Tips and Tricks for Healthier, Yet Satisfying Summer BBQs!

Jul 26, 2017Health & Nutrition, Media



Hamburger Day at CHCH Morning Live!


Click photo for link to recipe: Cheddar Stuffed Saucy Burgers. Recipe courtesy of Charmaine Broughton, Food Styling and Photography by Meagan Broughton. Shared with permission from


Summers are for grilling and barbeques. Despite the rainy weather this summer in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and Hamilton, I still cannot say no to a yummy grilled hamburger during the warmer season. I think many can agree!

And most of us are going to barbeques, picnics, parties and potlucks this summer. However I also cannot tell you how often I have individuals who come to tell me about the restrictions they are putting on themselves when attending summer parties, out of fear of “blowing their diet.” Or, they avoid eating at these functions because of the guilt factor. Ie. I am a diet, so all these foods are off limits.

I think it’s because I am a dietitian, which has the word “diet” in it – others assume that I will praise them for going carb-free/fat-free/dairy-free/paleo/all-natural/whole 30/wheat-free/GMO-free/meat-free/sugar-free/fruitarian/salt-free*… etc. And I don’t usually do.

*Note: These restrictions are not necessary poor choices. Some people have diets they need to follow for real, diagnosed medical reasons. However, there are many individuals who may be misinformed about what is healthy for them due to the plethora of nutrition information on the Internet. As a licensed registered dietitian, apart of my role to help clear up any misinformation people hear.

So, for Hamburger Day on July 28th, I share some helpful tips and tricks for you to have delicious, but still healthier bbqs and summer parties. In case you cannot catch my TV segment, or you prefer reading over watching a video, here are the tips below:

1. Start With Veggies

One of my best tips for encouraging healthy eating is to place the vegetables at the front of the buffet table, the first thing you see when you fill up your plate. Not the burgers, hot dogs or other heavy side dishes, like macaroni or potato salad.
Think vegetables are boring? Think again!

Vegetables taste fantastic when grilled, with just a few simple ingredients. Here is an easy method to enjoy more vegetables off the grill [RECIPE]. I like using bell peppers, zucchini and eggplant. Chop them large enough so they do not fall through the barbeque grates.

Brush your vegetables with canola oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. I like using canola oil for its heart healthy monounsaturated fat profile and high smoke point of 242°C, which makes it great for grilling! You can also read more about canola oil for grilling here.

Grill until they have nice grill marks, about 3-5 minutes per side.

You can also use asparagus, like here:

RECIPE: Grilled Asparagus


Image used with permission from

2. Try Lighter, Made-Over Traditional BBQ Sides

What is a BBQ without potato salad and coleslaw? Although these things are called “salad,” they’re often made with heavy mayonnaise and sour cream.
Here is a made-over, Asian-style coleslaw that I discuss on the show. Using canola oil, and made with Chinese cabbage, this unique slaw is a lighter, and more creative way to enjoy more vegetables on Hamburger Day. Because canola oil has a neutral taste, the bold Asian flavours of this dish really shine through! Get the Asian-Style Cabbage Slaw here.

RECIPE: Asian-Style Cabbage Slaw


Image used with permission from
This savoury slaw and grilled vegetables lead to my next tip, which is…

3. Fill Half Your Plate With Veggies

Try to fill half of your plate with vegetables. With the delicious recipes above… why wouldn’t you want fill half your plate with vegetables?

Here is a tip that works for both adults and children:
Think of your plate like a clock. Fill 12:00 – 6:00 with vegetables.

This way, you are getting the fibre, water, vitamins and minerals from vegetables.

4. Make Your Own Hamburgers

One of the best ways to have a healthier summer bbq is making your own burgers. But what and how you do can help improve the nutrient profile!

Tip #1: Use Lean Ontario Ground Beef


Click photo for link to recipe: Blended Beef Meatballs. Recipe courtesy of Mushroom Council. Image used with permission from

I am a huge fan of supporting local and Canadian food. Ontario beef is one of the most delicious and efficient ways to meet your nutrition needs. And since it pairs perfectly with traditional sides like vegetables and whole grains, beef makes it easy to feed your family a healthy and balanced diet.

Lean Ontario beef has nutrients that we need every day, including high quality protein to help build and repair your body; iron for oxygen-carrying red blood cells; zinc for repair and growth and vitamin B12 to form DNA.

I find lean ground beef works very well for hamburgers. It is not too lean (like extra lean) and still has enough fat so it does not sacrifice flavour.

Tip #2: Use Canadian Mushrooms


Click photo for link to recipe: Turkey Stuffed Mushroom Burger Recipe and photo by Louisa of Living Lou. Shared with permission from

Did you know? Unlike most vegetables in the produce section, mushrooms come from Canadian farms every day of the year, even during the winter months. Fresh mushrooms are harvested and delivered fresh to local stores 24/7/365.
Nutritionally, mushrooms contain B vitamins such as niacin, riboflavin, and pantothenic acid; minerals such as selenium, copper, and potassium; both soluble and insoluble fibre and vitamin D!


Tip #3: Blend and Extend with Beef + Mushrooms 50/50

A delicious burger made with a 50/50 blend of lean ground beef and finely chopped mushrooms brings another serving of vegetables to the plate, adds volume to meals and extends portions.
Finely chopped mushrooms look similar and blend seamlessly with ground beef, so classics can be satisfying without losing taste or sacrificing texture!

RECIPE: Blended Classic Beef Burgers


Recipe and photo courtesy of Mushroom Council. Shared with permission from

Shhhh, I have a confession to make: I made this for my family, and they did not know I added mushrooms to their hamburgers. It’s a technique that definitely works because of the blendability and texture of mushrooms that closely resembles beef!

Find the recipe for this nutritious technique from my TV segment on Classic Beef Burgers here.

Nutritionally, mushrooms + beef are a powerful combination, providing important nutrients like iron, zinc, vitamin D, potassium, B vitamins and the antioxidants selenium and ergothioneine.

For more information on the Blend and Extend with Ontario Beef and Canada Mushrooms, check out


For Vegetarians and Vegans, try Mushroom Burgers!

You can make a delicious vegan or vegetarian burger with Portobello mushrooms. For vegans you can try vegan cheese, often found in the health food section of the grocery store.

With one more month of summer to go, you got to make the most of grilling season! I hope these tips and techniques will help you have healthier Hamburger Day!


[CLICK] Watch my TV segment on Hamburger Day



Love this photo because Annette looks like she is rapping LOL
Note: I received some compensation for affiliate links on this blog post. All opinions are my own, and are genuine.

Meet Michelle

Welcome, I'm Michelle! I'm a TV and digital media registered dietitian and Asian cuisine content creator based out of Hamilton, ON Canada!


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