7 Healthy Foods To Add To Your Summer BBQ

Summer BBQs are a great way to escape the kitchen heat, gather with family and friends, and serve summertime food favorites. Here are seven foods you can add to your next cookout to make your BBQ as healthy as possible.

1. Watermelon

Watermelon is a delicious, nutritious summer treat that can be a healthy addition to your next summer cookout. One cup of watermelon contains just 46 calories, but it’s packed with nutrients. In fact, in one cup of watermelon, there’s 17% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of Vitamin A and 20% of Vitamin C. 

This fruit is also packed with other nutrients including Cucurbitacin E and lycopene, which have been shown to lower the risk of some types of cancer and lower the risk of heart disease.

An added benefit of watermelon is that it’s about 92% water, so it can help you stay hydrated on warm summer days.

2. Tomatoes

Whether you add a slice of tomato to your burger, toss cherry tomatoes into a salad, or chop tomatoes for salsa or gazpacho, tomatoes are a healthy addition to any summer meal. 

Tomatoes are rich in antioxidants and other plant compounds that have been shown to improve bone health, improve skin health and lower the risk of cancer and heart disease. 

One cup of diced tomatoes contains 12% of your RDA of potassium, 29% of your Vitamin A, and 41% of your Vitamin C -- and has only 32 calories. 

Like watermelon, tomatoes also have a high water content, which can help you stay hydrated in the summer heat.

3. Mushrooms

Mushrooms are another low-calorie, nutrient-dense food that can enhance any summer BBQ. They’re packed with vitamins and minerals, including selenium, thiamin, phosphorus, and magnesium, which can lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, and diabetes

Mushrooms can be a healthy add-on to salads, pizzas, burgers, pasta dishes, and sandwiches. Because of their firm texture, they can also be the main attraction of your meal, serving as a healthy alternative to meat. 

In one study, adults who substituted 20% of the red meat in their diet with mushrooms had lower rates of obesity, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure compared to their more carnivorous counterparts. 

4. Chickpeas

Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are an excellent source of plant-based protein and fiber. In fact, one cup of chickpeas contains about ⅓ of your daily recommended protein intake, as well as a whopping 12.5 grams of fiber! 

Studies of people who incorporated chickpeas into their diet showed they tended to feel full longer and therefore ate fewer calories throughout the day. 

Chickpeas are also rich in iron, calcium, Vitamin B-6, and magnesium. So, when you’re preparing your next summer meal, blend chickpeas into hummus, toss them into a salad or roast them for a healthy snack.

5. Bell Peppers

Bell peppers are another versatile, healthy ingredient to incorporate into your next BBQ this summer. Bell peppers can be diced for salads, cubed for kebabs, or sliced for fajitas and vegetable trays. They can also serve as a low-carb alternative to hamburger buns.

Bell peppers are one of the best natural sources of Vitamin C. One red bell pepper contains 169% of your Vitamin C RDA. Bell peppers also provide nutrients that can prevent eye disease, anemia, and high blood pressure. 

6. Salmon

Salmon is one of the most nutritious foods you can add to your summer cookout. Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce inflammation, reduce the risk of several cancers and improve arterial function. 

Salmon is also a good source of protein. Since every cell in your body contains protein, this nutrient is essential for nearly every facet of your health. Protein supports bone, nail, hair, and muscle health, and helps every organ in your body function well. 

Whether you grill it, toss it into salads, or add it to a sandwich or bagel, salmon is one of the healthiest options you can choose for your next summer meal.

7. Avocado

There’s a good reason why avocados are often called “superfoods” -- they are one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. One avocado contains 20 different vitamins and minerals, as well as 15 grams of heart-healthy fats. 

Avocados can be added to sandwiches, tossed into salads, or mashed into guacamole. You can also make delicious plant-based ice cream by combining avocado, lime juice, coconut milk, and sugar.


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Written by Sarah Thebarge, Physician Assistant