How often do you grill? If you love grilling, then you probably already know that it’s a great way to cook food without using much oil or fat.
Grilled foods tend to taste better too, or at least that’s what most people say! Grilled foods contain fewer calories and cholesterol compared to other cooking methods, so long as you are choosing the right foods to grill and you are preparing them correctly.
Of course, we can often gravitate towards cooking unhealthy foods on the grill, filling them with all sorts of ingredients that massively increase calorie intake. Sure, it’s tasty, but it may not necessarily be the best thing for your health!
What if we told you that there was a way to eat healthy while also partaking in your grilling hobby? Today, we’re going to dive into everything you need to know about healthy eating on the grill. We’ll cover:
- What foods are best to grill for your health
- Tips for making grilled foods healthier
- And so much more!
If you want to learn more about how to make healthy choices when you’re grilling, keep reading!
The Benefits Of Grilled Food
Grilling is one of those things that everyone loves. It’s fun, the results taste amazing, and it’s easy to prepare and cook the food. But did you know that grilling is actually good for you? In fact, it has many benefits that will help you live a longer, happier life. Here are just some of the reasons why grilling is such an awesome option for cooking:
You Can Cook More Than Just Meat
You don’t have to stick to meat when you grill. There are tons of different types of fruits and vegetables that you can grill as well. For example, you can grill zucchini, bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, eggplant, squash, tomatoes, potatoes, and even garlic! This means that you can enjoy delicious meals while still getting your five a day.
We hardly need to tell you that there are a lot of benefits to getting more fruits and vegetables into your diet. For instance, you may be able to reduce your blood pressure, prevent certain diseases and you can keep your blood sugar levels more stable. So, if you’re looking to add variety to your meals, try grilling some veggies instead of sticking to meats.
Grilling Is Easy
One of the biggest reasons why people choose to grill is because it’s super easy. You don’t have to spend hours preparing ingredients before you start grilling. All you need to do is throw whatever you want onto the grill and let it cook. You don’t have anything else to worry about except enjoying the meal.
One of the most main reasons why people choose to use their grills is because grilling is a lot of fun. When you’re using your grill, you get to see what’s happening behind the scenes as you cook, unlike when you’re cooking in an oven.
You can watch the food as it cooks and you can smell the aroma wafting through the air. It’s a great way to relax and unwind after a busy day. If you want to, you can also have a grilling competition with your friends to see who’s the most competent griller of them all.
Will you claim that title? We bet with a bit of patience and practice that you’re more than capable!
You Get Better Flavor
When you grill, you get better flavor from your food. This is because the food doesn’t sit around for too long before being eaten. Instead, it gets cooked right away, which allows the flavors to really shine through. Plus, you’ll notice that grilled foods tend to taste less greasy or fatty than other methods of cooking.
You Can Make Delicious Meals With A Few Simple Ingredients
Grilling isn’t just limited to meat. You can make tasty dishes with only a few simple ingredients. For example, you could make a salad by tossing together romaine lettuce, red onion, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, avocado, and feta cheese.
Or, you could make an appetizer by topping slices of bread with smoked salmon, cream cheese, and sliced strawberries. These are just two examples of how you can incorporate healthy side dishes into your cookout. As you can see, it’s not just about the meat that you cook.
It’s about the sides, the appetizers and more. Even without appetizers though, you can still make plenty of delicious meals with just one or two key ingredients, like turkey burgers or skewer kebabs.
You Save Money
Cookouts aren’t cheap. However, if you’re planning on hosting a big party, you might find yourself spending a lot of money on catering services if you choose not to do the cooking yourself. Luckily, you can save a ton of money by simply grilling at home! There’s also nothing quite like home cooked food to really get a party started.
You’re Spending Time Outdoors
Most of the time, when you are grilling you are spending time outside. You’re getting fresh air, breathing in the smells of nature, and relaxing. Not to mention, you’re doing something productive and beneficial for your body. Spending time outdoors and eating tasty foods – what could be better?
Tips for Healthy Grilling
1. Pick the Perfect Protein
If you’re looking to lose weight or just eat more healthily, then you should be focusing on lean proteins such as chicken breast or fish fillets. Lean proteins contain less fat and calories than other types of proteins. Protein also helps to keep you feeling full for longer.
So why should you be cooking lean proteins and fish instead of red meat? Well, red meat contains high levels of saturated fats and cholesterol, which can increase your risk of heart disease. Fish on the other hand has lots of omega 3 fatty acids, which help protect against cardiovascular diseases.
