Six Heart Healthy Grilling Tips

Melanie Thomassian Health Pro
  • Summer normally brings lots of barbecues and family get togethers, which is wonderful. But, does firing up the grill mean fatty burgers and hot dogs to you?


    We all know these foods aren't "heart healthy." So, how can you enjoy your grill in the summer, but stay healthy at the same time.


    Here are 6 healthy grilling tips to help you out this summer: 


    1. Choose lean meats 

    Pay attention to the labelling on any meat you purchase from the supermarket. Most will display a fat to lean meat ratio. For example, ground beef that is labeled 80/20 means the meat is 80% lean, and 20% fat. However, you can find meats that are leaner than this.


    Look out for ground beef or ground turkey that is 95/5, as this is the leanest meat you can find. If your ground beef labels do not have the fat content listed, look for ground sirloin, which is very lean. Next to this would be ground round meat, and then ground chuck meat.


    Also, keep in mind that lean meats cook a bit faster than regular meats. So, watch the grill closely, or you may end up with some charred meat!


    2. Go for fish

    The barbecue shouldn't be for red meat only. Seafood tastes great on the grill too. We all know how important fish is in a healthy diet, particularly those rich in omega-3 fatty acids to help protect the heart.


    So, try grilling halibut, scallops or shrimp. Salmon and tuna are also really delicious grilled. 



    3. Serve a vegetarian option

    Traditionally, mostly people serve meat only at barbecues, but have you considered serving a vegetarian option? This is a great way to make sure you're eating a bit healthier.


    The standard option would be a veggie burger. But, you could be a little different and instead grill some extra-firm tofu, which works really well on a skewer with some vegetables. Another option is to serve barbecued slices of halloumi cheese.



    4. Easy on oils and butter

    You don't need a lot of oil or butter to bring out the flavor of your grilled foods. The intense heat of the grill does that for you.


    If you want to add some extra flavors, try rubbing in some spices before you put the meat on the grill.


    5. Healthy marinading

    Marinaded meat and fish tastes great, but do you know what's in your marinade? If you're using a store-bought sauce, it may be very high in sugar and fats. A simple solution is to make your own marinade.


    For most meats, you can simply use a blend of oil (rice bran oil is a good choice), lemon juice, garlic, and herbs to really bring out the flavor of your meats. Another option is to mix up a marinade using a little honey and some mustard for chicken. 


    6. Add some vegetables

    I love grilled vegetables - they're so easy to prepare, and taste delicious. And, vegetable and meat kebabs are a great way to add more vegetables to your barbecue menu.


    Zucchini, eggplant, cherry tomatoes and bell peppers work really well. Just thread them onto a wooden skewer, alternating with firm pieces of seafood or meat. Then brush with a small amount of marinade before grilling.


    One thing to remember when barbecuing, it that you shouldn't char your meats, as this is thought to increase the risk for certain types of cancer.


    What are your favorite healthy barbecue ideas?


    Melanie Thomassian is a registered dietitian, and author of Visit her blog for more healthy eating tips.



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Published On: July 21, 2010