When the weather warms up, it’s time to hit the grill and start BBQing. If you’re looking to make some healthier changes in your life but don’t want to give up the grill, that’s okay. These tips will let you indulge in your favorite cooking method without worrying about losing traction on your healthy resolve.
So, grab the tongs, pull on your favorite apron, and get ready to enjoy the charcoaled flavor of the season.
1. Start Clean
Make sure the grill has been cleaned before you begin cooking to avoid transferring old food to new ones. Give your grill a good wipe down with paper towels to remove excess debris and any grill cleaning bristles that may have come loose.
2. Smart Proteins
To avoid the saturated fats, put the red meat aside and opt for a different protein. Fish, chicken breasts, lean ground chicken, or turkey are all great grilling options that give you the protein power your body craves. Put your chef skills to the test, and you’ll create meals that will make everyone forget about a burger or a steak.
If you find that you just can’t leave the beef and pork behind, look for cuts that are loins, round cuts, and choice or select grades of beef for healthier options. You can also make an effort to remove excess fat from the meats by cutting them out first and letting the fats drip away from the food.
3. Watch the Drip
Protein-rich foods create heterocyclic amines when they’re exposed to high heat or flames. On top of that, the smoke that results contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Both of these chemicals have been linked to cancer.
Prevent this by cooking your foods longer at a lower temperature or line the grill with foil with holes to catch and funnel the drips.
4. A Deck of Cards
If your idea of a good steak on the grill is Flintstone sized, this tip is just for you. A healthy portion of meat is about the size of a deck of cards, that’s just about three ounces.
To round out your meal and keep you satisfied, load up on grilled vegetables, and reap the health rewards they provide.
5. Seasoned Proteins
Cut back on the salt you use on your protein by keeping rubbing spices handy or having a couple of quick and healthy marinade recipes. Most spices don’t have any calories, and you can customize your marinade to suit your dietary needs and tastes.
6. Keep Them Separated
Keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood away from any vegetables and other foods that you’re grilling. Raw foods can contaminate other foods, even on the grill.
7. Colorful Kebabs
Adding fruits and vegetables is no doubt a big part of your new healthy living goal and kebabs are an easy way to make that happen. Pick the brightest colored vegetables you can think of. Some examples are peppers, tomatoes, asparagus, broccoli, zucchini, eggplant, squash, and carrots.
You may find that you enjoy the vegetables so much that the protein becomes secondary.
8. Salad as a Side
Skip the potato salad and the macaroni salad and pick a fresh green leaf salad, a bean salad, or a fruit salad instead. The sides often add just as many, if not more, calories and fat than the main course. Learning to select side dishes and salads that are healthy can make a huge difference.
9. Better Buns
Skip those buns that are soft as a cloud and full of calories and carbs. If you need a bun for your BBQ, look for whole grain options that add extra fiber and flavor. You’ll find that these buns perfectly complement your food and will make you feel more satiated, so you’re less likely to splurge on s'mores later.
If you really want to push yourself to be healthier, then skip the bun altogether. Lettuce leaves make a great wrap for burgers, brats, hot dogs, and sandwiches. Or you can learn to eat a naked burger and savor the flavor of the meat, and skip all the empty calories of a bun.
11. Skip the S'mores
This tip may sound blasphemous to some, but s'mores are a very unhealthy treat. While you deserve a treat once in a while, it shouldn’t be a regular part of your BBQ agenda.
12. Pick a Peach
Give yourself a fresh, new dessert by learning how to grill fruits and turn them into your dessert. Natural sugars in a lot of fruits caramelize when they’re heated, which gives them a more intense flavor and a richness that’s totally decadent.
Learning which spices to sprinkle on them while they bake adds a new layer of taste. Some great fruits for grilling include peaches, apples, pears, pineapples, and figs.
There’s no reason to give up your good intentions when summer rolls around. There’s also no reason to give up your grilling, in fact, grilling can be a really healthy way to prepare your foods, as long as you’re selecting the right foods.
The best way to stay on track when you BBQ is to learn how to eat different proteins, stick to a deck of card sized portion, and season or marinade them to cut down on the salt you use. If you can, avoid the bun or switch to a healthy whole grain bun or lettuce wrap.
Put your grilling focus on more vegetables in your main course and grilled fruits as a dessert. The USDA recommends that at least half of your plate be filled with fruits and vegetables while only a quarter of it should be filled with proteins.
When it comes to sides, treating them as secondary and unimportant often leads to bad choices. Think about what you’re serving as a side and make sure that it’s full of nutritional benefits rather than fats, salt, sugar, and other items you really don’t want to eat.
A little practice and some thoughtful planning, and suddenly you’ve turned a BBQ into a healthy celebration of food and flavor.
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