“Okay. Summer time is here and I love BBQ. Healthy and tasty ideas please. Thank you” says Enlightened Eater Facebook fan Donald Stokes.
I’m with you, Donald, both in terms of loving summertime and firing up my barbecue! It is indeed my favourite season, especially as I am an avid gardener (mainly heirloom tomatoes) and also adore local summertime treats.
Here are five healthy grilling ideas but stay tuned over the next few weeks as I will have more coming up.
• Give vegetables a starring role
During barbecue season, while salads are common fare, cooked vegetables are often left off the menu. A few grilled ones may be included but when you consider that nutrients such as carotenoids – the colourful pigments such as beta carotene and lycopene – are better absorbed when the vegetables are cooked, why not load up your barbecue with veggies. It will also help you avoid large portions of meat. Be sure to prepare extra for other meals as well. Grilled eggplant, peppers, onions or zucchini can be delicious additions to your lunch sandwich or the foundation of a marinated salad for lunch or dinner the next day.
• Count on your grill for dessert
If you’re looking for a sweet dessert to end your meal, pineapple, nectarines or peaches can be cooked directly on the grill. Serve them with some Greek yogurt or frozen yogurt and chopped toasted nuts. Or why not enjoy grilled fruit foil packets – combos such as berries or apples with a little lemon juice, cinnamon and a little brown sugar.
• Marinate your meat, fish and poultry
Marinades are wonderful for infusing flavour into your grilled foods but they’re even more important for your health. Research shows they significantly reduce the amount of cancer-causing compounds such as heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in barbecued muscle foods (meat, fish and poultry). Go global and mix up your ingredients. Use extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard and garlic for a Mediterranean menu or sodium-reduced soy sauce, rice vinegar, ginger, a splash of sesame oil and vegetable oil for a taste of Asia. For safety’s sake, marinate your foods in the refrigerator and if you want to use the remaining marinade to baste the food on the grill or serve as a sauce, be sure to boil it for a few minutes before doing so.
• Skewer your food
This is a great way to up your vegetable and fruit intake while keeping your meat in check. It’s also a super tactic for getting certain foods onto the menu. For example, while a plain piece of salmon might not appeal to a family member who is not very fond of fish, when the skewer is threaded with mango, onion and red pepper, it may make the grade. The same vegetable and fruit combo is also delicious with beef and can certainly make a small portion go further.
• Vary the centrepiece
Be adventurous. Instead of a tried and true beef burger, change up your offerings and go for a Portobello mushroom or fish burger or a grilled chicken breast sandwich. One trick I often use for keeping the chicken breast moist is to coat it lightly with a mixture of mayo and grainy Dijon mustard.
One advantage of cooking on the barbecue that differs from cooking on the stove is that it’s one time you can serve various options to different family members without being a short-order cook. If someone isn’t a fish lover, it’s easy to grill some for others while barbecuing another choice for the non-fish eater.
Do you have any favourite healthy grilling tips to share? Please do so in the comment section below.