6 Lighter Alternatives to Classic Slow-Cooked Barbecue

Here at Food Network, we’re already swooning in anticipation of July 4th cookout fare — a meeting of spicy, sweet, smoky and zesty flavors swirling together on one picnic plate. If you’ve already gotten a head start planning your menu, you’ve likely encountered a ton of “barbecue” recipes during your search. But before you go any further, we think it’s time to clear up some confusion: What is barbecue? And how does it differ from grilling?

Depending on the context, “barbecue” can mean one of three things: a cooking method, a cooking apparatus, or a sauce used for basting and dipping (true pitmasters will claim this third one should be abolished entirely, as it compromises the hard-earned smokiness that takes hours to lock in). The generally accepted differences between “barbecue” and “grilling” are cooking durations and the types of heat used. The former involves low, indirect heat over many hours, which produces dramatic plumes of smoke that flavor the food; the latter involves medium or high heat for shorter bursts of time and little smoke. While slow-cooking works beautifully on fattier cuts of meat, such as brisket, short ribs or pork shoulder, grilling is best for leaner proteins, including chicken, pork tenderloin and fish – especially tuna and salmon. If you’re looking to make healthier choices during the long weekend, grilling is the way to go.

Don’t look at it as punishment: A few well-chosen spices, a flavorful glaze, plus the deliciously crisp char that’s best achieved after a quick scorch on the grill can really round out a summer barbecue, and you won’t need to worry about going overboard. See for yourself with these six healthy — and quick — recipes from Food Network.

Grilled Honey-Glazed Chicken with Green Pea and Mint Sauce
Bobby Flay uses a simple honey and balsamic glaze in place of store-bought barbecue sauce to flavor lean grilled chicken breasts. For a touch of seasonal freshness and color, serve the grilled breasts with his quick Green Pea and Mint Sauce.

Grilled Shrimp Skewers with Soy Sauce, Fresh Ginger and Toasted Sesame Seeds
If you’ve already exhausted lean grilled chicken this season, try grilled seafood. Shrimp in particular will hold up beautifully over an open flame when first brushed lightly with oil. Toasted sesame seeds add a nutty crunch to these shrimp skewers, while the ginger-soy dipping sauce lends an Asian flair.

Sweet and Spicy Grilled Salmon
The decadent-tasting “good” fat in salmon complements the sweet-spicy Buffalo glaze in this low-calorie, high-protein main dish from Food Network Kitchen. A crisp and refreshing celery slaw is dressed with the same sauce, made creamy with light mayo, and brightened with onions and chives.

Tuna Burgers with Carrot-Ginger Sauce
Tyler Florence’s protein-packed tuna burgers offer all the satisfying, meaty texture of a classic beef burger for roughly half the calories. Top each patty with some refreshing summer garnish, such as avocado, ginger or cilantro.

Sausage-and-Pepper Skewers
Balance these smoky grilled sausage skewers with a side of fluffy pesto couscous. The combination of cilantro, parsley and scallions in the pesto will perk up the hearty sausage with bright summery flavor.

Grilled Pork Tenderloin a la Rodriguez with Guava Glaze and Orange-Habanero Mojo
For a main dish that’s quick, lean and plenty flavorful, brush pork tenderloin with a glaze made from guava jelly; brush the glaze onto the meat while it’s grilling for a unique, fruity flavor. If you can’t find guava, apricot jelly works just as well. When ready to serve, pair the tender pork slices with an orange, chile and cilantro dressing for an extra touch of sweetness — and heat!

Ready for more ways to enjoy summer’s greatest cookout fare? Check out these recipes from our friends:

Devour: Add Asian Flair to Grilled Ribs with These 4 Recipes
The Lemon Bowl: 20 Healthy Marinades for Grilling Season
Homemade Delish: BBQ Jalapeno Poppers
Napa Farmhouse 1885: BBQ Beef on Toast
TasteBook: Skewered Grilled Prawns with Spicy Peach Glaze
Domesticate Me: 37 Foolproof Recipes for Your Fourth of July BBQ
Creative Culinary: Apple Cider and Brown Sugar Pulled Pork Barbecue
Taste with the Eyes: BBQ Shrimp and Grits with Lobster Butter
The Mom 100: Farro Arugula Salad with Orange Herb Vinaigrette
In Jennie’s Kitchen: Best BBQ Ribs + 19 Recipes for 4th of July
FN Dish: Food Network’s Top Recipes for Barbecue Favorites: Ribs, Pulled Pork and More

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Picnic Salads, Lightened Up

Side salads are the opportunity to add lots of veggies, fruits and whole grains to your barbecue fare. However, many traditional side salads are drowning in mayo or oily dressings. Below are quick tricks to lighten up your favorite picnic salads, along with recipes you can try.

