Healthy BBQ tips

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 8, 2024

By Tanya Freirich

For the Salisbury Post

As the weather gets warmer, summer BBQs, picnics and other outdoor meals may be filling your schedule. Dietitian Tanya Freirich here to share how to eat healthfully and safely at upcoming summer events!

First and foremost, the best way to ensure that there are healthy offerings is to bring one! Easy ideas for a cookout include a big fruit salad, fruit kebabs or vegetable and chicken kebabs for the grill. If you’re heading to a potluck outside, consider bringing a vegetable based dish. If your speciality is a pasta salad — consider adding more vegetables. A mixed green salad with watermelon, feta cheese and cucumbers is easy and refreshing. Or consider a black bean, corn, tomato, avocado and cilantro salad as a great source of protein for vegetarians or vegans joining.

Regarding food safety, there’s a lot to keep in mind during the hot summer months.

On the way to the event, place cold food in a cooler with ice or frozen gel packs. Everything should be stored at 40 degrees or below to prevent bacterial growth. Keep coolers closed to maintain that temperature. Consider keeping a cooler for beverages separate from the cooler for food to minimize how often the top of the cooler is opened.

Avoid cross contamination by keeping raw meat, poultry and seafood that will be grilled away from any prepared foods such as fruits, vegetables or cold salads. The juices from these unprepared proteins can easily lead to food poisoning.

Additionally, when preparing produce, don’t forget to rinse and scrub with a clean vegetable brush the outside rinds that will not be eaten. For example, watermelon, if unwashed, the knife you use to cut it can carry the bacteria and dirt from the rind inside the fruit.

At the grill, be sure to cook meat completely. Under-cooking ground meats like hamburgers is especially dangerous because when the meat is ground, the bacteria from the outside can move into the center of the hamburger and not be killed if left undercooked. Consider bringing turkey burgers, or lettuce, tomato and onions to add on top.

At the event, don’t let food sit out for more than two hours. If the temperature outside is 90 degrees or above, food should only sit out for an hour at most. Remember that it’s not only meat that can make you sick — egg, potato and tuna salads made with mayonnaise or dairy-based dishes can just as easily lead to food poisoning.

Lastly, if you choose to consume alcohol, be sure to alternate every alcoholic beverage with a glass of water. It’s very easy to become dehydrated in the summer heat and this can be quickly made worse with alcohol. Additionally, having seltzers can be a fun way to hydrate and still enjoy a flavored drink without added sugars.

I hope everyone has a safe, happy and healthy summer BBQ season.

Tanya Freirich MS RDN CDCES is a registered dietitian. You can find her online at and as @TheLupusDietitian on Instagram, Facebook and TikTok. Additionally, anyone can make a nutrition appointment with Tanya at Rowan Diagnostic Clinic at 611 Mocksville Avenue.