5 Healthy BBQ Recipes

Dr. Jillian Tedesco

Jillian Tedesco

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5 Healthy BBQ Recipes

Who said a BBQ has to be brats, burgers or ribs? Webster's dictionary says, “It's a framework on metal or brick, usually with a grill on top, in which a fire is lit and food is cooked, usually outdoors. Also called a barbecue grill.” To me that means I can BBQ anything, including lean proteins, fruits and veggies! Grilling is an awesome way to layer a different flavor on a dish without extra fat. I want you to consider what a healthy BBQ could look like. 


As a healthy chef, I love to grill but you won’t find me cooking hotdogs or heavy meats. I grill to bring flavor and dimension to my meals, all while creating an experience for my guests. We typically think of Memorial Day, Labor Day or the 4th of July as an opportunity to have a BBQ. So, I’m going to show you how you can make an amazing meal and not worry about throwing your healthy habits down the drain with heavy meats, processed carbs, or fattening potato salad.


Here’s What You’ll Need

Equipment

  • Gas grill
  • Gas
  • Avocado oil cooking spray (also available at Costco. It keeps the fat down and easily covers all the food evenly. Can be heated high with a smoke point of 520°F. Before putting any of the following items on the grill, spray with cooking spray)
  • Tongs
  • Music that gets you in the grove
  • Gallon zip-lock bags to marinate

Components & Ingredients  

(To keep this simple, I’ve listed ingredient amounts for 4 people. You can multiply if you need more.)

 

BBQ Chicken Breast 

  • Chicken Breasts, 1.75 - 2lbs 
  • BBQ Sauce (your favorite bottled sauce or the recipe below), ½ cup
    • Molasses, 1 cup
    • Mustard, 1 cup
    • Apple Cider Vinegar, ⅔ cup 
    • Franks Hot Sauce (or any you have), 2 tsp 
    • Worcestershire, 2 tsp 
    • Chili Powder, 1 Tbsp
    • Black Pepper, ⅛ tsp 
  • Salt & Pepper, to taste

Grilled Sweet Potatoes 

  • Sweet Potatoes, 4 medium sized
  • Creamy Chipotle Sauce 
    • Fat Free Greek Yogurt, ½ cup 
    • Adobo Sauce, 2-3 tsp depending on your spice tolerance (use adobo with chipotle peppers if you want it really spicy; you can find this in the Mexican food aisle at your grocery store)
    • Honey, 1-2 Tbsp depending on how much chipotle you add
    • Milk (to thin the sauce), 2-3 Tbsp or until it’s creamy

Grilled Corn on the Cob 

  • Corn on the Cob, 4 ears
  • Ghee, 1-2 Tbsp
  • Cilantro (minced), 1-2 Tbsp
  • Cotija Cheese (grated), a sprinkle
  • Salt & Pepper, to taste
  • Chili Powder, a sprinkle (smokey paprika is awesome here, too)

Grilled Caesar Salad

  

Grilled Honey Rum Peaches 

  • Peaches, 4 (ripe)
  • Honey, 2 Tbsp
  • Rum, ¼ cup (I get Captain)
  • Ghee, 1 Tbsp
  • Vanilla Ice Cream (dairy or dairy free; I personally prefer dairy free. Nowadays you can typically find ice cream made from almonds or coconut; these have heart healthy fats and some of the coconut brands have a lot of fiber! Fiber will slow down the digestion process)  


The balanced flavor profile of each of these components creates an overall elevated eating experience. Flavor profiles are a must to make a meal both healthy and delicious!


Let’s Get Cookin’

BBQ Chicken Breast

  1. Marinate your chicken in BBQ sauce at least 30-60 minutes 
  2. Spray with avocado oil spray 
  3. Grill with salt and pepper to taste. I grill at 350-450°F with the lid closed and watch the temperature; this speeds up the process. This should take roughly 5-7 minutes per side. I always use a meat thermometer to confirm my meat is cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Remember, you have hot and cold spots on the grill!
  4. Serve with additional BBQ sauce on the side (optional)  

If you want to serve a slider, you can grill the chicken ahead of time, shred the chicken, and serve in a crock pot or chafer at the party. Then you can focus on just the sides; this is a big tip if you are a beginner. Just reheat the chicken with some sauce and a touch of water right before you serve.

