Healthy summer BBQ recipe alternatives


Summer means one thing: backyard barbecues. Whether it’s a Fourth of July celebration, a no-frills get-together with family and friends or an all-out bonanza in the summertime sun, one thing is for sure: good food.

Summer can be a hard time for people trying to watch what they eat. Fortunately, there are ways to have your summer fun while sticking to your diet plan.

Here are our favorite healthy alternative summer recipes.

Spicy Yam Potato Salad

Instead of the traditional mayo and potato-heavy salad, this alternative version relies on Greek yogurt and sweet potatoes. Not only does this recipe deliver a sweet zing (and a kick!), it helps you keep your bad fats and carbs in check.


  • 1 lb yams, peeled and cut into eighths
  • 1 lb red potatoes, peeled and cut into fourths or eighths
  • 1/2 cup red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 2 tbsp chopped mint
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • 1 tsp harissa (or Sriracha if you can’t find it)
  • Salt and pepper

Add the cut-up yams and potatoes and a tablespoon of salt to a pot of room-temperature water. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 15-20 minutes or until tender (but not mushy). Drain the yams and potatoes and cool to room temperature.

Mix the spices, harissa and Greek yogurt. Set aside.

Add the remaining ingredients to the yams and potatoes. Then mix everything together and season with salt and pepper.

Cherry, Wild Rice & Quinoa Salad

Backyard BBQs are all about the sides. One simple yet delicious side is this salad that’s packed with complex carbs, nutrient-rich cherries, nuts and, most importantly, fresh flavor.


  • 3/4 cup wild rice
  • 1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed if necessary
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fruity vinegar, such as raspberry or pomegranate
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cups halved pitted fresh sweet cherries
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 3/4 cup diced aged goat cheese, smoked cheddar or other smoked cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Add wild rice and cook for 30 minutes. Add quinoa and cook until the rice and quinoa are tender, about 15 minutes more. Drain and rinse with cold water until cool to the touch; drain well.

Meanwhile, whisk oil, vinegar, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add the rice and quinoa, cherries, celery, cheese and pecans and toss to combine. Serve at room temperature or cold.

Baja-Style Rosemary Chicken Skewers

Instead of fatty and cholesterol-packed hamburgers and hot dogs, try a leaner protein that’s just as delicious. Grilled chicken kabobs can satiate your need for flavorful meat. Try whichever seasoning or marinade you prefer. One of our favorite recipes is this rosemary chicken kabob.


  • 1/2 small white onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 dried chiles de arbol, crumbled (or 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper)
  • 1 teaspoon minced rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast (or thighs), cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper
  • 8 sturdy 12-inch rosemary sprigs, leaves on bottom half removed
  • Lime wedges, for serving

​In a large bowl, combine the onion, garlic, chiles, minced rosemary, oregano, lemon juice and olive oil; set aside 1/4 cup of the marinade. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and add it to the bowl. Mix well, cover and marinate for 30 minutes.

Light a grill. Remove the chicken from the marinade and thread the pieces onto the rosemary skewers; discard the marinade. Oil the grate and grill the chicken over moderate heat, turning occasionally and basting with the reserved marinade, until golden and cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve with lime wedges.

Wasabi Salmon Burgers

If your backyard bonanza doesn’t feel complete only with chicken kabobs, then have your burger. But replace the fatty beef with lean proteins, like ground chicken breast, ground turkey or even wild salmon. In fact, one of our favorite burger recipes is this Japanese-inspired salmon burger.


2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce

1 1/2 teaspoons wasabi powder

1/2 teaspoon honey

1 pound wild salmon fillet, skinned

2 scallions, finely chopped

1 egg, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Whisk soy sauce, wasabi powder and honey in a small bowl until smooth. Set aside.

​With a large chef’s knife, chop salmon using quick, even, straight-up-and-down motions (do not rock the knife through the fish or it will turn mushy). Continue chopping, rotating the knife, until you have a mass of roughly ¼-inch pieces.

