A Dietitian Answers: What’s the Healthiest food to Eat at a BBQ?

By: Renee Korczak Ph.D., RDN, CSSD, LD

It’s summertime and for many consumers that means firing up the barbeque to cook your favorite foods. In a recent interview, someone had asked me what is the healthiest food to eat at a BBQ… the answer, there are so many foods that can fit into a healthy diet, and nothing beats a summer BBQ to dish up your favorite version of lean protein, fruits and veggies.

All foods can fit into a healthy diet, and with some easy meal planning and preparation you can fill your plate with nutrient-dense fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean protein, plus healthy fats.

As a dietitian, I can share that my favorite foods to enjoy at a barbeque are grilled vegetables, grilled pineapple, and simple grilled proteins that you can put on a skewer and prepare ahead of time.  A recipe that I recently tried with my family and absolutely loved was Grilled Pork Tenderloin Skewers.  This was an easy, no fuss recipe that I modified to give it my own flavor.

Here is a list of ingredients that I used:

  • Pork chops, lean (2 lbs.)
  • Yellow onion, 1 medium
  • Red pepper, 1 medium
  • Green pepper, 1 medium
  • Fresh pineapple chunks (2 cups)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Chili powder (1 tsp.)
  • Brown sugar (1 tsp.)
  • Garlic powder (1/2 tsp.)
  • Olive oil (2 Tbsp.)
  • Lime juice (1/4 cup)
  • Soy sauce (1 Tbsp.)


Chop pork into 1-inch cubes and set aside.  Combine seasonings in a bowl and set aside. Combine the olive oil, lime juice, and soy sauce in a zip lock bag.  Add the seasonings to the pork and place in the bag to marinade for at least 1 hour (ideally marinade overnight). Chop the onion and peppers. Using skewers, alternate pork cubes, pineapple chunks, onion and pepper.  Preheat the grill in the meantime.

Grill over medium-hot fire, turning occasionally, for 15-20 minutes, until internal temperature on a thermometer reads 145 degrees F. Let the skewers rest before serving for 5-10 minutes.

Plate 2 skewers and pair with whole grains packed with fiber such as quinoa, brown rice or couscous.  Include another serving of vegetables on your plate to increase nutrient density.

Dietitian Tips for Eating Healthy at a Summer BBQ

Eating healthy at a summer BBQ can be achieved if you keep some simple things in mind. Here are my top five tips:

1.Put lean protein on your plate first as this will help contribute to fullness and keep you satisfied.

  • Note: The pork skewers in this post provide over 20 grams of high-quality protein per serving (2 skewers).
  1. Fill half of your plate with your favorite veggies to increase nutrient density and to provide you with the fiber that your body also requires daily.
  2. Stay hydrated and drink water or other non-caloric/un-sweetened beverages to help quench your thirst during the hot months. Often, I see clients who do not meet their daily fluid requirements and are dehydrated which can lead to unpleasant occasional symptoms such as headache and feeling tired. You can avoid this, by drinking water throughout the day and eating juicy fruits and vegetables-don’t forget, these contribute to your hydration levels too!
  3. Aim for fresh fruit or another low-calorie dessert to curb your sweet tooth.
  4. Eat slowly, sit down and enjoy your food with friends and family. Eating too quickly can also lead to extra caloric intake.

The next time you head out to a summer BBQ, keep these tips in mind and enjoy those savory lean cuts of protein. These are staple foods at every BBQ!