Healthy BBQ Tips from the Kendall Reagan Nutrition Center

Gathering with friends and family for a good old-fashioned barbecue is a summer tradition. Fire up the grill and make healthy food choices with these easy tips from the Colorado State University Kendall Reagan Nutrition Center.

Grilled chicken drumsticks with honey and spices,blank space on the top.

Lean protein

Choose a low-fat protein source such as lean chicken or hamburger. Not only will this decrease the calorie content of your meal, but it will make grilling safer. Meats with a higher fat content will drip causing smoke that may contain carcinogens. Also avoid charring your meat, and experiment with grilling meatless proteins such as tempeh. Tempeh can be a hearty meat alternative and provides some added health benefits.

Spice it up!

Add more flavor to your meal by mixing herbs and spices into your marinade or sprinkling on top of the grilling meat or vegetables. Creating your own sauces and dressings can be a delectable way to decrease your sodium and sugar intake while boosting the flavor!

Choose vegetables as a side

Vegetables can provide a rainbow of colors, nutrients, and flavors. Skewer vegetables, toss in a grill basket or sauté on a side-burner next to the grill.

Looking for a side dish to accompany your next BBQ? Try this “Collard Greens” recipe for a rich and healthy veggie side.

Collard Greens

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes

Makes about 3 cups

Serves 4


1 bunch of collard greens

1/2 medium onion

2 strips of uncured bacon



Soak collard leaves in a bowl of water to clean them.

Tear leaves from the stems. Discard stems and cut leaves into small pieces.

Dice 1/2 a medium onion.

Cut 2 strips of bacon into small pieces.

Place bacon into a large pan and sauté until crispy.

Remove bacon and place aside in a small dish. Leave bacon grease in the pan.

Add onions to the pan and sauté for 2-3 minutes, add the collards. Cover with a large lid.

Sauté until the onions are translucent and the collards are bright. green. Top with bacon.

Salt to taste.

Pick a fruit for dessert

Fruit can be a refreshing, sweet treat during a hot summer night. Keep the grill fired up after the meal and toss on the fruit. Grilling fruit will caramelize the natural sugars, increasing the sweet taste and excitement. Peaches, pineapple, and melon are great on the grill.

Food Safety

It is always important to be aware of food safety, which is often overlooked while grilling. Be certain to wash hands before preparing, serving or eating. Provide tongs, spatulas, spoons and other serving utensils to prevent touching the food, and make sure to use separate utensils and plates for cooked and raw foods. If you going to grill meat, fish, or poultry products, be sure they reach the recommended internal temperatures using the chart available at “Safe Minimum Cooking Temperatures” from Remember to keep hot foods hot, and keep cold foods cold, making certain to not leave foods in the temperature danger zone (41-140°F) for more than two hours, or one hour if temperatures are higher than 90°F.

Looking for more tips and tricks to keep you and your family healthy, happy, and active? Check out our Pinterest page with great ideas from experts in the College of Health and Human Sciences.

Kendall Reagan Nutrition Center