Tangy BBQ Sauce 

I make this sauce a lot; it is very tangy rather than sweet, like a Carolina style BBQ sauce. I opt for this because it is much lower in fat, sugar, and sodium than a typical bottled sauce (I have a whole blog on just sauces, too).


  1. Combine ingredients in a sauce pot
  2. Simmer over for 20 minutes
  3. Cool completely and store in fridge. Can be stored for up to 3 weeks 

Grilled Sweet Potatoes

Pro tip: Cook these the day before the BBQ. 


  1. Wrap each sweet potato in foil 
  2. Bake at 350°F for 45-55 minutes. You want them to be fork tender, but not mushy. Timing will depend on what size you get 
  3. On the day of the BBQ: 
    1. Cut the cooked potatoes into 1.5 inch sections (4-6 slices per potato depending on length) 
    2. Spray with avocado oil and just give them some fun grill marks (roughly 2 minutes/side). They will already be cooked, so you will just be reheating and adding flavor

Creamy Chipotle Sauce

  1. Combine ingredients in a bowl. This should taste balanced; if it’s too spicy add a touch more honey
  2. Top grilled sweet potatoes or serve on the side if your friends don’t eat dairy or don’t like spicy

Grilled Corn on the Cob

My favorite component of the BBQ is this corn! If you’ve ever had street corn, it’s awesome but can be heavy with sour cream and mayonnaise. A light brush of ghee gives you flavor but not too much fat. Ghee is clarified butter, or pure butterfat with no milk solids. I choose to use ghee in my home because, while it has similar properties to regular butter, ghee is like premium gasoline with more nutrients, a higher smoke point, and richer taste. I always purchase grass fed.


  1. Spray corn with avocado oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper
  2. Put on grill. You will need to keep turning to cook evenly and not burn the corn. I turn these every 30-60 seconds keeping an eye on them. If they start to get too much color, move them to a cooler spot on the grill and let them cook slowly so they are super tender and fall off the cob. Typically these take 5 minutes total 
  3. When finished, let cool for a few minutes then brush on ghee lightly  
  4. Top with cotija cheese, chopped cilantro and a dash of chili powder   

Grilled Caesar Salad

Your guests will be so impressed if you grill your romaine! 


  1. Cut hearts lengthwise in 2 pieces keeping the cores attached 
  2. Lightly spray with avocado oil
  3. Grill for 60-90 seconds depending on your grill heat. You don’t want wilted, soggy lettuce! Keep an eye on them to confirm they keep rigidity  
  4. Top with halved cherry tomatoes, freshly grated parmesan (I always grate mine fresh, I’m Italian so it's like a religion to have fresh), some croutons (optional not necessary) and Caesar dressing
  5. I love to serve this salad on a huge flat platter where you can display the romaine hearts. It’s a work of art!

If you have vegetarians attending, a nice touch is to have a soft boiled egg to add to the salad for some protein for them. You can also offer to grill them a portabella mushroom.


Grilled Honey Rum Peaches

Lastly, the dessert. Who doesn’t love a nice juicy peach?! 🍑 Grilling adds dimension to this already delicious fruit. These are served after dinner and will be cooled down a bit. 


  1. Halve the peaches and remove pits
  2. Marinate with melted ghee, honey, and rum  
  3. Grill for 1-2 minutes per side
  4. Serve with vanilla ice cream 

BBQ Can Be Healthy & Delicious

Remember, BBQ doesn’t have to include typical BBQ foods. You can put a spin on the celebration by incorporating different foods on the grill and keeping it healthier. I love that the dishes above are made with very simple ingredients! Fill your plate with colorful fruits and veggies and keep starch and protein to a proper portion. You can assume that hidden calories will come from the sauces and dressings, so just stick with portions and you won’t go off the rails.


If you’re not sure how much to eat at parties, download our Hand Portions Guide to make it easy to practice portion control at your next BBQ!


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