Potato Salad

Pick up this classic summer side at your supermarket and each serving may contain more than 300 calories and 20 grams of fat. Many homemade versions call for at least one cup of mayo — with 920 calories and 80 grams per cup. And although potatoes are filled with potassium and other good-for-you nutrients, cooked spuds still contain 65 calories per half-cup.

To lighten:
• Swap out some of the potatoes for nonstarchy veggies like parsnips or cauliflower.
• Bulk up the salad with tomatoes, celery, peas, carrots and bell peppers for a variety of vitamins and nutrients.
• Sub in a flavorful vinaigrette or pesto sauce for some of the mayo.

Recipes to try:
Pesto Potato Salad
Sweet Potato Salad
Quinoa and Purple Potato Salad

Pasta Salad

Heaps of pasta drowning in mayo or oil can sabotage any healthy eating plan. A half-cup portion of traditional pasta salad can rack up over 300 calories and 22 grams of fat. Most folks serve themselves three to four times the half-cup portion amount, causing the calorie count to skyrocket to 900 to 1,200 for a side salad.

To lighten:
• Instead of mayo, use a combo of nonfat plain Greek yogurt and low-fat mayo.
• Instead of using 1 cup of mayo, cut back to 1/4 cup (or 2 tablespoons each of Greek yogurt and low-fat mayo)
• Bulk up the salad with tons of veggies like tomatoes, carrots, zucchini and cukes.
• Use whole-grain pasta instead of white.

Recipes to try:
Corn and Pasta Salad with Homemade Ranch Dressing
Whole-Wheat Pasta Salad with Walnuts and Feta Cheese
Pasta Salad with Tomatoes, Peppers and Olives

Broccoli Salad

It’s the same mayo-filled story with this well-liked salad. Most recipes call for at least a cup of mayo or oil. Even if you use a healthy oil, it’s still 120 calories per tablespoon or 1,920 calories per cup!

To lighten:
• Use a vinaigrette dressing or substitute nonfat plain Greek yogurt for half the mayo.
• For an extra zing, add dried fruit like cranberries or raisins, or nuts or seeds like almonds, pecans or sesame seeds.
• Add flavor with very low-calorie herbs like basil, parsley or tarragon.

Recipes to try:
Fresh Broccoli Salad
Creamy Broccoli Salad
Asian Broccoli Salad with Tangy Chili-Garlic Dressing

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is the author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day.

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Order This, Not That: Chick-Fil-A

This super-popular chain opened in 1946 and has grown to become one of the largest quick-service chicken restaurant chains in the United States. Chick-Fil-A currently has over 2,000 locations in 43 states, and its sales in 2015 exceeded $6 billion. However, before you think ordering fast-food chicken is healthier than other options, check out the calorie and sodium bombs you may be eating.

Classic Sandwiches and More

Order: Grilled Nuggets

If you’re looking to keep the sodium under control, your best bet is to order an eight- or 12-piece grilled boneless breast of chicken as an entree with your choice of dipping sauce. With a salad or fruit cup on the side, it’s a well-balanced meal that won’t break the salt or calorie bank.

Per serving (12-count): Calories 200; Fat 4.5 g (Saturated 1.5 g); Sodium 800 mg; Carbohydrate 6 g; Protein 34 g

Not: The Spicy Chicken Deluxe Sandwich

The Spicy Chicken Deluxe Sandwich is made with boneless chicken breast seasoned with spicy peppers served on a buttered bun with dill pickle chips, lettuce, tomato and pepper Jack cheese. The sodium in this sandwich is 76 percent of the recommended daily amount. You can order the sandwich on a whole-grain bun, which would help boost the 3 grams of fiber.

