As a 30-something-year-old woman who enjoys a glass of sangria and laughing with family and friends, I love a good barbecue. As a vegetarian, I pretty much hate barbecues. While the meat-lovers pile on burgers, hot dogs, and steak, I’m usually stuck with a plateful of potato salad. But as a dietitian who thinks (and writes) about food all day, I think I’ve finally mastered how to get through—and actually enjoy—a barbecue when you’re a vegetarian. Take a few tips from someone who’s been there, so the next time you’re at the party you know exactly what to say… and how to survive. *cue the dramatic music*
1. “You’re not using the same spatula for the veggies and chicken, right?”
TBH nothing grosses me out more than when I see the grill master use the same tongs on the veggies and the raw chicken. There’s actually a food safety name for that, and it’s cross-contamination. It refers to when the bacteria from one food item is mistakenly transferred to another. Not only is this likely to happen when raw veggies and raw chicken are being prepared on the same surface, but it can cause food poisoning.
Offer to help with grilling the veggies. Use a separate tong and spatula to ensure your meat-free items stay bacteria-free. Oh, and try not be too rude about it. You’re their guest, and they’re doing the cooking.
2. “Save your selfies for another time. I can take the photo for you.”
Let’s face it, sometimes the only vegetarian options are potato salad and corn on the cob. This breaks my little foodie heart. But really, I can live a few hours without wonderful food. So instead of watering down the potatoes with my tears, I divert my attention to friends and family.
Offer to be the family photographer or social media guru for the day. Come up with a hashtag for the barbecue (#meatloversparadise) and tag all your friends on social. Chat with an old friend you haven’t seen in a while or offer to be the bartender and whip up a creative cocktail. Both meat-eaters and vegetarians enjoy a good refreshing drink.
3. “Oh, don’t worry about me. I can just eat the fixins.”
You can almost always count on one thing at a barbecue: burgers. And with burgers come mustard, lettuce, tomato, cheese, and pickles. Although it’s not the most creative sandwich ever, combining these ingredients on a bun will definitely equal a sandwich that will probably keep you full for a few hours. Hey, maybe even throw it on the grill for a few minutes—it’ll be like the barbecue version of a grilled cheese.
4. “I decided to bring these super-trendy cauliflower steaks.”
Some vegetarian foods are pretty on trend no matter what type of eater you are. Take a creative dish to the barbecue, and you may pique the interest of vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. How about some carrot hot dogs or cauliflower steaks with chimichurri sauce? Or you can take an old favorite like pizza and show people how to throw it on the grill.
5. “This is just so fun that I’d love to do this again next weekend… at my place… veggies only.”
When all else fails, throw your own party! You’ve gone to a million burger barbecues; now it’s time to
force invite your meat-eating friends to an untraditional party. Sure, they can bring a salad with bacon in it, but let them know what you’re serving is all veg-head friendly. Encourage them to step out of their meat-eating comfort zone and get creative with plants.