Summer holidays are about relaxing, eating, drinking and having fun. And yes, being healthy! We say holidays and healthy can go together; here are some great tips and ideas from our HFG experts on making the most of the holidays and making your favourite summer foods healthier.
Make the most of the barbecue
1. Use the barbecue at the local park or beach for a breakfast party before the day gets too hot. Serve French toast with grilled bananas and bacon and excellent coffee – yum!
2. Wrap chicken or fish in banana leaves. The leaves keep the food moist, look interesting and infuse delicate flavour into the food. Buy them frozen in Asian food stores.
3. Cook bread dough on the barbecue: roll it out like pita bread and brush lightly with garlicky oil before tossing onto the grill. Cook for a couple of minutes each side until puffed and lightly browned.
4. Barbecue corn: strip back the leaves and tie them to form a handle, discard the silk and brush the cobs with flavoured oil.
5. Barbecue summer fruit for dessert, either as kebabs or just sling halved peaches, nectarines and slices of pineapple and banana on to cook. Serve with a drizzle of maple syrup.
6. You can skewer pretty much anything on a barbecue to make it more appealing, including meat, firm tofu, vegetables and fruit – but if using wooden skewers, remember to soak them in water for 30-60 minutes first so they don’t burn!
7. If you have upright rosemary in your garden, you have ready-made fragrant skewers. Trim a woody piece to the length required, remove the leaves, and soak the ‘skewer’ before threading. (Use the chopped leaves as seasoning.) Try our recipe.
8. To me the idea of a barbecue is great food simply prepared, ie. no sweating in the kitchen. So you don’t want to have to spend too much time on a dessert. The dessert platter is quick and simple for summer entertaining. Scorched almonds, squares of chocolate or even chocolate biscuits look more ‘dessert-like’ when surrounded by gorgeous fruits like grapes, strawberries or sliced melon. (It’s bit like the carbon credit system: have a mini indulgence and offset it with some health-enhancing fruit.)
9. For a barbecued dessert, individually wrap bananas in tin foil and cook on the barbecue for 8-10 minutes. Turn during cooking. Slit the skin open and eat with a spoon, or turn the softened banana out on top of a dollop of low-fat ice cream.
10. Remember your ideal plate: 1/2 salad/vege; 1/4 carbs; 1/4 protein. There’s often a lot of meat on offer at a barbecue, so you need to be selective about what you’ll have. Help yourself do that by getting your salad or veges first.
11. Barbecued veges taste great. Barbecue thinly sliced eggplant and courgette, whole mushrooms and asparagus, roma tomato halves and capsicum chunks. Serve drizzled with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic and parsley.
12. Kebabs look fantastic on the barbecue. They make the meat go further and the smaller pieces cook more quickly. Older kids will have fun threading the meat or chicken onto skewers with chunks of red or yellow capsicum, thickly sliced courgette and red onion.
13. For extra flavour, use a twig of rosemary to brush oil onto steak, chicken or fish while barbecuing. Plenty of herbs and vegetables, but especially rosemary and garlic, help reduce potentially cancer-causing substances formed during barbecuing.
14. Fragrant fish parcels: wrap fish fillets in tin foil with fresh herbs, lemon slices and a dash of olive oil. Sit on the barbecue hot plate for 15-20 minutes.
15. Marinate meat and chicken in a thin marinade of your choice of garlic, ginger, soy sauce, olive oil, citrus juice and water for at least 10 minutes. A watery, not thick, marinade seems to reduce a lot of the potentially cancer-causing substances that can form with barbecued or overly-cooked meat.
16. Robust vegetables, such as eggplant and courgettes, don’t need much oil and cook quickly on the barbecue. Slice, push onto skewers and brush with olive oil before barbecuing.
17. Make an easy, butter-less garlic bread by wrapping a bulb of garlic in foil and barbecuing until soft. Squeeze out the sweet, mellow pulp and spread onto slices of toasted baguette.
18. Drizzle halved stone fruit, such as peaches and apricots, with fruit juice and wrap in foil to protect them before barbecuing.
19. Swap sausages for pork chops or ribs. Marinating them in a little oil, soy sauce and balsamic vinegar first will add stacks of flavour.