Per serving (with regular bun): Calories 570; Fat 27 g (Saturated 8 g); Sodium 1,750 mg; Carbohydrate 47 g; Protein 35 g

Wraps and Salads

Order: The Grilled Market Salad

You’ll get four food groups in this salad — protein, dairy, fruits and vegetables — for a reasonable amount of calories, fat and sodium. This menu item is made with sliced grilled chicken breast served on romaine lettuce and baby greens and topped with shredded cabbage and carrots, red and green apples, strawberries, blueberries and crumbled blue cheese.

Per serving: Calories 320; Fat 14 g (Saturated 3 g); Sodium 26 g; Carbohydrate 26 g

Not: Cobb Salad

Although this salad’s calorie count of 500 isn’t too terribly high, it contains close to a whopping 60-percent of the daily recommended dose, much of it coming from the sodium bacon, cheese, and dressing. If you’re craving a salad, you’d be better off with any of the other salad options instead.

Per serving: Calories 500; Fat 27 g (Saturated 7 g); Sodium 1,360 mg; Carbohydrate 27 g; Protein 40 g


Order: Side Salad

A whopping 90 percent of Americans don’t eat enough vegetables, but adding a simple side salad with romaine lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, carrots and cabbage can easily up your daily consumption. This side salad also contains shredded cheese, which can help you meet the recommended three daily servings of dairy (most folks take in only two servings). Be sure, however, to choose vinaigrette dressing and use about two tablespoons max.

Per serving (without dressing): Calories 80; Fat 4.5 g (Saturated 3 g); Sodium 110 mg; Carbohydrate 6 g; Protein 5 g

Not: Waffle Potato Fries

Although you may be jonesing for crispy fries with your chicken sandwich, the combo can send your calories and sodium over the top.

Per serving (for large size): Calories 520; Fat 27 g (Saturated 4 g); Sodium 240 mg; Carbohydrate 63 g; Protein 6 g


Order: Icedream Cone

Need something cold for dessert? Opt for a small cone of vanilla ice cream, which will keep portion size and artery-clogging saturated fat in check while still providing you with a serving from the dairy group.

Per serving (small cone): Calories 170; Fat 4 g (Saturated 2 g); Sodium 115 mg; Carbohydrate 31 g; Protein 5 g

Not: Strawberry Milkshake

This old-fashioned milkshake topped with whipped cream may bring back memories, but it will also pack on the pounds. The fat and calorie counts of the chocolate and vanilla flavors aren’t much better. .

Per serving (strawberry): Calories 570; Fat 21 g (Saturated 13 g); Sodium 380 mg; Carbohydrate 85 g; Protein 12 g


Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is the author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day.

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Good or Bad: Whipped Topping

Everyone gets excited about a fluffy pile of sugary whipped goodness, dolloped high atop a slice of pie or ice cream sundae. Store-bought whipped topping may seem like a healthy alternative to decadent whipped cream, but you might want to read this before you garnish your next dessert.

Whipped toppings tend to come in lower on the calorie-and-fat scale than traditional whipped cream. Two tablespoons of frozen whipped topping contain 25 calories and 1.5 grams of fat, while canned whipped topping has about 20 calories and 1 gram of fat for the same two-tablespoon serving. You may be shocked to learn that the same two-tablespoon serving of whipped cream has 100 calories and 10 grams of fat. And seriously, who eats only two tablespoons of any of this stuff?! Premade whipped toppings offer convenience, as a sweet and creamy serving is a quick spoonful or spray away.

Whipped topping comes at a high price — nutritionally and financially. Whipping cream costs about 25 cents per ounce, compared with 37 cents per ounce for frozen tubs of whipped topping. The canned varieties carry the highest price tag, at 46 cents per ounce.
The most-alarming quality of whipped topping is the ingredient list. Check out the back of any tub and you will find a hot list of things you’ve been warned to avoid, including hydrogenated oils (aka trans fats) and high-fructose corn syrup; water is also the first ingredient (bet you thought you were buying cream). Canned whipped topping has a slightly better ingredient list — the first ingredient is actually cream, followed by sugar and corn syrup.

Bottom Line: Whether you choose homemade whipped cream or buy whipped toppings, use them sparingly. If you want a convenient option, reach for a squirt of the canned type; it’s best to avoid the tub varieties altogether.

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition.