Transfer to a large bowl. Add scallions, egg, ginger and oil; stir to combine. Form the mixture into four patties. The mixture will be moist and loose, but holds together nicely once the first side is cooked.

​Coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium heat for 1 minute. Add the patties and cook for 4 minutes. Turn and continue to cook until firm and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Spoon the reserved wasabi glaze evenly over the burgers and cook for 15 seconds more. Serve immediately.

Frozen Greek Yogurt Fresh Fruit Bars

Lastly, dessert. Set yourself up with healthy dessert alternatives and you can eat as much as you’d like. Yogurt pops are an excellent substitute for full-fat ice cream, and adding fresh fruit, especially berries, can boost the nutrient profile.


  • 2 cups fresh blackberries, blueberries, raspberries (or a mix of all three)
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 ½ cups plain Greek yogurt

In a large bowl, combine the berries, honey, lemon juice, water and Greek yogurt. Using the back of a spatula, lightly mash the berries to release their juices and stir until well combined.

Fill a popsicle mold with the yogurt mixture according to instructions. Freeze until the fruit bar is firm, 3 to 4 hours (or depending on instructions). Makes six popsicles.

Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean that your diet has to go on a break. Try these healthy recipes, and you can enjoy summertime with friends and family while staying true to your health journey.

Dr. Dirk’s Favorite Protein-Packed Dinner Recipes

One of the keys to successful weight loss is a good diet. In fact, eating the right food in the right amounts is probably the most important step you can take if you’re serious about living a healthy lifestyle.

For people who are overweight or obese, Dr. Dirk recommends a high-protein, low-carb diet with plenty of lean protein, vegetables and whole grains. (Here’s why this diet is best for people who want to lose weight and keep it off.)

If you’re looking for some healthy spring dinner recipes, try one or all of these high-protein, low-carb meals this week.

Protein-Packed Dinner Recipes

Stir-Fry Sesame Chicken with Brown Rice

This recipe is a great way to get in some lean protein (in the form of skinless chicken breast) and a variety of delicious, nutritious vegetables. Add a side of brown rice, and you have a tasty dish that beats your favorite Chinese takeout. Serves six.


  • 1 tablespoon canola oil or coconut oil
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1/3 cup teriyaki sauce
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced into strips
  • 1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and sliced into strips
  • 1 yellow or orange bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and sliced into strips
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups stemmed and chopped fresh green beans
  • 1/2 cup chopped scallions, sliced diagonally, or chopped cilantro
  • 1/8 cup sesame seeds


  1. Toast sesame seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently. Set aside.
  2. Coat chicken strips in half the teriyaki sauce. Add oil to a pan or wok over medium heat. Cook for about 4-5 minutes per side until golden and cooked through. Set aside.
  3. Add green beans and water or chicken stock to the pan. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes, until beans are crisp-tender. Add sesame oil and peppers to the pan with the beans. Cook uncovered for about 4 minutes. Add garlic and some teriyaki sauce, and cook for an additional 30 seconds.
  4. Return chicken to pan and add remaining teriyaki sauce. Cook for one minute, until warmed. Remove from heat and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. Garnish with scallions or cilantro.
  5. Serve with brown rice.
Protein-Packed Dinner Recipes

Wild Salmon with Rainbow Salsa

Wild salmon is one of the best sources of protein you can get. Not only is it lean, but it’s also loaded with omega-3 fatty acids (the good kind of fat). This recipe pairs zesty salmon with a colorful sweet and sour salsa. Serves two.


