July is National Grilling Month
Grilling can be one of the healthiest ways to cook. It is also a great way to spend the summer enjoying the outdoors with family and friends! Here are some tips to make grilling and barbequing healthy and safe:
- Pick a lean protein. Lean meats like fish, skinless chicken breast and ground poultry are all healthier choices than beef and processed meats like hot dogs and sausage because they are lower in fat and sometimes sodium. The good fats in fish like salmon and trout actually have health benefits. If you do choose meat or pork, get “loin” or “round” cuts and “choice” or “select” grades of beef instead of “prime.”
- Smaller portions add variety. Smaller meat portions leave more room for vegetables and other sides on your plate.
- Add flavor with a marinade or rub. Marinating or rubbing spices on poultry, fish, and meat can add amazing flavor with the bonus of being able to use less salt. All you need is about ½ cup of marinade or 1 tablespoon of spice rub for each pound of food. Safety tip: never reuse marinade or rub after raw meat has touched it.
- Make it colorful. Just about all your favorite colorful fruits and veggies can be grilled, alone or in kebabs, giving them delicious flavor. The trick is to cut them into pieces that will cook quickly and evenly. Brush with a liquid oil to prevent sticking or use a grill basket to keep them out of the fire.
- Homemade condiments and side dishes. Try making your own healthier condiments. It is easier than you think! And sometimes, a simple squeeze of lemon or lime is all you need. Swap traditional store-bought baked beans, coleslaw, and potato salad – which can have a lot of saturated fat, sodium, and sugars – for healthier homemade versions. Or change it up and do a colorful bean salad, fruit salad, or leafy green salad.
- Choose whole grain buns. Whole-grain buns and breads will complement your healthy feast with extra fiber, flavor, and texture. If you’re watching your calories and carbs, try an open-faced burger or lettuce wrap.
- Grill dessert. The natural sugars in fruit caramelize in the high heat, giving them extra sweetness and flavor. Try sliced apple, pear, or pineapple or halved bananas, figs, nectarines, peaches, or plums.
- Separate raw and cooked foods. To prevent food poisoning, do not use the same platter, cutting board, or utensils for raw and cooked foods. Harmful bacteria present in raw meat and poultry and their juices can contaminate cooked food.
- Keep cold food cold. Keep meat and poultry refrigerated until ready to use. Only take out what will immediately be placed on the grill. When using a cooler, keep it out of the direct sunlight by placing it in the shade or shelter. Avoid opening the lid too often, which lets cold air out and warm air in. Pack beverages in one cooler and perishables in a separate cooler.
- Keep hot food hot. After cooking meat and poultry, keep it hot until served. Keep cooked meats hot by setting them to the side of the grill rack, not directly over the coals where they could overcook. At home, the cooked meat can be kept hot in an oven set at approximately 200°F.