20. Add extra flavour to meat by brushing it with a herb-infused oil; a little goes a long way.
Healthy party snacks
21. Salsa makes a great low-fat dip. Serve with toasted pita or bagel crisps.
22. Make crostini: buy a baguette from Baker’s Delight and have it sliced on the sandwich setting (makes 50 slices). Brush each side lightly with garlicky oil and bake at 180°C for 10 minutes, or until crispy. Add toppings or serve with dip.
24. Make easy reduced-fat guacamole by mashing avocado with natural yoghurt. Season to taste with sweet chilli sauce.
23. Make a quick Mexican bean dip buy puréeing a can of chilli beans in a food processor.
25. Sushi is cheap to make, and delicious. It’s also a healthy and filling finger food. Buy all the components in Asian grocery stores.
26. Instead of serving salted peanuts – which make us thirsty and want to drink more – try a mix of fresh raw nuts like almonds, Brazils, walnuts and cashews.
27. Add colour to platters with sliced or small vegetables like baby carrots or sliced carrot, sliced capsicum, cherry tomatoes and giant green olives. Small fruit or sliced fruit are also popular. Use fruits like grapes, cherries, mango, papaya, watermelon, pineapple, cherries and strawberries.
28. Falafels (mini spiced chickpea patties) make great finger food and are so simple to make using one of the ready mixes. My favourite is Olive Grove, found in the chiller, but there are others including a convenient dry mix that can be stored in the pantry. If you have a good non-stick pan, you don’t even need any oil to cook them; they can also be baked in the oven. Use plain low-fat yoghurt with chopped coriander as a dipping sauce.
29. For a simple, healthy party snack try smoked salmon and cream cheese on bread. To make it really simple, use sliced bread; each slice of bread, with crusts trimmed off, can be cut into four. My favourite is soy and linseed, which adds texture. A little extra-light cream cheese on the bread adds flavour and texture (and makes sure the salmon sticks!); then top with the smoked salmon. Sliced smoked salmon is easy, but you could also break up a fillet of smoked salmon. It doesn’t have to be piled on – it’s a tasty morsel! Adds omega-3, calcium and fibre, and everyone loves it!
30. Roast your own chickpeas: soak 1 cup of chickpeas in 4 cups of water overnight and then simmer for an hour or more until soft. (Alternatively, bring to the boil for 2 minutes and then soak for 1 hour before cooking.)
Heat the oven to 100°C. Rinse the chickpeas and rub them dry in a tea towel, removing the skins that come free. Put into a bowl and mix with 2 teaspoons oil. Add 3 tablespoons of your favourite herb or spice mix – my current favourite is Gregg’s Cajun-style – and toss well so most of it sticks to the chickpeas. Place baking paper on an oven tray, spread the chickpeas out over this and cook for around 2 hours, shaking occasionally. (This recipe doesn’t seem to work using canned chickpeas: they have absorbed more liquid and are softer.)
Take advantage of yummy seasonal veges
31. Chargrill capsicums on the barbecue, place in a plastic bag to cool, remove skins and freeze for winter pizzas, pasta sauces and casseroles.
32. Turn surplus tomatoes into chutney or pasta sauce.
33. Roast eggplant and courgettes and use as filling in quiche and topping on pizza.
34. Make salsa (chopped sauce) to serve with meats or salads. Include an oniony ingredient – onion, spring onion, red onion; a fruity ingredient – tomatoes, peaches, tamarillos, mangos; a little acidity – lemon juice, lime juice; a bit of zing – fresh or dried chilli or chilli sauce to taste. Finally, add crunch with celery, cucumber or herbs like coriander and mint.
35. Make vegetable samosas: cook seasonal veges with cubed potatoes and curry seasoning till soft, then mash slightly. When cool, wrap in filo parcels and bake. Serve with chutney.
Celebrate summer seafood
36. Spiced snapper: wash, dry and de-scale whole gutted snapper. Make several deep slashes in the side of the fish using a sharp knife. Place the fish on baking foil. Thinly slice a lime and tuck into the slashes with slivers of thinly-sliced garlic. Scatter over some finely sliced spring onions. Mix the juice of 1 lime with 2 tablespoons curry paste and 5 tablespoons lite coconut milk. Add to the fish and wrap up to form a parcel. Cook on a medium barbecue for 15-20 minutes.
