Hosting a healthy barbecue: Planning the menu

Barbecues are a great way for people to get together and socialise, particularly during the warmer months. With a bit of planning, you can still offer your barbecue favourites while also promoting healthy eating. 

Try some of the tips below to provide some barbecue favourites, while promoting healthy eating. The Sample menu and event plan will assist you to plan the finer details of your event. 

Tips for providing healthy barbecue foods

  • Avoid over catering on meat - offer only one piece of lean meat or a burger patty (or vegetarian equivalent) per person.
  • Choose lean cuts of meat. Refer to the table on the following page for ideas.
  • Provide a range of seasonal salads and vegetables.
  • Offer reduced salt varieties of sauces (tomato, BBQ, sweet chilli) and let people add the sauce themselves.
  • Offer unbuttered wholemeal or wholegrain bread.
  • Ask people to indicate any special dietary requirements one week in advance of the event. This will help your budgeting, shopping and avoid wastage. If asking people to bring a plate of food, provide a list of suggested salads and/or fruit platters on a notice board and ask people to choose an option each. This will ensure a variety of healthy dishes are offered.

Healthier alternatives to traditional barbecue ingredients

Instead of...



Regular sausages

  • Reduced fat and reduced salt sausages
  • Vegetarian sausages

 Tip: Cut some large sausages in half to provide smaller portions for different appetites.

Regular commercial burgers and patties

  • Lean or extra lean burger patties
  • Vegetable burgers

Tip: Making your burger patties can be cheaper and healthier than store bought patties.

Chicken burger

Meat kebabs in cream or oil-based sauces/ marinades

  • Lean meat kebabs marinated in lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and fresh herbs.
  • Meat and vegetable kebabs

Tip: Kebabs are easy to make.  Alternate between a piece of lean meat or seafood and a variety of vegetables – this will also lower the cost.

Breads and potatoes

White breads and rolls

  • Wholemeal or wholegrain varieties of breads, rolls, pita bread or mountain bread.

Tip: Avoid using spreads on bread. If you must, offer olive or canola oil based margarine for people to spread themselves.

Creamy potato salads

  • Home-made potato salad using natural yoghurt and/or reduced fat mayonnaise.
  • Jacket potatoes: Wrap potatoes in foil and cook on the grill for 45–60 mins.

Creamy potato salad

Side dishes and sauces

Creamy coleslaw

  • Home-made coleslaw using natural yoghurt and/or reduced fat mayonnaise.
  • Grilled vegetables. Try eggplant, zucchini, pumpkin, capsicum and/or field mushrooms sprinkled with garlic, herbs and pepper.
  • Corn cobs
  • Tabouli or Greek salad (available pre-made through most delis’)

Crunchy coleslaw

Potato crisps

  • Air popped popcorn (plain or flavoured)
  • Oven baked pita bread served with a healthy dip

Cream, cheese or ‘chunky’ nut-based dips

(e.g. French onion, smoked salmon, pesto dips)

  • Reduced fat yoghurt and/or vegetable-based dips (e.g. reduced fat Tzatziki, hummus, or beetroot dip)

Tip: Serve dips with vegetable sticks and/or plain wholegrain crackers or pita bread as they are lower in fat and salt compared to most crackers.

Tomato sauce

  • Reduced salt tomato sauce

Tip: Serve sausages/burgers without sauce. Have a bottle on hand for people wanting to add it themselves.



  • Cold, sliced fruit (e.g. watermelon, cantaloupe, grapes, strawberries)
  • Fruit-based desserts and offer small serving sizes
  • Try using reduced fat custard or yoghurt in place of regular cream, custard or ice-cream
  • If offering cream or ice-cream, provide reduced fat varieties

Spiced apple and yoghurt slice

Ice-creams and icy poles

If offering ice-cream, icy poles, frozen yoghurt or gelato, provide reduced-fat or juice-based varieties and offer in small serving sizes.


Regular soft drinks

  • Water: tap, still or sparkling
  • Lightly flavoured waters.  Try jugs of soda water with sliced fruit and mint, or a dash of fruit juice
  • Diet soft drinks


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