Lighter Texas Barbecue: Tips to Cut Calories Without Sacrificing Flavor

texas barbecue bbq cookout

It’s hard to beat Texas barbecue. Those smoky and sweet flavors come together over slow-roasted meat in a style that just can’t be matched. If you’re watching your diet, you may think that Texas barbecue is off limits, but that’s not necessarily the case! We’ve got some tips on how you can cut back on the calories without sacrificing any of that famous Texas flavor.

Make Your Own Barbecue Sauce

While buying pre-made sauces at the store is convenient, bottled sauces often contain tons of calories, mostly due to high sugar content. Making your own BBQ sauce at home with fewer calories and less sugar is incredibly easy, and you can truly make the sauce your own by adjusting the amount of spices and herbs.

If you’re looking for a basic recipe to get you started, try this homemade BBQ sauce recipe. Or if you’re feeling a little more adventurous, opt for this chipotle-honey BBQ sauce.

Use Beef Brisket for Your Meat

Texas BBQ Cut Calories Healthier Recipes

A recent Texas A&M University study found that beef brisket, a popular meat used in Texas barbecue, actually has some health benefits. Beef brisket contains high levels of oleic acid, which increases the body’s levels of HDL, the good type of cholesterol. Next time you’re planning a barbecue, forgo the ribs or pulled pork for a juicy cut of lean beef brisket.

Take the Skin Off the Chicken

If chicken is your favorite type of meat to throw on the grill, make it healthier by removing the skin. Half of the fat and saturated fat that is found in chicken is actually in the skin. Make sure you take it off before you start marinating the meat—if you wait until it’s on the table to remove the skin, you’ll lose all the flavor from the marinade, sauce or rub.

Swap Your Usual Protein for Fish

Looking for an easy way to reduce calories but keep things tasty? Instead of grilling beef or chicken, try cooking up some BBQ shrimp or Blackened Tilapia. With its mild, adaptive flavor, Tilapia is sometimes known as the “chicken of the sea” and makes a great choice to substitute for chicken in recipes.

Make Healthy Side Dishes

If you’re going to enjoy a night of Texas barbecue, keep your calories under control by skipping over unhealthy popular side dishes like potato salad, biscuits or pasta salad. These side dishes often contain a huge amount of calories, sodium and even sugar.

Instead, prepare some healthy, vegetable-based sides to go with your barbecue. Grilled vegetable sides are a great choice because they complement the smoky flavors of the barbecue, while a vinegar-based coleslaw dish is a great alternative to a traditional calorie-laden, creamy coleslaw.

Watch Your Portion Size

Everything’s bigger in Texas. If you order Texas barbecue at a restaurant, you may end up with an enormous plate of food that is actually far beyond the suggested serving size for a heart-healthy diet. Luckily, you’ll enjoy the flavor just as much if you don’t eat the whole plate.

Pack up half your serving to go for a tasty weekday lunch. Or, order an appetizer size instead. If you’re eating at home, it’s easy to only serve yourself as much as you need to eat. One serving of meat is about the size of a computer mouse.

If you’ve been craving barbecue but have been avoiding it due to your diet, try these tips next time you’ve got a hankering for some Texas flavor. You won’t miss the extra calories—although these tips make barbecue healthier, they don’t cut back on taste. So call up your friends and family, fire up the grill and enjoy that combination of sweet and smoky flavors that Texas barbecue is famous for.

Image Credits: Stephanie McCabe, Scott Madore, Markus Luiga