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Mango Turmeric Lassi Ice Pops

It’s that time of year: The weather is getting warmer. The grills are being uncovered. The pools are being cleaned. And the ice pop molds are being dusted off.

Last year when I made my roasted peaches-and-cream ice pops, I raved about how my purchase of ice pop molds was a total game changer. This year I’ll spare you the soapbox, but I have to tell you how much I love this new ice-pop recipe.

I’m on a mango turmeric kick right now. I just made mango turmeric overnight oats, and I was on a mission to find another recipe to combine these two powerful flavors. Mango is sweet and juicy and beautifully contrasts with turmeric’s bitter, peppery flavor. Plus, they both impart a gorgeous, vibrant orange-yellow color that makes your food just pop!

And then there are the nutrition benefits of this win-win combo. Both mango and turmeric are high in antioxidants; specifically, mango is packed with antioxidant vitamins A and C. And that’s not all. Mangos contain over 20 different vitamins and minerals — talk about a superfruit!

Cool down this summer with this refreshing recipe for Mango Turmeric Lassi Ice Pops. Making ice pops at home is super quick and easy and allows you full control over the ingredients to make sure your family and friends are getting a nutritious treat.

Mango Turmeric Lassi Ice Pops
Yield: 5 or 6 ice pops

2 1/4 cups chopped mango (about 4 mangoes)
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/2 cups plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons honey

1. Using a blender, puree the mango until smooth.
2. Transfer mango puree to a small bowl and stir in turmeric, cinnamon and ginger.
3. In a separate medium bowl, mix yogurt and honey until combined.
4. Alternate adding layers of mango and yogurt to ice pop molds, leaving 1/2 inch space at the top.
5. To get a marbled look, run a chopstick or knife through the molds to swirl the layers of mango and yogurt together.
6. Place lids over ice pop molds or insert ice pop sticks. Freeze for at least 4 to 6 hours.
7. To easily remove ice pops from molds, run under warm water for a minute.

Per serving (amount per serving based on 6 servings): Calories 140; Fat 6 g (Saturated 4.5 g); Cholesterol 10 mg; Sodium 20 mg; Carbohydrate 17 g; Fiber 1 g; Sugar 16 g; Protein 4 g; Vitamin A 15% DV; Vitamin C 40% DV; Calcium 6% DV; Iron 2% DV

Kara Lydon, RD, LDN, RYT, is a registered dietitian nutritionist, yoga teacher, and self-proclaimed foodie. She is a recipe developer, food photographer, writer, and spokesperson. Her food and healthy living blog, The Foodie Dietitian, features seasonal vegetarian recipes and simple strategies to bring more mindfulness and yoga into your life. 

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Smoky Two-Potato Salad

Old-fashioned potato salad this is not. What it is is cool, creamy and way more colorful than the old standby — and it still goes great alongside burgers, brats and corn on the cob.

And it’s got a kick of spice, which, surprisingly, is exactly what you want in the hot summer. It’s no coincidence that the hot peppers that grow in hot and sunny climates are craved by people who live there. Hot, piquant flavors actually help cool the body and are healthy for lots of reasons:

  • Eating spicy foods helps produce endorphins in the brain; these “good mood” hormones help you feel more relaxed and, well, happy!
  • The heat of peppers is caused by a group of antioxidant phytochemicals — mainly capsaicin, which has powerful inflammation reducers.
  • Capsaicin also seems to help curb appetite and may help you feel fuller sooner.

Canned chipotle peppers are simply jalapeno peppers that have been smoked and stewed in a savory tomato sauce. So both the peppers and the sauce lend deep unami flavor from the cooked tomatoes along with smoke and bold heat. That’s why a recipe like this — which calls for only for 1 tablespoon of chopped chipotle pepper and 2 teaspoons of adobo sauce — can still pack a big flavor punch. (For ideas on what to do with leftover chipotles, see this tip.)

To cool the spicy heat on the tongue, this recipe includes creamy yogurt and nutrient-rich white potatoes and sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes and spice are an especially addictive combo — and a touch of honey is added to bring out the potatoes’ sweetness so it’s more of a match for the bold chipotle spice.

No, it’s not your grandmother’s potato salad, but it will still have friends coming back for seconds.

