Have a healthy barbecue whatever the weather

Last week I was in sunny Donegal – or at least we had a glint of sunshine in between the rainclouds and thunderstorms. Despite the weather, we managed to light our little disposable and cook a healthy barbecue outside a couple of times.

Whether you are taking a break from it all and heading off for a staycation, or hitting your back garden, dust off your barbecue and get grilling. Invite a couple friends and enjoy some time together – from a safe social distance of course.

Barbecuing can be a healthy way to eat if you forget about the burnt sausages and undercooked chicken legs. Delicious marinated cuts of meat, fish or veggies with a variety of eye-catching salads not only look appetising, but can be good for you too.

Hot tips for healthy barbecues

When barbecuing skewers, cut all the ingredients to the same size so they’re the same distance from the coals and will cook evenly. Cut the ingredients larger than the spaces between the bars so there’s no danger of the skewers slipping through.

Avoid burnt on the outside and pink in the middle by using your oven to cook meat through before finishing it on the grill. You’ll still get the signature smoky taste without fear of undercooking – this is especially important if you are cooking chicken.

Trim unnecessary fat and drain off excess marinade to avoid barbecue flare-ups and risking losing your eyebrows.

Don’t use a fork to turn your food or you risk piercing the meat and losing juices. Use long-handled metal tongs or spatulas instead.

Healthy barbecue ideas

If you are on a diet, or trying to eat a little healthier, forget the baps and finger rolls and pack your plate with colourful grilled vegetables, plenty of tasty salads and some grilled meat and fish to make a healthy (and very tasty) barbecued meal that won’t leave you feeling fat and bloated after eating.

Here are some summer barbecue ideas that are proof that eating healthy is any but boring:

  • Marinading meat and vegetables transforms a boring barbecue into a mouthwatering meal. Try mixing some natural yoghurt with curry paste for little lamb chops, or mix olive oil, balsamic vinegar and herbs for a tasty marinade for vegetables. Mix in a bowl, then thread them on to skewers and get grilling.
  • Grilled fish will give you a taste of the Med, even if you are only venturing to Millisle. Oily fish like sardines, mackerel and trout taste so good if stuffed with lemon slices and some herbs – try rosemary and thyme, or bay and tarragon. These delicious oily fish pack healthy omega 3 fats into your diet, so will give you a nutritional boost too.
  • Serve with a selection of colourful salads – make a tasty slaw with an Asian grated carrot, some red cabbage, red onion and make a dressing by mixing soy sauce, a little honey, some garlic, ginger, lime juice and coriander.

Healthy Barbecue Recipe: Courgette, Feta and Mint Salad

(Serves 4)

6 large courgettes (any colour)

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

150g feta cheese, crumbled

handful of fresh mint leaves, crumbled

For the dressing:

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 small garlic clove, crushed

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to serve


Cut the courgettes diagonally into thick slices and combine with the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Cook on the barbecue for two minutes on each side until just charred. Remove and leave to cool.

Put the dressing ingredients into a jam jar, close the lid and shake to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste. Put the courgettes, feta and mint in a bowl, drizzle with the dressing and mix until well combined.

This blog post first appeared as my column in The Irish News on Saturday 15 August 2020.