Summer Barbecue Recipe Makeovers


Memorial Day is so much more than a three-day weekend. Formally, and most importantly, it’s a day to remember all the people who gave their lives defending our nation. (Interestingly, Memorial Day was proclaimed in the 1800s, before both world wars were fought.) Informally, though, Memorial Day weekend kicks off summer – and the barbecue season. And that’s where I come in.

Nothing says summer like barbecues featuring burgers, mayo-drenched salads, chips and dip, and colorful cakes. But from finger foods to dessert, there are ways to lighten up barbecue offerings without changing the featured foods and how much we enjoy them.

Lighter Barbecue Appetizers

There are plenty of light alternatives to potato and tortilla chips. Experiment until you find a brand you like.

A fresh-style salsa is better for you than a mayo-based dip, of course. But if you go the creamy dip route, substitute fat-free sour cream for the real thing, and use a mixture of fat-free sour cream and light mayonnaise in place of real mayonnaise. It works every time! Keep creamy dips cool by placing the dip bowl in a slightly bigger bowl that is 2/3 filled with crushed ice.

If an appetizer is fried, nine times out of 10 you can get away with oven-frying it. This dramatically reduces the amount of oil the food picks up. For an example, check out the Oven Fried Blue Cheese Olives recipe below.

Also consider super-healthy appetizers like fresh fruit and vegetable platters. Fresh fruit is plentiful this time of year, so enjoy strawberries, grapes, or cut-up melon. Vegetable platters are easy to pull together using baby carrots, sugar snap peas, broccoli and cauliflower florets, zucchini sticks, and cherry tomatoes.

Experience has taught me that people really do eat them. Put saturated fat, 2.6 g monounsaturated fat, 0.3 g polyunsaturated fat, 6 mg cholesterol, 1 g fiber, 530 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 51%.

Southwest BBQChicken Salad

WebMD Weight Loss Clinic members: Journal as 1 cup entrée salad with meat, poultry or seafood and light salad dressing + 1/2 cup starchy foods and legumes without added fat OR 1 1/2 cups hearty stew, chili, bean soup

A lighter barbecue chicken mixture uses skinless shredded chicken blended with barbecue sauce and green onions. Instead of French fried onions, this recipe calls for black beans. A light dressing finishes it off.

2 cups shredded boneless, skinless roasted or grilled chicken breast

1 cup black beans (from can), drained and rinsed

1/2 cup barbecue sauce (mild or hot, depending on your preference)

1/2 cup fresh, chopped cilantro (optional)

1/4 cup finely chopped green onions

8 cups dark green salad greens (from a bag or from lettuce heads, torn into pieces and rinsed)

2 medium tomatoes, chopped

1 cup frozen corn, very lightly microwaved and chilled in refrigerator

1 cup black beans (about one 15-ounce can, drained)

1/3 cup light ranch dressing (light blue cheese can also be used)

Handful of tortilla chips (optional)

  • Add chicken, beans, barbecue sauce, cilantro (if desired) and green onions to a medium bowl and toss to blend well; set aside.
  • In large salad bowl, add salad greens, tomatoes, and corn and toss to mix. Portion mixture evenly into 4 individual salad bowls and top with a fourth of the chicken mixture.
  • Drizzle light ranch dressing evenly over the top of the four salad servings. Garnish each serving with a couple of tortilla chips, if desired.

Yield: 4 entrée salad servings

Per serving: 318 calories, 30 g protein, 30 g carbohydrate, 9.5 g fat, 2 g , 2 g monounsaturated fat, 4 g polyunsaturated fat, 64 mg cholesterol, 7 g fiber, 710 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 26%.

Apricot-Orange Grilled Tenderloin

WebMD Weight Loss Clinic members: Journal as 1 serving of lean meat without added fat + 1 teaspoon jam

You can have your pork tenderloin marinating in the apricot-orange glaze the night before your barbecue. Instead of coating the outside of each tenderloin with a tablespoon of oil and then brushing it with the glaze as it grills, we’re marinating it directly in the glaze.


1 cup apricot jam (apricot-pineapple can also be used)

1/4 cup Dijon mustard

1/4 cup fresh orange juice

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 pork tenderloins, about 1.25 pounds each

  • Add glaze ingredients to a medium bowl and whisk until blended. Reserve a couple tablespoons of glaze to serve with cooked pork. Keep this in the refrigerator until pork is served.
  • Cover tenderloins well with remaining glaze in a large plastic container. Cover the container and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight, turning once or twice.
  • To cook the pork, get your barbecue going if using coals. When the coals are good and hot, cook the tenderloins over direct heat about 2 minutes, then flip over for 2 more minutes. Reposition the pork for indirect heat, cover the grill, and continue to cook about 30 minutes longer.
  • Let meat rest for 10 minutes, then cut into 1/2-inch thick slices and arrange on a serving platter along with a small dish of the reserved glaze.

Yield: 8 servings

Per serving (with one-fourth of the glaze being eaten): 200 calories, 31 g protein, 7 g carbohydrate, 5 g fat, 1.8 g saturated fat, 2 g monounsaturated fat, 0.5 g polyunsaturated fat, 85 mg cholesterol, .1 g fiber, 112 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 24%.

Light Coconut Cream Cake

WebMD Weight Loss Clinic members: Journal as 1 portion medium dessert

You can make this cake a day ahead of time. It travels well because it rests safely in the baking dish and can be easily covered. If you can’t find light canned coconut milk, use 3/4 cup fat-free half-and-half plus 3/4 teaspoon coconut extract.


1 box (18.26 ounces) white cake mix

1 large egg (use a higher omega-3 brand if available)

1/2 cup egg substitute (or 4 egg whites)

1/3 cup fat-free sour cream

1 cup water or low-fat milk

3/4 teaspoon coconut extract


3/4 cup light coconut milk (available in cans; see substitute suggestion above)

1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon fat-free sweetened condensed milk


3 cups light or fat-free Cool Whip (light whipping cream can also be used)

1/2 cup flaked coconut (regular or toasted)

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9×13-inch baking pan with canola cooking spray.
  • Add cake mix, egg, egg substitute, sour cream, water, and coconut extract to a large mixing bowl and beat for 2 minutes on medium speed. Scrape sides of bowl after a minute of mixing. Pour evenly into prepared baking dish and bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in cake comes out clean.
  • In a 4-cup measure, blend sauce ingredients until smooth.
  • When cake comes out of the oven, poke large holes evenly over the top with chopsticks or a barbecue fork. Pour milk mixture slowly over the top, so it soaks into the cake. Cover and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.
  • Just before serving, spread light Cool Whip (or other whipped topping) over the top of cake and sprinkle with the coconut.

Yield: About 18 servings

Per serving: 195 calories, 4 g protein, 31 g carbohydrate, 6 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 2 g monounsaturated fat, 1 g polyunsaturated fat, 11 mg cholesterol, 0.5 g fiber, 223 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 28%.