Nothing beats the ease, flavor, and experience of cooking over a blazing hot fire. But if you’re trying to eat a healthier diet, grilling can, well, backfire. There are the fatty meats, heavy sauces, and let’s not forget the tempting sides (we’re looking at you, baked beans). However, with a few smart tweaks, your grill can become the gateway to a healthier you. Here’s how.
Pick the right protein. Move over, steaks and burgers. Instead, select leaner options such as fish, skinless chicken, and lean ground turkey. Keep in mind that a healthy portion of meat is only 3 to 6 ounces, or about the size of a deck of cards.
Think beyond meat. Pack your grates with fruits and veggies. Experiment with different veggies for a variety of nutrients at each meal. Grilling fruits such as bananas, peaches, and pineapple makes for a delicious and healthy dessert.
Make time to marinate. Cooking meat at high temperatures causes chemicals to form that could increase your risk for cancer. But this doesn’t mean you have to shutdown your grill for the season. Marinating your meat before grilling significantly slashes the formation of these chemicals. A simple marinade—or even a squeeze of lemon or lime—is also a healthier option than slathering on heavy sauces that are often packed with salt and sugar.
DIY sides. Classic BBQ sides, such as coleslaw and potato salad, are loaded with fat, sodium, and sugar. Making your own means you control what goes into them. You can also replace traditional fare with a nutrient-packed green or bean salad.
Bring your cookout indoors. If the weather isn’t cooperating, use an air fryer. The high-tech kitchen appliance circulates air at a very high temperature to grill your food and uses very little oil.
Safety first. Germs that cause foodborne illnesses flourish in warmer weather. Throw out marinades when meat goes onto the grill. Always use a meat thermometer to make sure food reaches a safe temperature and then place cooked meat onto a clean plate.