As much as we love al fresco summer get-togethers (and the burgers, popsicles and other delicious eats they tend to entail), we have to admit something. As the summer wears on, we often find ourselves wishing for fresh alternatives to the traditional barbecue fare. If you’re in a similar boat—trying to eat less meat, try more new foods or even just eat a little healthier—read on for a few of our favorite grilling swaps. Bonus: None of them are so fussy that you’ll feel weird bringing them along, and they all mix well with other summer favorites.
Instead of a Cheeseburger: Beyond Burgers
These plant-based burger alternatives are often touted as being just about as close as you can get to the real thing. Created to look, smell and even sizzle like an actual burger, these can go straight on the grill without falling apart (unlike many plant-based “burgers”). Eat yours on a bun with your favorite toppings and a side of grilled veggies to satisfy your burger craving—with less saturated fat and environmental impact than the real deal. Not so into the idea of faux-meat? Try grilling a Portobello mushroom instead. It’s got an almost meaty texture and earthiness by itself, but you can always marinate it in Worcestershire sauce for extra umami flavor.
Instead of Fries: Purple Viking Potatoes
Let’s not beat around the bush: salty carbs are just good. If you don’t want to miss out but feel like you can’t look at another French fry, tater tot or potato chip, try Purple Viking Potatoes. This new potato variety gets its name from its rich purple color, which results from the antioxidant-rich Anthocyanin pigment. They’re also pretty filling, which makes them a great barbecue option for the gluten-free among us. Just toss them with sea salt, olive oil and any other seasoning you love (we recommend rosemary), then pop them on the grill in a foil packet. If you’re traveling to the event, you can prep it ahead of time so that it’s ready to go once you arrive. You can even toss either veggies in the packet along with the potatoes—try sliced bell peppers or roughly chopped onions.
Instead of Cookies: Grilled Fruit
This is fruit like you’ve never had it before. The grilling process causes the natural sugars in fruit to caramelize, bringing out amazing flavors and transforming the fruit into the perfect finishing touch for any outdoor gathering. This tasty treat is also remarkably easy to pull off. Just halve a peach, slice a pineapple or cut an apple into rings, then toss them directly onto the grill. You can even sprinkle with brown sugar or cinnamon sugar for a little extra sweetness. If you want something a little more decadent, a grilled fruit topping is also an easy, impressive way to take a scoop of vanilla ice cream from standard to standout.
One last caveat? Summer only comes once a year, so don’t sweat the small stuff. It never pays to spend what should be a fun event stressing over what you should or shouldn’t be eating. Above all else, focus on enjoying the sweetness of the season and the company of your friends and family. Come winter, you’ll be glad you did! (And you won’t remember or care whether or not you went for that second brownie. Trust us.)