Spice Up Your Summer BBQs and Picnics
WebMD gives you tips on how to make typical barbeque favorites go from average to amazing.
Want to add healthy sizzle to your summer barbeques and picnics, without
sacrificing taste? It's possible, thanks to a dizzying array of ingredients and
ideas stirring in America's melting pot.
Don't worry, this doesn't necessarily mean giving up your favorite foods or
slaving over a complicated recipe.
"You can have a traditional BBQ and accommodate all your friends with
the same basics -- the burgers, meat, chicken, salad, and corn on the cob --
and season it with a variety of different toppings and accompaniments,"
explains Lisa Dorfman, MSRD, a national spokeswoman for the American Dietetic
Association (ADA), and author of The Tropical Diet.
A Cornucopia of Choices
Most mainstream grocery stores have powdered seasonings, salsas, sauces,
spices, drinks, fruits, and vegetables from all cultures that are easy to serve
with barbeque and picnic favorites.
- Middle Eastern or Mediterranean hummus. This paste of
pureed chickpeas, lemon, sesame tahini, oil, and spices can be served as a dip
or spread for veggies, crackers, and bread. Hummus is high in protein and
fiber, and often contains little or no saturated fat, cholesterol, or
- Jicama. Peel and cut up this low-calorie tropical root to
eat raw, sprinkled on your regular salads, or stir-fried with vegetables. This
crunchy and sweet vegetable, which is also known as the Mexican potato or the
Chinese turnip, is an excellent source of vitamin C.
- Jamaican hot sauce. With no fat or calories, this potent
blend of tropical peppers can add a Caribbean kick to grilled lean meats.
You can even use familiar ingredients to create exotic dishes, which can
both intrigue and appease the most conservative diner:
- Lemon juice, red pepper, and salt are all many Indians need to add zing to
corn on the cob.
- Latin Americans use tomatoes, cilantro, jalapeño, onions, garlic, and salt
to create tasty salsas.
- Some Kenyans tenderize and jazz up meats with an overnight marinade of
olive oil, vinegar, or lemon juice, and spices (ground pepper, cloves, and
rosemary among them).
To really impress your family and friends, bring something completely
different to the picnic table.
Malena Perdomo, RD, the Latin Nutrition spokeswoman for the ADA, recommends
trying a prickly pear cactus, called Nopal, which can be bought in some urban
supermarkets and Mexican grocery stores. The thorny vegetable, which tastes
like a lemony and salty green bean, is peeled, boiled, or grilled, and then
added to dips, salads, soups, and meats.
Nopales -- the plural form of Nopal -- are especially rich in fiber,
calcium, potassium, and vitamin A.
From the exotic Nopales to the common lemon, Americans do, indeed, have a
lot of choices when it comes to culturally diverse and healthy fare.
If the above sampling of foods has whetted your appetite for something
different this summer, make sure to read on. WebMD has a few more scrumptious
and nutritious options, provided by a few ADA dietitians and other health
We've broken down the ideas by the course -- from the appetizers, to the
sides and sauces, to entrees, to desserts and drinks. Give them a try, and
discover a world of delicious, healthy eating.