Summer is the season of barbecues and cooking out – an all-American tradition that brings together family, friends, and food! With the 4th of July right around the corner, it's the perfect time to fire up the grill if you haven't already.
When you do it right, grilling results in a flavorful, juicy product that can't be replicated. It's a quick and easy way to cook lean meat, veggies, fruit, sandwiches, or even garlic bread. What's more, we give grilling two thumbs up because it doesn't require adding a lot of extra fat or salt, making it an excellent cooking method.
Think that burgers and brats are your only options when cooking on the barbie? Think again! Mix it up this summer and use your grill to cook some new, healthy meals. It’ll be a nice change from the usual barbecue grub!
One of the simplest grilled meals is marinated chicken breasts. The breast is the leanest part of the chicken, so it is a great protein choice. Cut the breasts into 3-4 ounce portions (about the size of your palm) and let them marinate in the refrigerator for at least an hour before cooking.
You can make a homemade marinade in your own kitchen, buy a low-sodium marinade at the store, or simply use some low-fat Italian dressing. If you don’t have the time to marinate, try a salt-free rub or simply season the chicken with your own blend of dried herbs, spices, and freshly ground pepper.
After marinating, simply grill the chicken breasts at medium-high heat. You'll want to flip them at least once so they cook through, but you'll know they’re done when a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat reads at least 165⁰F. Serve your chicken with a side of grilled vegetables and some whole wheat garlic bread. You can also try topping it with some fresh fruit salsa, pico de gallo, or eat it with some barbecue sauce or Dijon mustard.
Fish filets are another light and lean option. Fish typically cooks even faster than poultry or meat, so dinner can be ready in no time.
When choosing fish at the store, make sure you buy a filet that is on the thicker side so that it won’t fall apart or fall between the grates when you try to flip it. Some good ideas are thick cut salmon, cod, halibut, or thick flounder.
To prevent the fish from sticking on the grates, lightly brush the filets with olive oil before cooking. While your filets cook, add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice for extra flavor. You'll know your fish is done when your thermometer reads least 145⁰F, or when the filet is opaque and flakes when you touch it with a fork.
Tofu is also a lean, vegetarian protein option. You can usually buy tofu from the store in a block. Cut the block into thick slabs or “steaks”, and marinate it similar to how you would marinate chicken. (You probably don't need to marinate it quite as long, 30 minutes or so will work.) Then, place it on an oiled grill rack. Cook it on medium heat, and baste it with marinade as it cooks.
Tofu has a mild taste, and takes on the flavor of whatever it is cooked with. You'll know it's done when it begins to brown. Serve up your grilled tofu with a side of grilled veggies and brown rice.
You may not have the time to marinate meat or fish but you need to get dinner on the table. If that’s the case, check out the All-Purpose Blend, a recipe from our consumer magazine Diabetes Forecast. This is a rub that you can make in advance and have on-hand to season chicken breasts, lean cuts of beef such as sirloin or porterhouse, pork loin chops, fish, or even tofu before grilling.
Tired of steamed veggies? Try grilling them for a whole new flavor. Grilled vegetables make a great side dish or even main dish. Choose from sliced zucchini, yellow squash, mushrooms, eggplant, bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, corn on the cob, or even asparagus spears. Brush the vegetables lightly with olive oil. Then, throw them on the grill and grill both sides until they begin to brown.
Fill a sandwich or wrap with fresh grilled veggies or add them to a pasta or rice dish. Check out our Grilled Vegetable Pizza, Grilled Vegetable Napoleon or Grilled Veggie Wrap. Both of these recipes showcase grilled summer vegetables!
We say to save candies, cookies, and other sweets for special occasions, but fruit is an every-day treat that you can work into your meal plan. Try grilling peaches that have been cut into wedges, nectarine halves, or pineapple wheels. These make a great dessert, and go perfectly with the barbecue theme!
If you are looking for a fun foodie dessert recipe, try our Grilled Fruit Salad with Chocolate Drizzle.
Kabobs are a fun, easy meal that allows you to fit your lean meat, non-starchy vegetables and fruit all on one skewer. Always make sure you soak wooden skewers for at least 20 minutes before putting any food on them to prevent them from burning when on the grill.
While the skewers are soaking, cut up your favorite veggies and/or meat into chunks. Then, thread them in alternating order onto the skewers. You can get creative by mixing and matching your veggies, meats, and fruit. Your options are endless:
Pick from your favorite non-starchy veggies: bell peppers (any color), onion, mushrooms, summer squash, or tomatoes
Pick from your favorite meat or lean protein: tofu, chicken, lean beef, shrimp, or scallops
If you want to add some fruit, try: peaches, nectarine, apples, pineapple, even avocado
Also, when threading food, use two skewers per kabob. This will prevent the food on the skewers from turning when you are trying to flip them on the grill.
Believe it or not, you can also use your outdoor grill to toast bread. Heat some olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, then throw in a few cloves of minced garlic and saute for 1-2 minutes. Brush both sides of whole wheat bread lightly with the garlic and oil. Then, place bread on the grill and watch closely to prevent it from burning. Flip it once to get grill marks on both sides.
Making sandwiches for dinner? Toss them on the grill to heat them up and make it a Panini night.
For those of us who prefer to stick to traditional barbecue food, the best options are burger patties made from 93% lean ground beef or lean ground turkey. You can also throw store-bought or homemade veggie burgers or black bean burgers on the grill as well.
by Linda Gassenheimer
Do you love healthy, flavorful meals —but hate spending hours in the kitchen? Finish cooking in record time! This book has handy shopping lists, quick tips, & more than 120 incredible recipes.
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