Healthy Grilling 101

Who doesn’t love a good barbecue? While over half of Americans cook outside all year long, May is the month that many Americans fire up their grill for the first time. Memorial Day is often considered to be the unofficial “kickoff” to the grilling season. But, did you know that Mother’s Day is the fifth most popular outdoor cooking day of the year? Grilling can turn the hassle of food preparation into a social event. Just the smell of food cooking on a grill awakens our senses in anticipation of a delicious feast. Get inspired for a great grilling season with these 5 simple tips.

  1. Start with the perfect protein.Whether you select fish, poultry, or meat, be sure to consider portion sizes. When planning your meals, figure 4 to 6 ounces of protein per adult. Balance the protein on your plate with plenty of healthy sides. Take advantage of your time and effort by preparing extra proteins that can easily be repurposed into other meals, like this Chicken and Quinoa Buddha Bowl or a Chicken Mushroom Spinach Wrap.
    • Keep an eye out for saturated fats. Look for “lean” or “extra lean” protein options and try to avoid “prime” cuts. Buy skinless poultry or remove the skin before cooking. Trim away any visible fat on meat. Don’t forget to visit the fish mongers at McCaffrey’s Market. They can provide suggestions – from what fish to prepare on the grill to preparation tips.
    • Marinades and rubs add amazing flavor to protein and can help to reduce carcinogens by creating a protective barrier between the meat and the heat of the grill. Use about ½ cup of marinade or 1 tablespoon of spice rub for each pound of food. And, to prevent foodborne illness, never reuse marinade or rub after raw meat has touched it!
  2. Add lots of color. Just about any vegetable can be grilled, from asparagus to zucchini. The same goes for fruits. The natural sugars in fruits and vegetables caramelize in the high heat, giving them extra sweetness and flavor. Be sure to cut produce into uniform pieces that will cook quickly and evenly.
    • Add fruits and vegetables into kabobs or cook using a grill basket or grill mat. Veg out with this tasty Sweet and Sour Chicken Kabab recipe.
    • Try grilling sliced apples, pears, or pineapple or halved bananas, figs, nectarines, peaches or plums. Get obsessed with this delicious Grilled Peach Salad.
  3. Keep it simple. Don’t drown your barbecue in salty sauces, sugary condiments, or heavy dressings. Try making your own healthier options, like a fruit salsa or a yogurt dip. Sometimes, a simple squeeze of lemon or lime does the trick.
  4. Choose healthier sides and go for the whole grains. Swap the traditional barbecue fare like baked beans, coleslaw, macaroni salad, and potato salad for healthier homemade versions. Enjoy a delicious fiber filled Farro Bean Salad or a colorful and tasty Chickpea and Tomato Salad. Grab some whole-grain buns and breads to complement your healthy feast.
  5. End on a clean note. Clean your grill regularly to avoid the build up debris left on the grill grates. It is easier to remove debris when the grill is hot, so after preheating, use a wire grill brush on your grill rack to clean off charred debris from prior meals. Scrape again immediately after use. Removing leftover burnt pieces of food stuck to the grill prevents burning, smoking and bitter flavors the next time you use it.

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