Miso-lime marinade

  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
  • 1 tablespoon white miso
  • 1 teaspoon mirin
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil


  • 2 fillets (6 ounces each) wild salmon
  • 1 lime, thinly sliced
  • Fresh parsley sprigs to garnish

Rainbow salsa

  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 1 large ripe tomato, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro


  1. Mix together the ingredients for the lime marinade and smear over the salmon fillets. Set aside for at least 30 minutes so the salmon absorbs the flavor of the marinade.
  2. While the fish is marinating, prepare the salsa.
  3. Char the outside skin of the peppers and jalapeño. You can do this by holding them with tongs over an open flame, turning them so the outside chars evenly. Put the peppers and chili in a paper bag so they sweat (this makes it easier to remove the skin). After about 5 minutes, remove the peppers and jalapeño from the bag, and the charred skin should slide off easily.
  4. Cut the peppers in half, remove the seeds and chop finely. If you don’t want the salsa to be too hot, remove the seeds from the jalapeño before chopping.
  5. Place the peppers and jalapeño in a bowl with the tomato and garlic. Add the lime juice, sea salt, honey, and cilantro and mix well.
  6. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  7. Lay enough lime slices on an oven tray so that the fish can sit comfortably on top. Place the fish on the lime slices and place the tray on the top shelf of the oven. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the salmon is cooked through. (The thicker the fillets, the longer they will take to cook through.)
  8. Remove from the oven and transfer to a serving platter, keeping the lime slices underneath. Serve immediately with the rainbow salsa.
Protein-Packed Dinner Recipes

Slow Cooker Beef Bourguignon Stew

Beef can be high in fat, so try to limit your intake of red meat and choose leaner cuts of beef, like strip steak and eye of round roast.

Of course, there are those days when nothing will satisfy like a hearty beef stew. For those days, use this low-carb, veggie-packed recipe. Serves eight.


  • 1 1/2 pounds lean beef chuck, cut into bite-size cubes
  • 1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and chopped into large cubes
  • 2 carrots, chopped into 1/2 inch thick slices
  • 2 stalks celery, thickly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 whole sprig rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon dry oregano
  • 1 pound white button mushrooms, halved
  • 3 thyme sprigs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons white whole wheat flour or all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup low-sodium beef stock
  • 3 cups red wine
  • 10 pearl onions, halved or 1 medium yellow or white onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper


  1. Sprinkle beef cubes with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Dredge in flour to coat.
  2. Put 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil in the pan over medium-high heat. Add half the beef cubes and brown on all sides, for about 5 minutes. It is not necessary to cook the beef all the way through yet. Repeat with the second batch. Set the beef aside.
  3. In the same pan that the beef was browned in, add 1/4 cup of the wine and scrape the bottom, allowing some of the liquid to evaporate. Add herbs, mushrooms, pearl onions or diced onion, celery, carrots, and 1 more tablespoon of olive oil and cook for about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for an additional 30 seconds.
  4. Pour everything from the pan into the slow cooker. Add the rest of the wine, the stock, the rest of the salt, the bay leaf, the potatoes and the beef cubes. Cook on high for 4 to 6 hours, or on low for 8 hours.

Lighter Versions of Your Favorite Holiday Dishes

Most of what makes this the most wonderful time of the year is the indulgent dishes and drinks. It’s no secret that holiday food isn’t the healthiest, but what if we told you that it’s possible to celebrate the holidays without piling on the calories?

Check out these five recipes that will help make your holiday classics healthier — and maybe even tastier.

light holiday dishes


Nothing feels more festive than cozying up with a big mug of rich eggnog. But between the heavy cream, sugar and eggs, traditional eggnog can wreak havoc on your healthy diet.

But you’re in luck with this Eggnog Smoothie recipe from Fitness Magazine. Simply sub out the cream for almond milk and replace the sugar with the natural sugar in bananas, and you can cut your calorie and fat intake by more than half. (Don’t worry. If you’re feeling naughty instead of nice, you can still spike yours with bourbon.)

light holiday dishes

Pecan Pie

The holidays are synonymous with pie, and of all the season’s delectable pies, our favorite is pecan pie.