So, when you’re choosing your protein, think about whether you’d rather have a steak or a piece of fish. There’s nothing wrong with having one or two pieces of red meat when you are enjoying your grilling session, but lean proteins are certainly the healthier option for you.
Here are your main lean protein options when grilling:
Chicken Breast And Poultry
Chicken breast is an excellent choice for your next barbecue. The problem is that many people are intimidated by grilling chicken breasts.
But, this shouldn’t stop you from trying them out. In fact, there are several ways in which you can prepare your chicken breasts so that they turn out perfectly every time. Some potential ideas include making chicken kebabs. You could also swap your classic beef burgers for some savory turkey burgers.
Your lean chicken will also taste a lot better if you marinate it in advance. We’ll dive into marinating a little later on in this article!
You don’t need to go far to find great tasting fish. Salmon, tuna, cod, trout, mackerel, and even sardines are all good choices. If you want to grill something a bit different, try using a whole fish. This way, you can enjoy the flavor of the fish while also getting a nice dose of vitamins and minerals.
There are many benefits to eating fish. Not only does it provide a number of essential nutrients, but it’s also low in calories and fat. The best thing about fish is that in most cases, it doesn’t require any additional preparation before being put onto the grill. Just season it well and throw it on. That’s it. No muss, no fuss.
2. Make Your Portions The Right Size
When you’re at home, you probably know how much food you need to eat each day. But, when you’re grilling, you may not always realize exactly how much you’re consuming.
This is especially true if you’re sharing the meal with others. It’s easy to end up overeating because you’re simply too busy to count calories.
To avoid overeating, make sure you’re taking regular breaks between meals. This will allow you to take stock of what you’ve eaten and give yourself enough time to properly digest your food.
You should also make sure that you are eating the correct portion sizes. How do you do this? By measuring your food.
For example, if you’re planning on serving three people, then you would aim to serve approximately 300 grams of food per person. This means that you would cook roughly nine servings of chicken.
If you’re unsure of the right amount, then you should start small. For example, if you’re new to grilling, then you might consider starting off with just one chicken breast. As you get more confident, you can slowly add more chicken to your plate.
You can also measure your food portions using your hands.
The simplest way to create the correct portion size, however, is to use smaller plates to help you to eat less.
When it comes to protein, you should be aiming to have around 3 ounces. It’s best to avoid eating more than 6 ounces of protein in a meal. This may not sound like much but remember – protein is very filling. Likewise, you should also be making side dishes like salads that will help to keep you full.
3. Give It A Soak Or Rub
Before you begin cooking, you should ensure that your meat has been prepped correctly. This includes giving it a good soaking or rubbing down.
Your meat will taste a whole lot better if it has been prepared using a soak or a rub. It’s also healthier because it will allow you to use a lot less salt. It’s very simple to do, too.
To start, getting some marinade ready – this can be any marinade of your choosing, depending on the flavor that you want to get. Grab about half a cup of this marinade, or alternatively you can use 1 tablespoon of a spice of your choosing for every pound of food that you intend to cook.
Cover the meat in question with the rub or spice, then get to cooking as needed or allow it to soak for a certain amount of time – sometimes this may be overnight. You can make your own spices or rubs too with unique flavors that you have invented, so it may be fun to play around with it.
Just make sure that you aren’t reusing rubs or marinades after they have been touched by raw meat for your own safety.
4. Add Color
Think about your favorite fruits and vegetables. Now rejoice – you can grill pretty much all of them! When combined with your favorite meats, fruits and vegetables can turn any dish into a showstopper. They’re especially great in kebabs.
But how do you incorporate colorful fruits and vegetables into your grilled food? Well, there are many ways. One way is to cut them up and place them on top of your meat before you put it onto the grill. Another option is to cut them up into bite-sized pieces and place them on skewers, creating yummy, flavorful kebabs.
We’ll dive into grilled fruits and vegetables a little more later on, but some spectacular options that you may want to consider include eggplant, corn, potatoes, onions, asparagus, avocado, bell peppers and more.
When cooking your fruits and vegetables on the grill, make sure that you are using a little bit of oil in order to ensure that they don’t stick to the grill. A grill basket can also be a handy thing to use since it will mean that the food isn’t directly in the path of the fire from the grill.
5. Say Bye To The Bad Fat
Fatty foods taste good, but they aren’t necessarily good for you. Thankfully, you can often remove a lot of the bad fat from your lean protein before you start cooking. For example, when grilling chicken breasts, you can always take off the skin.
