemary-peach chicken kebabs. This low-fat, gluten-free recipe is so full of flavor, you might forget it’s good for you, too.
- Cooking spray
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1½ ” pieces
- 2 ripe peaches, cut into 1” slices
- 1 green bell pepper, cut into 1½ ” pieces
- ¼ tsp pepper
- ⅛ tsp salt
For the glaze:
- ¾ tsp grated orange zest
- 3 tbsp fresh orange juice
- 3 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 ½ tsp honey
- 1 ½ tsp canola or corn oil
Spray the grill rack with cooking spray; preheat the grill to medium heat. Then layer chicken, peach slices, and peppers onto four 14-16” metal skewers. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Then whisk together the glaze ingredients, reserving half. Brush the other half onto the kebabs.
Grill the kebabs for six to eight minutes, turning them over halfway through. Then brush the remaining glaze onto the kebabs. They’re done and ready to enjoy when the chicken is no longer pink in the middle and the peppers are a bit tender. Serves four. Recipe: American Heart Association.
Guilt-Free Barbecue Dessert Recipe for Your Labor Day Cookout
After you’ve served your main course, keep the grill running for these amazing grilled apples. They’re so easy to make, gluten-free, and vegan-friendly if you leave off the ice cream or serve a dairy-free variety.
- 2 apples cut into ¼” slices
- 2 tbsp butter or coconut oil
- and 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 2 tbsp white sugar
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp ginger
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- Ice cream or whipped cream
Set the grill to medium-high heat. Place the apple slices on a large sheet of aluminum foil. Then top with pats of butter, sugar, and spices, and toss gently. Place another sheet of foil on top and seal it together. Also, use a fork to poke holes in the top sheet. Then grill for twenty to twenty-five minutes over indirect heat. Remove and serve with ice cream or whipped cream. Additionally, to keep this dessert on the lighter side, you can top the apples with tasty, low-calorie ice cream. Serves four. Recipe: A Couple Cooks.
Lower-Calorie Drink Recipes
To accompany your healthy food recipes, you’ll want to offer drinks that aren’t loaded with sugar and empty calories. You can get more creative than the usual cooler of sodas and beer with these simple low-calorie drink recipes.
- Check out this non-alcoholic healthy sparkling mojito lemonade from The Busy Baker, which combines peppermint tea with lemon and lime juice and a dollop of honey for sweetness. At 126 calories per serving, it’s a lot kinder to your healthy lifestyle than many bottled lemonades.
- If you need another lower-calorie mocktail for your drink menu, try this virgin banana pina colada from WebMD. With just 130 calories and two grams of fat, it’s a much healthier choice than the traditional pina colada, which can pack over five hundred calories a pop.
- Want to offer some adult beverages that won’t break anyone’s summer clean-eating streak? Check out these healthy cocktails, which don’t rely on sugary syrups or high-fat cream and whole milk.
Enjoy Your Labor Day Weekend!
Now that you’ve seen a few healthy Labor Day recipes for inspiration, you can plan a cookout filled with nutritious crowd-pleasers. There’s no need to deprive yourself (and your guests) when it’s so easy to prepare these barbecue recipes. So have a great party, and stay safe!