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Healthy coleslaw salad and chicken skewers

Healthy Barbecue Ideas for Australia Day

By Anne Markey,  25.01.2016.

Celebrate this Straya Day with friends, family and healthy barbecue recipes.

sausage with bread

If your Australia Day barbie effort looks something like this, I don't want to come across as critical.

But really, people, where is your imagination? No, on January 26, we should aspire to so much more.

Magnificent meats. Sizzling sides. Superb salads.

And it can be healthy too. I mean healthy like 'are-you-serious, this-is-SO-YUMMY-it couldn't-possibly-be-good-for-me-too'.

It is possible. And you will go down as the creator of the best Aussie Day barbie EVER. Legend.

Before the big day

Plan, then plan a bit more. And check in with your guests. Who's a newly minted vegan (and probably not happy about those lamb ads)? Who's gluten free and off mainstream snags? Who breaks out in hives at the mention of shellfish?

Prep in advance

No one wants to be racing around on the morning of their most successful barbie EVER. Head to the fish markets to grab Moreton Bay bugs, crabs and prawns. Pop into your local butcher. Most of them will have beautifully marinated lamb, beef and pork, and some great ideas about how to cook and serve it. If you've come across a recipe with a cut you're uncertain about, ask your butcher and they'll almost always oblige.

Alternatively, you might like to make your own marinade - they add zing and zest to any dish. Stock up on ziplock bags - they're perfect for massaging the marinade into every nook and cranny, without getting it under your nails.

Choose your recipes, read them and make a list. Make sure you check how much you need of each item - there's nothing more infuriating than getting halfway through a culinary masterpiece, only to discover you need double the parsley you actually have. ]

Stock up on drinks and ice,and put them in an esky, or a plastic tub, in situ as soon as you get home. That way, they'll be well-cooled by the time your guests arrive, and won't be taking up valuable fridge space.

Some inspiration

I'm not going to pretend - the suggestions below are all inspired by dishes I've made, sampled as a guest, or eaten at posh restaurants that have charged me a huge amount for the pleasure.

Whole fish on the barbie

Choose fish that's not too delicate or flaky. Snapper, mahi mahi, swordfish and salmon are all good choices. But remember, barbecues aren't just for grilling. Parcelled into foil, topped with herbs, wine and a dob of butter, the fish will steam to perfection.

Whole grilled fish and shrimp


Aussies love prawns on the barbie (*nods to Paul Hogan*), and there's no better way to serve them than with chilli and lime.

Butterflied lamb shoulder

We have an excellent local butcher, so I mostly just buy the one that's already marinated in lemon,garlic,rosemary and bits and pieces.

Veggies and salad

Salad when I was growing up meant tinned beetroot, sliced tomato, a leaf of iceberg and maybe a pickled onion. Thank the gods that are Jamie Oliver, Yotam Ottolenghi and Nigella, for bringing back the salad in all it's glory - no more tinned beetroot, see you later pickled onions. You're a thing of the past.

Don't get me wrong - you can do great things with basics. But there is so, so much more. And with this in mind, the rule at all times remains: buy the best you can afford, buy it close to the day and if you can, buy local.

healthy salad with tomatoes, lettuce, eggplant and other vegetables

Stuffed peppers

So retro. So colourful. So easy to make, then reheat gently in the microwave on the day. Easy.

Portobello mushrooms

If you are still of the belief that the best meals are the meatiest meals, well, put simply, you'll be left questioning your belief system after trying this dish. These mushrooms as HEAVEN (in fungus form). Perfect as a main or a side to a nice bit of barbecued beef.

Herb potato salad

Now, we're trying to be healthy, so I'm ditching the mayo this Australia Day. But I can't give up spuds altogether, and our garden is heaving with herbs. I defy you to stop at one (or four). . The thing to remember is to add the dressing while the potatoes are hot, that way they'll soak up the flavour.

Mixed tomato salad

I made this after I saw Jamie do it on telly. I bought multicoloured tomatoes and let them sit in the dressing for a little while before serving, then sprinkled the herbs from a great height, JLJ (Just Like Jamie). I'm still getting compliments and trust me, it took five minutes to do.

That's it. You've got the food covered.

A couple of other things: wear a hat, make sure there's shade, slather on sunscreen, stay cool and calm and it you're tossing back a boozy bevvie, make sure you stay hydrated with non-alcoholic liquids too. Tune into Triple J for the Hottest 100, or pull together your own playlist of Aussie hits.

Most of all, have fun. Happy Australia Day!