Tips to Healthy Up Your Grill This Summer

Health Professional
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When the sun comes out, it's officially cookout season. Whether you're preparing for a Memorial Day, Fourth of July, or just-for-fun barbecue this summer, use these tips to enjoy heart-healthy grilled foods that are safe and delicious.


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Select the Right Protein

When you think cookout, you probably think about hot dogs and burgers. But healthier protein choices, per the American Heart Association, include skinless poultry, and fish. If you just can't say no to red meat on this special cookout occasion, go for the leanest cus possible.

No matter what meat you choose, all visible fat should be trimmed prior to grilling. You may also want to use a rack so fat drips away from food.

Select cuts of meat that are labeled loin, round, choice, or select. You may also use leaner group chicken or turkey in place of traditional red meat burgers. Avoid prime grade beef which has more marbling (i.e. fat).


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Opt for Fish This Summer

Grilled fish is tasty and good for you. Fish is rich in heart healthy omega-3s, according to the American Heart Association. For the healthiest options, go for salmon, trout, and herring.


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Use the Right Seasonings and Sauces

The seasonings and sauces you use can make a world of difference, both for taste and your healt. Marinate meats, poultry, and fish for amazing flavor. Try a ½ cup of marinade or a tablespoon of spice rub per pound of meat.

Use spices, such as chili powder, cinnamon, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, basil, rosemary, thyme, paprika, or rosemary. Avoid salty seasonings like teriyaki, barbecue, and soy sauce.

And remember--never reuse marinades from raw meats.


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Marinate to Reduce Carcinogens

Researchers at Kansas State University marinated steaks in different mixtures of herbs and spices. The marinades reduced carcinogens up to 87%.

Why this happened is not yet clear. One possibility is that the marinade may create a protective barrier between meat proteins and grill heat and/or the antioxidants in the marinade may play a role. Either way, consider a marinade this summer and reap the benefits.


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Keep Your Grill Clean

The cleanliness of your grill is key. Cleaning the grill reduces the buildup of carcinogens left on grill grates. Don't forget ot scrub your grill with a brush before and after use.


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Avoid Smoked and Burnt Meat

Fat drippings can create extra smoke during grilling, leading to increased carcinogens, according to the National Cancer Institute. Selecting lean meats equals less fat, less smoke, and a healthier meal.

The faster foods cook, the less risk of charring. Charred meats also contain more carcinogens.

Additionally, you should avoid cooking past goal internal temperatures of 165 degrees for poultry, 160 degrees for ground meat, and 145 degrees for steaks.


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Add Veggies to the Grill

Summer cookouts aren't all about the meats. Make your veggies the star! You can grill just about any vegetabl,e whether alone or on a kabab. Try asparagus, peppers, onions, potatoes, zucchini, squash, mushrooms, and more.

Include them in a heart-healthy marinade of herbs and spices for mouthwatering flavor. Top grilled vegetables with fresh basil or cilantro for added appeal.

Be sure to cut vegetables into pieces that cook quickly and evenly, and use a healthy oil to prevent sticking and/or a grill basket.


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Don't Forget the Fruit

Many types of fruit make a great grill addition, such as pineapple slices, peaches, plums, and nectarines. Natural fruit sugars caramelize in the heat leaving you with great flavors… and let’s not forget all the vitamins, minerals, and fiber your body needs!


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Use Whole-Grain Buns

Instead of white hamburger and hot dog buns, select whole grains for extra fiber, texture, and flavor.

Healthy choices include whole wheat, oats, whole rye, and buckwheat.