Healthy, Michigan barbecues

Local, healthy suggestions for your summer barbecue.

Summertime barbeques – how much fun! We get to visit with family and friends and enjoy the variety of dishes that everyone brings. Unfortunately, many of the dishes brought to a barbeque are high in calories, fat and sodium.

There are many benefits of eating healthy. One benefit of eating healthy is that you feel great! You will have increased energy to do the activities your family has planned, your skin will glow and your mental and physical being will be healthier.

Below are some fun, healthy and fresh dishes that may be new contributions to barbeques and their guests. In addition, farmers’ that sell their produce at farmers markets are helpful resources on how to prepare their fruit, vegetables and grains.

Eggplant: Using a grilling basket, grill eggplant with a light coating of olive oil and your favorite seasonings; or cut eggplant into steak size chunks and grill. Eggplant is a good source of potassium, and contains only two milligrams of sodium.

Kabobs: Chicken and Michigan Great Lake whitefish are lean meat proteins that are popular crowd pleasers. Add in-season vegetables as suggested by Michigan State University Extension Michigan Fresh for a healthy meat and veggie combination that do not require a long cooking time. Try letting the kids make their own kabobs – they will have fun and enjoy something new and creative.

Caprese salad: Using Michigan Fresh tomatoes and fresh cheese, cut both into wedge chunks, adding a portioned size of olive oil, balsamic oil or rice vinegar. Top with fresh basil. Michigan tomatoes will be ready in the beginning of July.

Grain salad: Whole grains are rich in fiber, which helps to slow the absorption of sugars. Whole grains also provide a nutty flavor. Combine cooked grains (whole wheat pasta, quinoa or barley) with beans (chickpeas or white beans) with an assortment of local vegetables. Add a portioned amount of cheese and fresh herbs, topping with a portioned amount of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. For nutritionally dense ideas to prepare grains in salad and hot dishes, go to choosemyplate.gov

Dessert: One of my personal recipes is fruit salad, consisting of berries and melons. Add pineapple, peaches, oranges or grapefruit – use whatever is in-season. These natural, no added sugars will leave everyone happy and feeling good about what they ate.

If you do not garden your own fruits and vegetables, go to your local farmers market. Farmers markets offer in-season fruits, vegetables and grains at reasonable prices. You will also find farmers who share their favorite recipes! To find a local farmers market near you or while on a summer trip go to michigan.org/farm-markets.

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