37. Seafood platter: try a selection of king prawns, poached and smoked salmon, some chunks of brown bread and low-fat mayonnaise. Season with freshly ground black pepper and let everyone tuck in for some relaxed alfresco eating.
38. For a fantastic dip for seafood: blend ripe avocado, fresh coriander, lemon juice, diced red onion and a splash of tabasco sauce together. Season to taste. Serve as a tasty dip for prawns.
39. Mix equal amounts of Greek yoghurt with low-fat mayonnaise, add fresh lime juice and zest with plenty of chopped flat leaf parsley. Serve with all sorts of fish.
40. Spiced prawns: make a spicy marinade for king prawns, blend 3 tablespoons fresh coriander with a teaspoon of salt, 2 fresh green chillies, deseeded, the juice of 1 large lemon and 2 tablespoons oil. Pour the marinade into a bowl and add 20-24 cooked peeled prawns. Mix to coat well. Leave to marinate for 30 minutes. Thread onto skewers with a selection of vegetables. Cook on the barbecue for 5 minutes, turning frequently. Serve immediately.
41. Lemon seasoning: for instant flavour, sprinkle your favourite fish with a little Masterfoods Lemon Pepper seasoning, drizzle with a little olive oil and grill or barbecue. Serve with a squeeze of lemon.
42. Smoked salmon pâté: mix some low-fat crème fraiche or light sour cream with lemon juice, lots of black pepper and chopped smoked salmon for a quick pâté. Serve on warmed brown bread.
43. Mix low-fat natural yoghurt together with crushed garlic, fresh mint and smoked paprika; serve with smoked fish.
Enjoy a healthy sausage
44. Check the fat content on the nutrition information panel of your sausages. Standard sausages contain around 25% fat (25g per 100g), which means 1/4 of the sausage is artery-clogging fat. Look for lower fat varieties – less than 15% fat.
45. Before frying, prick and par-boil sausages in 1cm of water for 5 minutes. The sausages lose some fat and cook more quickly and safely. No more burnt black snags that are still dangerously pink inside.
46. If no fat comes out of a sausage when it is cooking, does that mean it is low in fat? No. It most likely means that it contains lots of emulsifier, which holds the fat in the sausage. Reading labels and buying good quality sausages should solve this.
48. For an Italian way with sausages, serve with a lentil stew of onion, garlic, tomatoes, rosemary, bay leaf, chilli, red wine, water and red or green lentils. Lentils help reduce cholesterol – a tasty and healthy balance for the sausages.
49. Chicken sizzlers: create your own delicious chicken sausages. Place 500g chicken mince, 1/4 cup easy cook couscous, 1 egg, crushed garlic and a sprinkling of dried mixed herbs, chilli powder, salt and pepper in a blender. Process until well mixed. Lightly flour your hands and shape into 6 even-sized sausages. Chill before cooking. Cook under a preheated grill, turning occasionally until evenly browned. You can try this recipe using trim pork mince.
50. Serve your favourite sausage, barbecued or grilled, halved in a warmed pita bread, packed with sliced red onion, shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, a handful of fresh chopped mint and a drizzle of sweet chilli sauce. Perfect for outdoor eating.
51. A gluten-free option that’s full of flavour is Heller’s Gold sausages with country basil and tomato.
52. Venison sausages are available from your butcher and supermarket. Their full flavour makes them delicious cooked, sliced and served with pasta and a light tomato sauce. Or try sliced in potato salads.
53. Sausage dipper ideas: add a splash of chilli sauce and some finely-chopped red onion to tomato sauce for a tasty dip. Or add finely chopped cucumber, diced and deseeded, chopped mint and chives to yoghurt for a refreshing dip.
54. Honey and mustard glaze: glaze hot cooked sausages with equal amounts of warmed honey and Dijon mustard for extra flavour.