You can also try removing the excess fat from other types of proteins such as fish and steak. If you’re having trouble doing this yourself, you can ask your butcher to do it for you when you are purchasing the meat. However, you should know that removing the fat won’t make the protein taste any different in most cases.
So while it might seem like a waste of money to pay someone else to do something that you could easily do yourself, it really isn’t. In fact, it’s actually cheaper than buying pre-cut steaks and chicken breasts. It also saves you time, which allows you to give more attention to the fun part – the cooking process!
Some fats are going to be necessary of course, such as the oil that you use to cook. In this case, it’s a matter of buying healthy cooking oil. It’s also a good idea to ensure that the fat is dripping off the food while you are cooking – it shouldn’t be lingering on the food. It’ll taste better like this too.
6. Let The Simple Grilled Goodness Shine Through
You may be tempted to smother your meat in every spice or marinade imaginable, but it’s always best to keep it simple. Try to minimize the amount of sugary condiments and heavy dressings that you use, as it will make the dish much healthier.
Sometimes all you need is some basic seasoning, such as some lemon or lime squirted onto your lean meat. You can even add a few drops of hot sauce if you’d like. This will help bring out the natural flavors of your meat without overpowering them.
If you have an abundance of fresh herbs on hand, then feel free to chop them up and sprinkle them over your meat. This can go well with a variety of meats, including beef, pork, lamb, poultry and seafood.
Ultimately, it’s best not to overload your food with sauces and condiments. Sometimes less is more.
7. Choose Healthier Sides
There’s nothing like some cole slaw, baked beans and macaroni when you’re enjoying grilled foods, but these foods aren’t especially good for you when they are bought directly from the store.
These foods are filled with sodium, saturated fat and sugars in the store. If you want to eat these foods, then it’s often best to create your own versions of these foods at home.
For starters, you can make your own coleslaw by mixing together shredded cabbage, carrots, celery, onions and mayonnaise.
You can also make your own baked beans by simply adding beans, salt, pepper and brown sugar into a pot of water and simmering until tender. Finally, you can whip up a batch of homemade pasta using whole wheat flour instead of white flour.
These dishes don’t require a lot of preparation time, so you can enjoy them whenever you want.
Alternatively you can cook other sides, like fruit salad, green salads or bean salads.
8. Make The Buns Whole Grain
If you’re looking for a healthy swap for your usual burger buns, it’s worthwhile to switch them with wholegrain burger buns. Wholegrain bread and buns come with a lot of benefits , including being lower in calories, carbohydrates and fat. They also contain fiber, vitamins and minerals.
Wholegrain buns contain no refined grains, preservatives or artificial additives. Just make sure that you buy the right ones. Even better – you could make your own wholegrain buns in advance!
What’s interesting to note is that you don’t actually have to use bread at all. You could make a burger using lettuce in place of the buns, for instance. This is ideal if you’re really trying to cut down on the calories. Play around with substitutes – you may find your new favorite meal in the process.
9. Grill Fruits For Dessert
Don’t gravitate towards the donuts for dessert, grill some fruits for dessert instead! Grilling fruits is a great way to get rid of any excess moisture, making them easier to consume. It’s also a really tasty way to enjoy your five a day!
Fruits And Vegetables That Are Great For Grilling
Tomatoes are a great choice for grilling. They’re easy to prepare and delicious. Simply cut off the ends, remove the skin and slice them into wedges. You can season them however you’d like. For example, you could put a little lemon juice, olive oil, garlic powder or cayenne pepper on top.
You can also enjoy grilled onions for dessert. Onions are a good choice for a grilled dessert because they taste good, have a wonderful crunch to them and can be cooked in a lot of different ways.
Bell peppers are a fantastic dessert to grill! They’re versatile and you can add whatever spices you’d like to them. You can even grill bell peppers alongside tomatoes. Bell peppers come with a lot of health benefits too, for instance they contain vitamin C and antioxidants, which are both good for you.
How about trying some zucchini as a grilled dessert? There are a lot of recipes out there that you can enjoy that incorporate zucchini, or you can eat it on its own.
Eggplants are a great option if you’re looking for something sweet to eat after your main grilled meal. You can either grill them alone or serve them with cheese.
However, you should avoid cooking them until they’re soft, otherwise they’ll lose their shape. Instead, cook them until they become tender but still hold their form. This will ensure that they keep their shape when served.
