Light bites for the backyard barbecue

By , a staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

The traditional backyard barbecue usually includes foods like hot dogs, hamburgers, potato salad, char-broiled hamburger, and ice cream. This is a great menu for hearty eaters, and on such occasions eating is often the main event. But there's no reason why you can't make a few changes in the menu to allow you to eat with pleasure but perhaps in more moderation.

Here are some ideas. Instead of chips and dip, have lots of raw, crisp vegetables, toasted tortillas sprinkled with chili powder, or a light cheese spread.

Grilled chicken with lemon or lime and yogurt sauce can be a good substitute for hamburgers and hot dogs. Chicken parts work well, and you might try chicken wings with a tasty sauce. For another variation, put chicken chunks on a skewer. Grilled fish or lean meat cuts marinated in lemon juice and herbs are another possibility.

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When making the potato salad, leave the skins on the potatoes. Cut down on the mayo or use yogurt instead for part of the dressing.

Whole-wheat rolls are a good addition, and fresh fruit such as cantaloupe or fresh peaches with frozen raspberries are good desserts. You could also try ice milk or strawberry popsicles.

Plenty of fruit juice is always welcome, as is iced mint tea or lemonade.

Here are some tips for the grill.

Set the grill high, away from coals to keep the temperature low.

Avoid using butter, margarine, or oily sauces before cooking. Nonfatty sauces can keep meat moist.

Use the grill cover if you have one. Food will cook faster with lower heat.

Stay away from the grill when you're not actually cooking.

Precook some meats in the oven. This allows a shorter cooking time on the grill.

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