In the summer, you want to kick back and enjoy the warm weather and longer days. No one wants to spend hours in the kitchen preparing meals. But do we have to sacrifice healthy eating for convenience? No way! Just go to the grill. It’s an easy, quick, flavorful way to cook with a bonus: healthy eating.
Start Lean to Stay Lean and Healthy
By choosing foods that are high in nutrients and full of flavor, you can get great-tasting, simple meals that are also healthy. Select lean cuts of meats and then use marinades that add extra flavor and keep meats moist and tender. Use olive oil with a citrus juice such as lemon or lime for an added health bonus and to reduce your risk of cancer. Flank steaks, chicken breasts, and center cut pork chops make excellent grilling choices.
Go Low-carb and Avoid Sugary Sauces
Unless they are covered with high-sugar sauces, meats are usually carb-free. Ketchup and regular barbeque sauce can have quite a lot of sugar. Try making your own seasoning rub for additional flavor or use sugar-free sauce.
Tips on Grilling Meat Properly
Hamburgers can be eaten with most of the usual fixings, but try to find low-carb versions of ketchup and relish. You can also eat hamburgers without the bun (knife and fork) or using large lettuce leaves or low carb tortillas to fold around them.
Hot dogs can be made in a similar way with low-carb tortillas rolled around the hot dog. Compare labels to find hot dogs with low-carb counts.
Grill the Perfect Hamburger
- Select the best meat.
Most burger authorities agree that the best, juiciest burgers are made from ground beef chuck, which is about 20 percent fat. Leaner meats can make a drier burger (although there are still ways to turn leaner meat into a good burger…read on for tips!). Adding a little olive oil to leaner cuts of beef such as 10 percent fat helps keep the burger juicy without the unhealthy type fat.
- Minimally handle the meat.
The heat from your hands begins to melt the fat and makes the patty too dense. Move it lightly from hand to hand and loosely make a patty ¾- to 1-inch thick (no thicker, or you’ll have to cook it too long).
- Don’t press down on the burgers when cooking.
Pressing down on the burgers during cooking makes for a denser burger and also squeezes the juices out of the meat. Don’t do it.
- Make an indentation in the top.
Have you noticed that your burgers tend to form rounded tops when cooking, causing the condiments to slide off? Great chefs found that by pushing down slightly in the center, creating a round area about ¼ inch lower than the surrounding meat, made the burger come out flat. Use the back of a spoon or bend your first two finger joints and use the flat surface between the knuckles of your index and middle fingers to make the indentation.
- Try different types of meats, or a combination.
Almost any kind of ground meat can be used to make burgers. You can even mix together different ones. Some interesting combos: pork with beef, chicken with lamb, or even buffalo with beef.
Don’t Forget the Vegetables
Fresh vegetables on the grill add wonderful color and flavor to your outdoor meal. You can use a grilling basket, grilling bag, grilling plate, or place them right on the grill. Baste firm vegetables like peppers, corn, eggplant or onions with olive oil (see recipes below).
Try sliced zucchini, tomatoes and carrots. If you don’t have a vegetable basket you can place them on heavy-duty foil and sprinkle with a little olive oil and seasoning. Just wrap them in foil and grill six to eight minutes or until vegetables are tender.
2 fresh garlic cloves, smashed
1/8 teaspoon pepper
¼ cup olive oil
4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 red pepper, cut into 1 inch chunks
1 yellow pepper, cut into 1 inch chunks
1 cup grape tomatoes
12 to 14 whole cleaned mushrooms
1 sweet onion, cut into 1 inch chunks
½ cup of slivered almonds (optional)
1 large zip lock bag
Rinse vegetable with plenty of water when appropriate or peal the skin when necessary. Toss the above in the zip lock bag, seal and marinate for at least 30 minutes at room temperature. Transfer vegetable to a grilling basket or grilling grid. If you don’t have a grilling basket or grid, use a disposable foil pan or wrap in aluminum foil.
Grill over medium heat about 10 to 12 minutes or until crisp-tender, turning occasionally. Cooking time will vary depending on your grill. Place grilled vegetables and sprinkle with fresh grated parmesan cheese and slivered almonds then serve. Yields about 6 servings.
Eggplant on the Grill
Wash and slice the eggplant about ¼ inch thick. Place on clean paper towel and let drain for about 10 minutes. Season them salt, pepper and garlic or other herbs and place on a hot grill until they are tender and brown, usually about 10 to 15 minutes.
Grill Fruit for a Great Dessert
Include fruit in your meal by making fruit kabobs and grilling them on low heat until the fruit is hot and slightly golden. Grilled pineapple and peaches are fantastic over a small scoop of frozen yogurt or low fat ice cream.
Need help getting in shape and losing weight this summer? Mercy Weight Management can help. Contact us for more information.