Pie is always an indulgence, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take steps to reduce the guilt. Cut out the butter and the sticky corn syrup, and you’ll have a pie that’s less sinful without skimping on taste.

If you prefer other varieties of pie, we’ve got you covered with these healthier recipes for classic apple pie, sweet potato pie and pumpkin pie.

light holiday dishes

Green Bean Casserole

What’s more American than apple pie? Casserole. Green bean casserole is a standard of the holiday season.

Don’t be fooled by the green veggies, though. Traditional green bean casserole packs a lot of calories due to the addition of heavy processed soup and deep-fried onions. Click here for a healthy alternative that’s made from scratch.

light holiday dishes

Mashed Potatoes

Nothing feels like home quite like mashed potatoes. But did you know that you can spruce this dish up to make it even more wholesome?

Simply eliminate the butter and trade whole milk for fat-free milk, and you’ll have yourself a healthier version of this holiday classic.

light holiday dishes

Gingerbread Men

No holiday season is complete without smiling gingerbread men. But don’t be deceived. Behind those smiles lurk loads of fat and sugar.

With a few smart substitutions, you can make your gingerbread men as nice as they look. Try this recipe for healthier gingerbread cookies — we bet even your kids won’t notice the difference.

Maintaining your diet goals doesn’t have to mean putting a stop to your holiday celebrations. Follow these simple recipes to embrace the best of both worlds!

Fill Up With These 4 Healthy Breakfast Ideas

healthy breakfast ideas

While not every expert agrees that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, breakfast certainly offers enough benefits that you shouldn’t be skipping it — especially if you’re trying to lose weight.

It can be hard to get into the habit of eating breakfast if you don’t do it regularly, but the benefits are definitely worth it. Eating in the morning jumpstarts your metabolism, gives you energy to start the day, and helps stave off hunger. A healthy breakfast should include a good mix of protein, fiber, fat and complex carbs to help you feel full until lunchtime.

If you’re in a breakfast rut or aren’t currently a breakfast believer, we’ve got some healthy breakfast ideas that will get you back into the most important meal of the day.

Gluten-Free Toast with Healthy Toppings

Top gluten-free or whole wheat toast with fruit like strawberries or bananas with chia seeds, or even with veggies like arugula with flax and avocado.

Scrambled Eggs

You can’t go wrong when you make the protein powerhouse of eggs your breakfast base. Add beans for fiber, tomatoes for lycopene and other nutrients, and pesto for flavor, and you’ve got an easy, healthy breakfast scramble that will stick with you until lunch.

Fruit and Cheese

This breakfast is the easiest one on the list and requires almost zero preparation. An apple with some cheddar cheese and a few nuts are easy staples that can comprise a balanced breakfast on a busy morning.

Oatmeal Smoothies

This unique drink pairs two breakfast favorites — smoothies and oatmeal — to create a beautiful and flavorful one-jar meal that will fill you up and provide some important nutrients. Click the link above for the recipe for a strawberry-cherry version, and then mix it up by swapping in your favorite fruits.

Skipping breakfast might seem like a good way to cut down on calories, but eating a well-rounded and nutritious breakfast offers valuable health benefits you shouldn’t be missing out on.  Find a few breakfast recipes you love and make an effort not to skip this important meal!

The Basics of Weekly Meal Prep

Weekly Meal Prep

When it comes to eating healthily and avoiding take-out food full of salt, sugar and saturated fat, preparing your meals in advance is the No. 1 key to success. When things get hectic, you’ll thank yourself for taking some time out of your weekend to make a few healthy, easy-to-reheat meals.

The more thought you put into your weekly meal planning sessions, the easier it will be to stick to your healthy eating goals on busy weeknights when the drive-thru starts calling.

It’s important to start the meal prepping process with plenty of portion-size containers. Dallas Weight Loss Surgeon, Dr. Dirk usually recommends his patients eat smaller meals more often, so choose containers that will hold exactly the right amount of food to fill you up without overeating. You’ll need to stock up on plastic or glass food containers for meals and zip-top snack bags for smaller bites.

