Sunshine is upon us and with that comes a classic part of our Australian culture – the good old barbie! Although this method of cooking has been a popular feature of social gatherings for generations, the barbecue is now a functional piece of equipment that most people have in their home to use for cooking regular meals.
You only have to go on an evening walk and smell the unique barbecue aroma to realise just how many families of the Murraylands are cooking up a storm on the barbie at least once a week.
With that in mind, there are fantastic ways to make your weekly barbecue delicious, but also very healthy. The first is to make friends with your local butcher.
Many butchers are happy to make up special orders so it is important to remember that just because something is not on display, doesn’t mean it’s not available.
Remember to always ask for the lean cuts of meat or trim visible fat on the meats you have before cooking on the barbie. Try skinless chicken breast, kangaroo or beef steaks, lamb loin chops or fish fillets.
When it comes to marinades, choose varieties low in fat, sugar and salt. You can try using herbs and spices to flavour meats instead.
When cooking, using spray oil is the best way to limit the amount you use. Vegetable oils are the healthiest, with varieties like canola, sunflower or rice bran oil – olive oil is also great, but not recommended for use at high heats.
In a basic, traditional barbecue you will usually find sausages, onion, white bread and tomato sauce. While this is tasty, it is a meal low in fibre and high in saturated fat, oil and salt with limited nutritional value.
Your family and friends will be impressed if you broaden the menu to include a variety of food to ensure a nutritious meal everyone can enjoy. One tip is to serve fruit and vegetable sides.
You can try grilling vegetables such as tomato, capsicum, zucchini or eggplant and even fruits such as pineapple, pears or apples. Also – for those with fussy eaters, combining meat and vegetables on skewers is a great way to try new foods.
So I would encourage everyone out there - whether you’re an individual, or an organisation cooking for a community event, think about how you can make your regular barbecue a healthy one.
Mid Murray OPAL project officer