Smoky Two-Potato Salad
Makes 6 to 8 servings

1 pound sweet potatoes
1 pound red potatoes
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon chopped chipotle chile from a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
2 teaspoons adobo sauce from a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup chopped green onions, green and white parts of onion (about 2 green onions)
2 ounces smoked Gouda cheese, cut in 1/4-inch cubes
Optional garnishes: Smoked paprika, chopped fresh cilantro


  • Cut potatoes into 1-inch cubes. (Do not peel.) Place in a medium pot. Add cold water to cover; bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium and cook 12 minutes or until barely fork-tender. Drain potatoes in a colander and immediately drizzle vinegar over warm potatoes; cool potatoes.
  • Meanwhile, make the dressing. In a small bowl, combine honey, mayonnaise, yogurt, chipotle chile, adobo sauce, salt and pepper.
  • To a large serving bowl, add potatoes, green onions and cheese. Pour dressing over potatoes and toss gently. Sprinkle with optional garnishes and serve.



  • Smoked mozzarella cheese could be substituted for smoked Gouda.
  • Yes, you can eat sweet potato skins. and they are a delicious source of dietary fiber.


Per serving (1/6 of recipe): Calories 245; Fat 10 g (Saturated 3 g); Sodium 381 mg; Carbohydrate 33 g; Fiber 4 g; Sugars 7 g; Protein 6 g

Serena Ball, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian nutritionist. She blogs at TeaspoonOfSpice.com sharing tips and tricks to help readers find cooking shortcuts for making healthy, homemade meals. Her recipes are created with families in mind.

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Nutrition News: Diet and Diabetes, Workplace Wellness, Soda Tax

Veg out (if only a little)

The advice to eat your veggies is better than ever. Eating just a few more servings of healthful plant-based foods (fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains) and slightly fewer servings of animal-based foods (meat, fish, eggs, dairy) every day can significantly reduce your risk of Type 2 diabetes, a new study published in PLOS Medicine has found. Interestingly, while those who ate a plant-based diet with a modest amount of animal products lowered their Type 2 diabetes risk by 20 percent, the kind of plant-based foods they ate was key. Those who ate healthy plant-based foods saw a 34 percent drop in diabetes risk, while those who ate unhealthy plant-based foods (refined carbs, sugary foods, starchy veggies) actually slightly increased their Type 2 diabetes risk. “What we’re talking about is a moderate shift – replacing one or two servings of animal food a day with one or two plant-based foods,” senior author Frank Hu, a professor at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told The New York Times.

The City of Brotherly Soda tax

Soon (starting next January) if you order a soda — or any other sugary beverage that comes in a bottle, can or from a soda fountain — in Philadelphia, you’ll pay a 1.5 percent tax on it, with the proceeds (an estimated $91 million annually) going toward children’s education and parks. The City of Brotherly Love became the first major city in the nation to pass such a tax when its city council members approved the proposal by a 13-4 vote last week. As other cities eye similar measures, the soda industry is obviously not happy. But public health experts say the tax could have a significant effect on the consumption of sugary beverages and on public health. “The evidence is clear that when prices go up, people buy less of things,” Michael Long of George Washington University, who has studied the effect of such taxes, told NPR. “We’d expect over 12,000 cases of obesity prevented by the end of the 10-year period, as well as $65 million in health care cost savings over the 10-year period.”

Workplace wellness: so last year?

Remember when workplace wellness programs, offering employees things like healthy-lifestyle coaching and weight-loss incentives, were all the rage? Looks like they’re now less so. According to a survey of benefits conducted by

the Society for Human Resource Management, many companies are scaling back the wellness benefits (insurance discounts for weight loss, health coaching and hotlines, onsite flu shots) due to their return-on-investment and participation rates, the Wall Street Journal reports. While last year nearly half of employers offered employees counseling to help them make healthy lifestyle choices, this year only 37 percent of them are doing so. Looks like the workers of America may have to make their healthy choices on their own.

Amy Reiter is a writer and editor based in New York. A regular contributor to The Los Angeles Times, she has also written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Glamour, Marie Claire, The Daily Beast and Wine Spectator, among others, as well as for Salon, where she was a longtime editor and senior writer. In addition to contributing to Healthy Eats, she blogs for Food Network’s FN Dish.

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