Grilling can be a flavorful and easy way to enjoy delicious, healthy food. Here’s how:
- Choose a healthy protein.
- Chicken. Grill breasts, thighs or drumsticks with the skin, if you’d prefer. Be sure to remove the skin before eating to avoid excess saturated fat.
- Fish. Try salmon or tuna steaks. Wrap thinner fish fillets, such as flounder and tilapia, in aluminum foil.
- Turkey. Choose skinless ground turkey to make turkey patties. Mix in some minced mushrooms and onions for flavor and moisture.
- Beef and pork. Buy “loin” or “round” cuts and “choice” or “select” grades of beef instead of “prime.” Choose lean ground beef (90% lean) or extra lean (93%-95% lean), if available, for burgers.
- Tofu. Be sure to choose firm or extra firm.
- Right size your portions.
It’s easy to make a healthy plate with the right portions. Here’s how:
- Fill one-fourth of your plate with a protein, such as fish, skinless poultry, lean beef or lean pork. A healthy portion of meat is about 4 ounces raw. (Picture the size of a deck of cards.)
- Fill another one-fourth with a whole grain, such as brown rice or whole-wheat pasta.
- Fill the remaining half of the plate with fruit and/or vegetables.
- Season with no-sodium marinades or rubs. For a pound of grilled protein, use either ½ cup no-sodium marinade or 1 tablespoon salt-free spice rub. Try this simple marinade recipe. (Be sure to discard the marinade after use. Do not use it as a sauce since it can contain harmful bacteria from the raw meat.) Or, make a simple rub of your own with salt-free spices, such as allspice, chili powder, cinnamon, cumin, garlic powder, paprika or rosemary and black pepper.
- Add color — lots of color. Many vegetables, including asparagus, avocado, bell peppers, corn on the cob, eggplant, mushrooms, onions, potatoes, squash and zucchini, can be grilled. Brush them with a healthy oil to prevent them from sticking or use a grill basket lightly sprayed with cooking spray. Also, use skewers for vegetable kebabs! (Be sure to soak wooden ones in water for 10 minutes to prevent them for charring.)
- Trim fat and moderate grill temperature. Buy skinless poultry or remove the skin before eating. Trim away any visible fat beef, pork, or chicken. Trim any excess poultry skin that may cause the grill to produce high flames and burn the meat.
Avoid grilling meats over open flames and/or at high temperatures. This produces chemicals on the meat that when consumed can lead to high blood pressure. Avoid eating grilled meats that are overdone or burnt.
- Watch for hidden added sugars and sodium. Don’t drown your grilled masterpiece in salty sauces, sugary condiments or heavy dressings. Use as little of these as possible, or make your own healthier condiments. Sometimes, a simple squeeze of lemon or lime provides just the right flavor finish.
- Choose healthier sides. Traditional store-bought BBQ side dishes, such as baked beans, cole slaw, macaroni salad and potato salad, can be high in calories, saturated fat, sodium and added sugars. Make healthier homemade versions and enjoy a colorful bean salad, fruit salad or leafy green salad.
- Pair with whole grains. Whole-grain pita bread, buns and breads can complement your healthy grill goods with extra fiber, flavor and texture. Put these on the grill, too, to warm them and get them crunchy. (Looking to go carb free? You can put romaine lettuce leaves on the grill, too, to crisp them and use as a wrap.)
- Grill fruits for dessert. What about fruits? They can be easily put on the grill, too. Try slices of watermelon, pineapple spears and nectarine halves. Natural sugars in fruit caramelize over the grill heat, enhancing their sweetness and flavor.
- Keep it clean. Scrub down the grill rack or grill pan after each use. Removing leftover burnt pieces of food prevents burning, smoking and bitter flavors the next time you use it.