Healthy BBQ swaps

Healthy BBQ swaps

Few things beat an afternoon of burgers, beer and beats surrounded by friends; but BBQ fare can be heavy on the sausages, tomato sauce and white bread (generally washed down with a brew or two).  A sausage sanga is an easy feed, but it’s never going to win points for being a healthy meal. One too many and the hard yards at the gym are undone in just a few bites.

BBQ fare is easy to make healthy (and still taste good), so next time you fire up the barbie, try some of the swaps below. You sort the beer and beats, I have you covered for eats!

Sausage sanga

White bread, sausages and a dollop of tomato sauce is an Aussie institution – but unfortunately, the sausage sizzle doesn’t rate highly when it comes to health.

Before: 2 slices of white bread + 1 regular sausage + tomato sauce.

  1. Swap the white bread for wholemeal or grainy bread for a fibre boost
  2. Choose low-fat, lean or chicken sausages to cut down on saturated fat
  3. Top with salsa instead of tomato sauce as the salsa contains vegetables

After: 2 slices wholemeal bread + lean sausage + salsa.












These swaps will save you 16g of fat and even bump up the fibre and protein a little.

Meat Cuts

A BBQ wouldn’t be complete with a steak or two sizzling on the grill. But unless you are au fait with all the different cuts of meat, it’s hard to know which is the leaner (and therefore healthier) cut to go for. Good choices for leaner cuts of beef are top sirloin steak, top or bottom round steak or eye of round steak. However, because the leaner cuts of meat have less fat, they can be less tender and juicy when cooking. So try one of the marinades below on the leaner cut before grilling to keep the meat tender.

A huge juicy steak that fills the plate might taste amazing but a large serve of meat can easily add hundreds of calories to a meal (not to mention the extra fat).  So go for quality rather than quantity and aim to keep portion sizes to around the size of your palm. Oily fish such as salmon, tuna or mackerel all contain heart-healthy Omega-3’s and are easy to cook on the BBQ too.

Per 100g (raw) Calories Fat (total) (g) Fat (saturated) (g) Protein (g)
T-bone 235 17 7 22
Sirloin steak 124 3.1 1.2 23.9
Tuna 144 4.9 1.2 23

Note: Don’t burn your meat.

Charring of meat can produce carcinogens, which are linked to cancer. Cook meat on a lower heat and avoid cooking over a direct flame to prevent burning.


While it might sound like a fancy and unnecessary step in preparing meat, marinating meat helps prevent meat charring as well as tenderising and flavouring meat. Any meat (or vegetable) can be marinated, just mix up the marinade and rub it into the meat, fish or vegetables and stick it in the fridge for a few hours. The extra time spent preparing the food will be well worth it when you taste your creations.

Avoid marinades high in salt, fat and sugar such as teriyaki, BBQ sauce or sweet chilli. Try the below healthy marinate ideas.

  • Lemon and chilli
    Combine crushed garlic, reduced salt soy sauce, lemon juice and chilli sauce.
  • Tandoori
    Combine reduced-fat yoghurt, fresh chilli, fresh coriander, garlic, cumin and turmeric.
  • Lemon mustard
    Combine lemon juice, olive oil, Dijon mustard, garlic, rosemary and pepper.


A beautifully grilled piece of meat or fish would be incomplete without a side dish. Potato salad is a mainstay of BBQ’s Australia-wide, but sadly the name doesn’t reflect the fact it’s actually quite an unhealthy option. Skip the mayonnaise-laden dish for something lighter and go for a baked potato. Simply rub the potato with a little oil, pieces the skin with a fork all over and season. Wrap in foil and place over the BBQ. Leave for around 40 minutes, turning occasionally, until the inside is soft and fluffy – easy!

Sides (per 100g) Calories Protein (g) Fat (total) (g) Fat (sat) (g) CHO
Sugars (g) Dietary Fibre (g) Sodium (mg)
Potato salad 129 3.1 7.9 1.1 11.4 3 1.7 281
Baked potato 89 3.5 0 0 16.6 2.5 2.7 8
Save -39 +0.4 -7.9 -1.1 +5.2 -0.5 +1 -273

Other healthy side dishes include grilled sweetcorn, eggplant (slice thickly, spray will a little oil before throwing on the BBQ), mushrooms or onion. All taste great when cooked on a BBQ and will bump up the vegetable content of your meal.


Pre-dinner snacks normally feature a spread of cheese, crackers, chips and dips to tide us over until the main event. However, it can be easy for a few pieces of cheese, a chip or two and a generous serving of French onion dip to turn into a small meal. Lighten the load by swapping crackers for raw carrots and cucumbers (it may not sound like a great swap, but trust me, once they are cut up and laid out, everyone will dig in and go for the healthier option), lower-fat cheese options and vegetable-based dips.

Choosing a dip

Vegetable-based dips are a great option, just be sure the check the nutrition label to see whether the vegetable in question is found in the first or second ingredient in the ingredient list. For example, avocado dips sound like a good option until you see the first ingredient is cream cheese, and there is in fact, only a small amount of avocado in the dip.

Per 100g Calories Protein (g) Fat (total) (g) Fat (sat) (g) CHO
Sugars (g) Dietary Fibre (g) Na (mg)
Salsa 75 1.2 0.1 0.1 5.7 4.6 2 460
Beetroot dip 113 5.4 6.6 1.6 7.4 5.5 0 468
French Onion 220 4.7 17.7 12.3 10.3 7.4 0 719
Avocado dip 292 6 28.9 16.6 3.6 2 0 379

Baba ganoush recipe

Serves 10

  • 3 eggplants (choose ones with bright, firm skin)
  • 1½ tbsp tahini
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp smoky paprika
  • Pinch salt
  1. Pierce all over the skin of each eggplant with a fork or knife. Place the eggplants whole on the BBQ plate, or over a gas flame. Turn the eggplant until the skin is blistered and the flesh inside is soft. Leave to cool then peel off the skin.
  2. Finely chop the eggplant and mix in the tahini, lemon juice, garlic, oil, paprika and salt. You may wish to use a food processor for this is you like.
  3. Serve sprinkled with paprika and your choice of herbs (try coriander or parsley).

Photo credits

  1. Main photo by Stephanie McCabe on Unsplash
  2. Sausage photo on infographic by The Digital Marketing Collaboration on Unsplash
  3.  Dip photo by Jackelin Slack on Upsplash


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