I have friends who grill outdoors all year round… and these are people who live up in Quebec City, a town not known for its long, leisurely summers. Still, their grill is fired up come rain, sun or snow.
Like many folks, they crave the taste of foods cooked over an open fire. To them it’s a taste of summer. To your diet, grilling can be a taste of success!
Grilling is a healthy way to cook food. Excess fat melts and drips away from your food. To make your meal even lower in fat, don’t limit yourself to hamburgers, hot dogs and steaks.
While these summertime favorites have a place in your diet, they’re usually high in fat and calories. Experiment with some tasty and more weight-friendly (not to mention healthier) options.
The Hot 3
- Lean Cuts, Trim First: You don’t have to settle for the obvious choices of chicken breasts and fish. Go for the beef or pork, but first choose the leanest cuts of meat. That includes just about any cut ending in “loin” – tenderloin, top loin or sirloin make the cut. Then, before grilling, trim the fat. Lean meat cooks more quickly than fatty meat, so adjust your cooking time. The Pork Checkoff website has a good tip sheet that includes suggestions for grilling lean pork cuts, which are similar in fat to a skinless chicken breast. The Beef Checkoff people also have tempting tips for low-fat cuts, marinades and more.
- Marinate First: A marinade is usually a tasty blend of herbs, an acid (lemon or lime juice, wine, vinegar), spices and a little olive oil. Marinating meats (lean beef, pork, chicken or turkey breast) in a blend of acids for as little as 30 minutes before grilling will boost flavor, make your meat more juicy and tender, and reduce (possibly cancer-causing) heterocyclic amines, which are formed during the charring process.
- Go Greens… and reds, yellows and oranges. All plant foods are naturally low in fat – and they’re cholesterol free. Keep in mind that vegetables and fruits – yes… I said fruits; pineapple, mango and peaches are delicious when grilled – are wonderful on the grill. The natural sweetness is enhanced when you caramelize your favorite fruit or veggie on a hot grill. Give grilled corn a chance. First, soak the un-husked ears in water for about 30 minutes. Then you grill for about 10 minutes, let cool until you can handle, pull down the husks and serve with olive oil and sea salt. Or thickly slice yellow and green zucchini and eggplant, then microwave uncovered in a Pyrex dish for 2 minutes, turning once. Marinate in a mixture of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and lemon juice for about 15 minutes, and grill a few minutes on each side. McCormick Seasonings has a great website with flavor suggestions for all of your favorite vegetable (and meats and fish) grills.
Check out The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics safe grilling techniques tip sheet for National Grilling Month. Make sure you start with a clean grill, thaw your meats, and cook to the correct temperature. You’ll also learn how long you can safely leave foods out on the picnic table, how to store leftovers properly—and how to reheat them, too!
Susan Burke March is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator, who as chief nutritionist for eDiets promotes the dietary health and wellbeing of consumers worldwide.