Next, plan your meals for the week ahead. Choose at least lean protein, one vegetable and one starch per meal. Even if you don’t eat it all at once, it’s a good rule of thumb.

For your meats, try using different marinades or spices to keep things interesting throughout the week. In fact, you can even cook chicken three ways in one pan.  While it might take a few extra minutes, the best pre-prepped meal is the one you will actually eat — so make sure it tastes good, and give yourself some variety.

For vegetables, you can chop up some of your favorites to eat raw, or cook them to bring out their flavors. You can roast lots of different vegetables on one pan, and then separate them into portion-sized containers to provide variety throughout the week without taking up too much prep time.

Once you have your food for the week prepped, put it in the refrigerator or freezer, depending on when you plan to eat it. Then, you’ll only need to reheat and enjoy!

3 Guilt-Free Thanksgiving Recipes

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, you may be starting to pull out your family’s tried-and-true holiday recipes. Your great grandmother’s butter-basted turkey and candied yams are no doubt delicious, but they may set you back in terms of your health and weight loss goals at a critical time in the year—the start of the holiday season.

With a few substitutions, however, the holiday season doesn’t need such a bad rep. Want to watch your weight and enjoy your Thanksgiving feast? We’ve rounded up a few healthy alternatives to the holiday’s worst offenders. Try these recipes on for size:

Guilt-Free Thanksgiving Recipes

Vegan Gravy

Whether you’re serving guests who don’t eat meat or you’re simply looking for a low-fat alternative to this traditionally high-fat sauce, vegan gravy is an easy, savory alternative. There are plenty of recipes out there, ranging from an ultra-simple accompaniment flavored with miso paste and onion powder to versions made primarily with roasted veggies and spiced to perfection. Put those fatty meat juices aside this year without sacrificing flavor.

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes have excellent nutritional value and are packed with essential vitamins for a healthy, balanced diet. When they’re smothered in marshmallow? Not so much. Take advantage of this naturally sweet veggie with a recipe that won’t mask its natural flavor or raise your chances for diabetes. Try roasting your sweet potatoes and flavoring them with honey and cinnamon, or mashing them with orange rind and maple syrup for an all-natural, healthy alternative to processed sugars.


Instead of using pre-packaged stuffing or loading up on empty carbs from white bread, pull out a traditional recipe and use a healthy alternative like gluten-free or whole-wheat bread. You can also opt for a low-fat butter substitute to cut both fat content and carbs. With savory seasonings from spices and veggies, you’ll still enjoy all of your favorite flavors.

Start the holiday season off right with a few healthy substitutes for a new take on your favorite dishes, and you’ll have a head start on that New Year’s resolution.

Avocado-Yogurt Dip with Cumin

Avocado-Yogurt Dip with CuminScoop this creamy dip with pita chips and carrot, celery, red bell pepper, and jicama sticks. Prepare up to eight hours in advance, and refrigerate in an airtight container. To further simplify your evening of meal prepping, use precut vegetables from the produce section.

 Photo by: Becky Luigart-Stayner
  • YIELD: 16 servings (serving size: 2 tablespoons)
  • COURSE: Appetizers, Dips/Spreads


  • 3/4 cup plain fat-free yogurt
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped seeded jalapeño pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 ripe peeled avocados, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced


Place all the ingredients in a food processor or blender, and process until smooth.

Nutritional Information

Amount per serving

  • Calories: 70
  • Calories from fat: 76%
  • Fat: 5.9g
  • Saturated fat: 0.9g
  • Monounsaturated fat: 3.6g
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 0.7g
  • Protein: 1.3g
  • Carbohydrate: 4.6g
  • Fiber: 2g
  • Cholesterol: 0.0mg
  • Iron: 0.4mg
  • Sodium: 83mg
  • Calcium: 21mg