Grilled endives are tasty! It’s best to leave them unpeeled so that the bitterness doesn’t become overwhelming – unless you like the bitter taste! You can also add salt to them before grilling, which makes them taste great.
Grilled pineapple is perhaps one of the most popular fruits to grill for dessert. Pineapples are perfect for grilling because they’re naturally sweet, juicy and flavorful. You can also pair grilled pineapple with other fruits such as bananas.
Like pineapples, mangos are also a very sweet type of fruit that work great on the grill as a form of dessert. Mangoes are especially good when paired with chocolate. If you want to try this combination, simply chop up some chocolate bars and sprinkle them over the mango slices while they’re grilling.
10. Keep It Clean
It’s important to remember that you need to make sure that your grill is clean before using it again. Make sure that all the grease has been wiped away from the surface and that everything is free of food residue.
Also, make sure that you use a non-stick grill pan or grill plate to prevent any sticking issues.
Nobody likes cleaning down their grill after they have used it, but it’s important that you cook on a fresh surface the next time that you’re grilling. You don’t want old food and grime clinging to your food the next time that you cook!
How do you clean a grill? It’s usually best to consult your grill’s user manual to ensure that you are doing it correctly, but in most cases it’s fairly simple to do. All you need to do is wipe off the grill with a damp cloth, then rinse it thoroughly under running water. Then dry it completely with paper towels.
If you’ve got a stainless steel grill, you may need to take extra care to remove any burnt bits of food from it. You can use a brush to scrub at the spots where the food was cooked, but make sure that you don’t get any of the food stuck to the brush itself.
Make sure that if you are using a grill cleaner that you are using a product that will work with the material that your grill is made out of.
11. Grill Smart & Lean
It’s important that you structure your grilling session correctly. If you are going to grill meat, then it’s best to start off with the leanest cuts of meat first in order to reduce the amount of fat that drips into the grill. Start off with the chicken, lean beef and pork before moving onto the fattier meats.
You can always finish off by adding more fatty foods to your grilling session once you have finished cooking the leaner ones.
When grilling vegetables, it’s best to start with those that are less greasy, such as mushrooms and onions. This way you won’t be adding too much grease to your meals.
Marinating will add a lot to the taste of your grilled foods. Marinating helps to tenderize the meat so that it cooks evenly without burning. It also adds flavor to the meat, which makes it more enjoyable to eat.
There are many different types of marinades available, including:
- Soy sauce
- Olive oil
- Worcestershire sauce
Marinating has also been proven to reduce the number of HCAs when it is done before grilling, which are carcinogenic compounds produced during the cooking process.
There are a few things to remember when you are marinating, however. First of all, make sure that you follow the instructions for how long to leave the meat in the marinade. Some people like to let the meat marinate overnight, while others prefer to only marinate for 30 minutes.
Secondly, make sure that you keep an eye on the meat throughout the entire marination period. This will help to ensure that it is done correctly. When you are ready to go ahead and grill the meat, you should drain the excess liquid away from the meat.
For safety purposes, you should not be basting the food with the liquid that the meat was previously marinating in. Instead, you should pour this liquid away from the meat and discard it. You don’t want to be putting raw juices from the meat onto meat that you have already cooked. The best thing to do instead of this is to take some of the marinade and put it into a jar before you put the meat into it, so that it’s fresh for use.
Finally, make sure that you store the marinated meat properly after you have finished grilling. Store the meat in a refrigerator or freezer until you are ready to serve it, or serve it straight away if you are having a cookout. Any leftovers need to be stored appropriately.
13. Cut Down On The Grilling Time
You don’t need to be grilling for hours in most cases. Instead, you can grill the meat in smaller portions and it will take less time to cook. Alternatively you can also precook the meat in advance using your oven, and just add the finishing touches by putting it on the grill for the remainder of the time.
14. Flip It Good
It’s possible that you can reduce the number of HCAs in your food by flipping it often, too. Grab a spatula and some tongs and flip the food every now and again as it grills. This will also help to ensure that your cooking is more even, so it’s definitely worthwhile.
15. Skewer It
You will likely find that you will spend a lot less time grilling if you skewer your food. Simply put the small pieces of the things that you wish to grill onto a skewer, put the skewer on the grill and the whole thing will cook. Meats, fruits, vegetables and fish can all work really well on skewers, and it’s pretty easy to eat food that’s on skewers too which is an extra added bonus.
So there you have it! These are some of the ways that you can make grilling healthier for you and your loved ones! We hope that your grilling experiences are even better now that you know how to make healthy foods on your grill!