The summer grilling season is upon us and that means a rolling celebration until Labor Day. I like to share advice with my private clients this season to help them navigate those long tables of finger foods and mayonnaise-based dishes.

The most important thing about eating al fresco with our friends and family is to be present and enjoy each other. That is always key – celebrate! This is easier if you are empowered with a plan that supports your nutritional goals. Here are my most favorite tips and tricks if you are attending a summer barbecue.

Attending a Summer Barbecue?

Go with a slightly full stomach. Eat some protein, or even a mini meal, like yogurt with fruit or a hard-boiled egg and raw veggies or a few slices of turkey wrapped around a pickle before heading to the party. Going hungry may lead to hovering over the chips and dip, and if you’re very hungry and excited about the all the potluck possibilities, you may overeat. Minimize the chances that you’ll blow it by eating something healthy before you leave your house.

Always offer to bring something to share. By that I mean a salad, fruit platter or something else you know you can eat, just in case the healthy choices are limited. In doing so, you’ll know a healthy option is available, and you’ll be doing something nice for the host. I find that when I bring the healthy option, it’s the first thing to go. Everyone loves a unique salad.

Plan for your cheats and drinks. Don’t let a barbecue turn into a cheat day that you regret. It’s OK to indulge, but make sure it’s limited and pre-planned so you can stay on track with your health and weight loss goals. Choose raw veggies over the potato chips. Choose shrimp cocktail over the chips and guacamole. Go for a protein like chicken, or a hamburger minus the bun but with the tomato, onion and perhaps some sauerkraut. Sauerkraut is great for gut health. Load up on the veggies, as the high fiber will really fill you up even before eating the protein. If you must have a bite of something, go ahead and taste it, but keep it to the “Three-Bite Rule.” Drinking at summer events can get out of control and add hundreds of empty calories to the day. Remember to drink lots of water in between your alcoholic drinks. Rule of thumb with water: Drink half of your body weight in ounces each day. This is even more important when you are consuming alcohol.

Hosting a Summer Barbecue?

Have a selection. Make sure to have a selection of salads, proteins on the grill and fresh fruit for dessert along with other summertime goodies. Chances are, you aren’t the only one navigating the summer buffet and hoping that there are delicious options that are also low calorie, gluten-free and clean.

Grill the veggies. When I’m hosting, I love to make a large platter of grilled veggies earlier in the day and then serve them at room temperature. By doing that, one thing is out of the way and that allows me to focus on preparing the rest of the meal. Your vegetarian friends will appreciate these too.

Make extra. It’s also a great idea to make extra grilled chicken and turkey burgers (or whatever healthy protein you are making) to have for a few days during the week after the party. This will save you time and energy and the grill is already on.

Grill more than burgers. Don’t forget that there are plenty of other items that are perfect for grilling, such as: watermelon, cut into “steaks” then brush with olive oil and grill for a few minutes on each side; pineapple, slice into 1-inch pieces and grill each side on high heat for 3 minutes then serve as a side, over a salad or make a homemade salsa with it; Romaine lettuce, brush entire head with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and grill for about 5 minutes each side then slice into pieces, add grated parmesan cheese, balsamic vinegar, drizzle lemon juice and toss; and cauliflower steaks, brush with olive oil and salt, grill for about 5-8 minutes each side then add a little honey or maple syrup on each side for some nice caramelization.

Pass the non-alcoholic drinks. Offer guests a refreshing non-alcoholic drink like an herbal iced tea with fruit ice cubes or infused water with cucumber, berries, rosemary, lime, basil or other flavor combination.

Head to the farmer’s market. Regardless of your summer party plans, get to the local farmer’s market as much as possible, so you can eat with the season. Fresh produce that has just been picked will make you feel good and inspire you to stay on track with you diet.

By Audrey Zona

Audrey Zona is an Integrative Health, Nutrition and Wellness Coach and the founder of Zo Healthy ( Her mission is to educate, inspire and empower you to become your most beautiful self from the inside out. She believes that outer beauty is a reflection of inner health and will become your champion on that journey toward health and wellness. She is a mother, wife and personal coach who loves seeing her clients break old diet patterns and enjoy more satisfying, healthier lives. Follow Audrey on Instagram (@zo_healthy) or Facebook ( for recipes, tips and tricks for leading a healthy lifestyle.

Citrus Herb Grilled Chicken

Courtesy of Chef Craig of CK Kitchen

  • 1 whole organic farm-raised chicken, cut into 8 pieces
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 1 orange, juiced
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup diced parsley
  • 1/4 cup diced basil
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 3 heads garlic, minced
  • 1 ½ Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flake
  • 1/4 cup honey


  1. Take the whole chicken and cut into 8 pieces. The other option is to ask your butcher to do that part for you. Leave the skin on.
  2. Combine the honey, all citrus juice, salt, pepper and chili flake, fresh herbs, garlic and olive oil. Whisk together until evenly combined. Reserve some for garnish.
  3. Poor the marinade in a large Ziploc bag or deep baking dish. Add in the chicken parts and cover completely in the marinade.
  4. Allow the chicken to marinate overnight or 8 hours.  
  5. Preheat the grill on medium flame and leave it there.
  6. Put the chicken parts on the grill and slowly grill evenly on each side and until the skin is crispy. The internal temperature needs to be 165 degrees Fahrenheit before the chicken is done cooking – about 30 minutes cooking time.
  7. Remove the chicken from the grill and garnish with the extra marinade.  Serve hot and enjoy.

Chef Craig of CK Kitchen is located in Waldwick and is an accomplished chef and catering extraordinaire. He does weekly meal prep for clients of Zo Healthy and off-premise catering as well as intimate dinner parties in his unique space.

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