The arrival of summer means warmer weather, longer days, and best of all, backyard barbecues. Barbecue fare isn’t known for being healthy, but there’s a lot more to it than smoked pork and mayonnaise. Here are nine dishes that put a wholesome spin on classic barbecue staples.


Pulled pork sandwiches, while beloved by barbecue fanatics, could use a nutritious upgrade. This recipe swaps out the meat in favor of vitamin-packed shredded carrots. By stewing carrot matchsticks in your favorite barbecue sauce until tender, they’re imparted with that same sweet/savory depth of flavor at a fraction of the calories. And as a bonus, you don’t have to spend all day smoking and shredding a whole pork butt to make it. Shredded chicken and barbecue jackfruit also make for simple, low-fat alternatives.


There’s nothing like eating a smoked rib off the bone to get you in touch with your inner caveman. To get that effect without sacrificing your diet, switch out pork ribs for lamb. A serving of lamb chops contains 200 less calories than a portion of baby back ribs, and just a sixth of the fat. They can also be fired up on the grill, making them a perfect option for your next outdoor barbecue.


Hot dogs on the grill are synonymous with summertime. They also contain high amounts of fat, sodium, and all sorts of other questionable ingredients. If you’re looking to satisfy your hot dog cravings with a slightly healthier option this barbecue season, pick up a package of chicken apple sausages. Serve them on a whole-wheat bun with red cabbage slaw and you’ll have a reimagined hot dog that’s both tasty and guilt-free.


A beef patty between two buns is a very narrow definition of what a burger can be. The meaty texture and earthy taste of portobello mushrooms make them an excellent beef substitute. And unlike some veggie burger recipes, these patties won’t fall apart on the grill. To imbue your mushrooms caps with an even richer umami flavor, marinate them in soy or Worcestershire sauce ahead of your barbecue.


While steak may be most grill masters’ protein of choice, the taste of fish cooked over an open flame is hard to beat. Swordfish, tuna, and even whole snapper all make great barbecue options, but opt for salmon steaks if you’re looking for a dish that’s high in omega-3s. Salmon is already meatier and richer in flavor than most fish, and marinating it in teriyaki seasonings guarantees you won’t miss out on any bold flavors.


Kabobs are a great opportunity to let veggies shine on the grill, but too often they’re loaded up with beef, pork, and other fatty meats. Make vegetables the star of the show by skewering together tasty flavor combinations like red bliss potatoes and rosemary or cherry tomatoes and marinated artichoke halves. If you still feel like your skewers could use some protein, consider healthier add-ons like shrimp or halloumi (grillable cheese).


A plate of barbecue isn’t complete without a side of coleslaw. But in a meal that’s likely 90 percent meat and starch, there’s no need for your veggies to be swimming in mayonnaise. An easy fix is to serve your coleslaw Carolina-style by dressing the cabbage in vinegar instead of mayo. Lemon juice could also be substituted in to add an acidic pop to your dish.


Here’s another perfectly good vegetable dish ruined by gobs of mayo. The Germans have the right idea with their vinegar-based version. Instead of adding in bits of bacon like the recipe traditionally calls for, trying swapping in crumbles of crisped tempeh.


From banana pudding to pecan pie, the desserts served at the end of a barbecue tend to be just as heavy as the meal that came before them. This summer, don’t be so quick to close up your grill after the last hot dog has been served. Grilling fresh fruit caramelizes its natural sugars, transforming it into a delicious dessert that’s the perfect end to any outdoor party. Peaches, pineapples, and mangos are just a few of the fruits that can benefit from a few minutes on the flame.