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Healthy Menu Navigator: BBQ

What should you steer clear of besides the cornbread? Nutritionist Heather Bauer explains how to order healthy dishes at a BBQ joint.
Blackened catfish (Photo:
Blackened (never fried!) catfish is one of Bauer’s go-to BBQ eats. (Photo:


Even if you know to steer clear of the bread basket, it turns out the average restaurant meal clocks in at a whopping 1,128 calories—yep, 1,128—making it easy for even the most health-savvy among us to think we’re eating well while eating out, when we’re not.

HealthyMenuNavigatorFinalEnter nutritionist-author Heather Bauer, of Bread is the Devil and Bestowed fame—and our culinary compass. Each week, Bauer steers us toward the healthiest choices on restaurant menus of any type.

Last week, Bauer helped us navigate the menu at a Mexican hotspot. This week, it’s BBQ! Get those hand wipes ready, everyone.

Heather Bauer’s BBQ menu navigational nugget

When you eat at a barbecue joint, it’s typical to get a lot of shared dishes—which you can use to your nutritional advantage, Bauer says. “I always recommend getting extra sides that are green,” she advises. Bauer likes collard greens, coleslaw (vinegar-based only), or green beans. Pair ’em with one of her preferred mains for a plate that’s big on protein and veggies, and low on carbs.



1. Mixed green salad—a clean, refreshing way to kick off your meal.

2. Peel ‘n’eat shrimp, but if you’re watching your sodium intake, be careful: This app can be super salty, Bauer says.


1. Blackened (never fried!) catfish—a fiery main that gives you plenty of spice and flavor, without the fat.

2. Smoked or rotisserie chicken. If you have options, servings-wise, go for the quarter-size bird, and always skip the skin.

3. If you can’t resist the ribs, get them dry-rubbed and ask for the leanest cut. (“Memphis style” is best, Bauer says.)


1. Cornbread, which is full of butter, sugar, and empty carbs. And steer clear of its calorie-bomb of a cousin, the hushpuppy, AKA a fried cornmeal dumpling.

2. Fatty, sugary ribs. Know the lingo: “St. Louis” spare ribs are the worst offenders, Bauer says. Avoid them at all costs!

3. Beef brisket and pulled pork: The brisket’s full of fat, and a one-cup serving of pulled pork, which is typically soaked in barbecue sauce, has more than 400 calories and tons of sodium. (Sorry!)

4. Seasoned sweet potato fries—even though they’re made from nutrient-dense sweet potatoes, they’re still fried…and covered in salt!

Hungry for more? Next week, Bauer’s spilling her secrets to ordering healthy Japanese food. Or check out last week’s guide to ordering healthy Mexican.