Fit Factor: Step up your Grilling Game this Summer

With summer just around the corner, we’ll soon be able to pull out those grills for our favorite outdoor meals. Whether you’ve got a taste for meat, fish, seafood, tofu or vegetables, grilling is one of the healthier cooking methods. Cooking food on a grill allows excess fat to drip away from the food, without losing the nutrients. But before you fire up the grill, always remember to scrub the grate with mild soap and warm water to remove the grill of preexisting charred food. Check out a few ideas for your summer barbecue below.

grilled_veggies_fit_factorEat All the Veggies

Have you ever noticed that vegetables fresh off the grill seem to be extraordinarily tasty? Grilling is an easy way to satisfy your 2-3 cups of daily vegetables, as recommended by CDC, not only because it tastes good, but because of its simplicity.[1] There is very little prep work and clean up necessary. Throw on a variety of fresh vegetables (particularly ones that are in season) to get plenty of vitamins and minerals. Smaller vegetables, which could fall through the grates if loose, can be seasoned, wrapped in tin foil and placed on the grill for a tasty side dish.

Marinate For Extra Flavor

Add a marinade to your meat, fish, tofu or vegetables to make it healthier and more flavorful. If using charcoal rather than gas, marinating food limits the development of potential carcinogens while grilling.[2] Meat typically needs to be soaked at least two hours in the marinade in order for it to absorb the full flavor. Fish and shellfish, however, should only marinate for 15 minutes to an hour, depending on the thickness of the fish. Soy products, like tofu, can marinate for 30 minutes to several hours.[3] Grocery stores offer a wide variety of bottled marinades to give your food the taste you desire. Making your own is super easy too, and it typically only requires a few ingredients – oil, an acidic liquid (vinegar, citrus juices, wine or yogurt, for example) and spices. Keep in mind to never reuse leftover marinade and make sure to keep food that is marinating in the refrigerator.

Diversify Your Protein

Similar to vegetables, grilling is a great way to eat a wide variety of protein. The CDC recommends 5 – 6 ounces of protein daily, and stresses the importance of eating from a selection of sources. There are always the popular protein choices for cookouts, like red meat and poultry but don’t overlook fish, seafood and products like tofu, tempeh and seitan.

Finish With Grilled Fruit

A warm piece of pineapple or peach fresh off the grill and caramelized to perfection is a dessert that cannot be forgotten. Not only is it delicious, but it’s a light, natural and healthy dessert. Stick to the fruits that are firm and barely ripe to be grilled – apples, pears and watermelon can all take the heat. For even more flavor, drizzle the fruit with honey or maple syrup.

Everyone has their own style of grilling, but it never hurts to branch out. Check out these recipes from the Mayo Clinic – they are simple, nutritious and super tasty!
Vegetarian Kebabs
Ingredients (serves 2):
8 cherry tomatoes
8 button mushrooms
1 small zucchini, sliced into 8 pieces
1 red onion, cut into 4 wedges
1 green bell pepper, seeded and cut into 4 pieces
½ cup fat-free Italian dressing
½ cup brown rice
1 cup water
4 wooden skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes, or metal skewers
Place the tomatoes, mushrooms, zucchini, onion and peppers in a sealed plastic bag. Add the Italian dressing and shake to coat the vegetables evenly. Marinate the vegetables for at least 10 minutes.
In a saucepan over high heat, combine the rice and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until the water is absorbed and the rice is tender, about 30 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl to keep warm.
Prepare a hot fire in a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill or broiler. Away from the heat source, lightly coat the grill rack or broiler pan with cooking spray. Position the cooking rack 4 to 6 inches from the heat source.
Thread 2 tomatoes, 2 mushrooms, 2 zucchini slices, 1 onion wedge, and 1 green and red pepper slice onto each skewer. Place the kebabs on the grill rack or broiler pan. Baste with leftover marinade. Grill or broil the kebabs, turning as needed, until the vegetables are tender, about 5 to 8 minutes.
Divide the rice onto 2 plates. Top with 2 kebabs and serve immediately.
Grilled Cod with Crispy, Citrus Salad
Ingredients (serves 2):
6 ounces cod
1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ cups shredded spinach
1 ½ cups shredded kohlrabi
1 cup shredded celery
1 ½ cups shredded carrot
2 tablespoons shredded fresh basil
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
¾ cup chopped red bell pepper
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon minced garlic
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Zest and juice of 1 lime
Zest and juice of 1 orange
1 cup grapefruit segments
½ cup orange segments
Spray a grill or broiler pan with cooking spray. Turn on grill or preheat broiler. Place cod onto grill or broiler pan and brush lightly with oil. Grill or broil 3 to 4 inches from heat for about 10 minutes – or until fish flakes easily with a fork. If using a food thermometer, fish should reach 145 F. Toss all remaining ingredients together in large bowl except for grapefruit and orange segments and cod. Divide salad between two plates. Top with cod and citrus pieces.