Summer and grilling seem to go together like peanut butter and jelly. Grilling outside in the warmer months helps to keep the house cooler. Adding a few simple grilling techniques and changing up your food choices can make grilling a very healthy option.
• Go lean on the meat. Leaner meat options include cuts that have “leg” or “loin” in the name, like sirloin or tenderloin. Other lean options are flank steak, 95% lean ground beef, boneless, skinless chicken breast, lean turkey patties, bison (buffalo), salmon, shrimp, fish (in tacos). Use a grill basket for delicate fish.
• Don’t forget about the bun. Some healthier options instead of the standard white bun are 100% whole-wheat buns, 100% whole-grain tortilla wraps, or sprouted grain buns or wraps. Consider a no-grain bun by using large romaine lettuce or collard green leaves to wrap your burger. Portobella mushroom caps also make great buns and hold up well as a “bun” for a more traditional burger. Thick grilled eggplant slices and baked sweet potato rounds also work.
• For those focused on vegetables or grains, there are options that contain a mix of high-protein legumes and whole grains for a lower saturated fat option. Choices like marinated tempeh, smoked tofu, veggie, soy or taro burgers, hot dogs and sausages are available. Try a black bean or veggie burger. Even a large, marinated, grilled portobella mushroom cap makes a good sandwich on a bun.
• Think veggies and more veggies. Grilling vegetables brings out the natural sweetness and new flavors. Brush a small amount of oil on them to keep them from sticking to the grill or put them in a grill pan. Consider purchasing a grilling basket to make it more convenient and cleanup easier. A grill basket will also keep vegetables from falling through the grill rack.Try grilled vegetable kabobs — large chunks of vegetables on a stick, such as grilled asparagus, red and green bell peppers, broccoli, onion, summer squash, zucchini, eggplant, sweet potato chunks and corn on the cob. For kabobs with more protein, cube and skewer lean meat chunks or firm tofu and tempeh with vegetables. (tofu has a chewier texture if frozen for up to 3 months).
• Don’t forget flavor. There are lots of grilling marinades on the market, but many are loaded with salt, fat and sugar. For healthier (and cheaper) options, make your own dry spice rub with a blend of spices or salt-free seasonings, squeeze of lemon or lime juice, plain or flavored balsamic vinegar or, if you like it spicy, cayenne pepper or hot sauce.
If you do buy a pre-made sauce, look for one that is low in sodium (less than 140 milligrams sodium per serving) and low in sugar (less than 5 grams sugar per serving).
• Grill your dessert. Grill fruit just until tender; pineapple slices, peach or plum halves or bananas. Grilled fruit kabobs can be fun.
To enjoy the benefits of healthy grilling year-round, consider purchasing a grill pan or an indoor grill that either fits over the burners on your stovetop or is a freestanding appliance. Either of these appliances allows fat to drip through the grates in the drip pan and can be easily discarded. Happy grilling!