55. For a healthy vegetarian alternative, try the Bean Supreme range of tofu sausages. If you haven’t been tempted by vegetarian sausages before, you’re in for a pleasant surprise.
Summer drinking made healthy
56. Add plenty of ice to your drink. It’s harder to skull an ice-cold drink and the ice displaces some of the more kilojoule-laden liquid.
57. Soda water is a great mixer because it’s kilojoule-free. Add a dash of lime cordial and sip as a pre-dinner filler; it’s better for your waistline than chippies, cheese and crackers. Tonic water, on the other hand, is just like soft drink. A 200ml gin and tonic has twice the kilojoules of a gin and diet tonic (500kJ compared to 250kJ).
58. If your family won’t eat their fruit on a plate, give it to them in a drink. Blend a small chopped pineapple, 2 oranges and a banana with either watermelon, water or a little juice. Vary with other in-season fruit such as mango or berries. And for the adults, slosh in some Malibu or Grenadine. Unlike fruit juice, this drink uses whole fruit so is packed with fibre and is very filling.
59. Too hot for a cup of tea? Try iced tea instead. Make your own with tea bags, lemon slices and perhaps a little sugar. It’s refreshing, stimulating and full of healthy flavonoids and antioxidants.
60. Keep a bottle of water in your car, at your desk, in the picnic basket and in the kids’ bags each day. Place water bottles in the freezer overnight to ensure cool, fresh water all day long. Wrap a small towel around frozen bottles to absorb condensation and for handy face and hand wiping.
61. When you’re standing around with a drink in your hand, it’s easy to overdo it. If you alternate your drinks from the start – one non-alcoholic (do this first so you’re not thirsty) followed by one alcoholic – it’s easier to figure out when to stop!
62. Always provide low or no-energy alternatives to alcoholic drinks like soda water, juice diluted half-and-half with diet ginger ale or cold tea. Juice by itself is high energy and one’s enough.
63. For a refreshing spicy tea punch: in a bowl put 3 teabags of Twinings ‘Green tea with lemon’, a cinnamon quill and a teaspoon of whole cloves. Pour over 4 cups of boiling water and leave to stand. When it’s cool enough, strain into a jug and put into the fridge to chill. Mix with 4 cups of fruit juice to serve.
64. If you’re not sure about the catering at drinks or cocktails, it can be easier to have a healthy filling snack before you go. The alcohol won’t go straight to your head, and you won’t be tempted by unhealthy foods. (On the other hand, if you have high expectations for the food – make sure you leave space!)
65. Don’t stand by the food at a party or function – it’s too easy to keep nibbling unconsciously. Out of sight, out of mind!
Tasty, healthy sauces and marinades
66. When marinating, go for bold flavours. Mustard, soy sauce, chilli and garlic will pack a punch without the need for lots of oil.
67. Add texture and interest to leaner cuts of meats with seeds and crushed whole spices. Sesame seeds add crunch to beef and chicken; fennel seeds go well with pork; and cumin is good with lamb.
68. Use honey to glaze meat. Brush it on once the meat has almost cooked to prevent it from burning.
69. Low-fat natural yoghurts make great bases for marinades. Liven them up with chopped herbs, spices and tomato paste.
70. Make a tasty salsa by mixing together chopped avocado, tomato, chilli, coriander, lime juice and a splash of balsamic vinegar. You’ll hardly realise there’s no added oil.
71. Using a good quality oil in your dressings will give maximum flavour and means you won’t need to add so much. That way you can thin it down with water, not more oil.
72. The simplest, tastiest dressings can be just a squeeze of lemon or a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Tossed through lovely, fresh leaves and herbs, you won’t even notice there’s no oil.
73. Make a creamy dressing that’s lower in fat using labane, a yogurt-based cheese. Thin it down with a little milk or natural yoghurt and flavour with spices or chopped herbs.
74. Play around with different oils and vinegars, e.g. rice bran and nut oils, and sherry and balsamic vinegars. Using more interesting flavours means you can cut back on the amount of oil used.
75. Bulk out salads with slices of juicy fruit, such as orange, grapefruit and mango, and add their juice to dressings to add natural sweetness.
See Simple summer dressings for more great salad accompaniments.