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Cooking Healthy Foods on the Grill

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Updated January 31, 2014

Don't limit yourself to hot dogs, hamburgers and steaks - grilling can be a very healthful method for cooking a variety of foods because you don't need to add extra fats. Fish, poultry, vegetables and even some fruit can be prepared on your outdoor grill.

Tips for Healthy Grilling

  • Keep your outdoor grill clean and well-maintained.
  • Wash the grate each time you use your grill or use grill liners.
  • Keep perishables in the refrigerator or cooler until cooking time.
  • Keep raw meats separated from cooked foods and fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Cook meats to the proper temperature - use a meat thermometer to be sure.
  • Don't overcook your meats and remove any charred black portions.
  • Trim excess fat before cooking to reduce the risk of flare-ups that burn the meat.
  • Choose lean cuts of beef, fish, poultry or game meats instead of hot dogs, high fat hamburgers and sausages.
  • Marinate meats before grilling to reduce the formation of hetrocyclic amines (from charring) and to add flavor.
  • Add sauces at the end of the cooking time to prevent burning.
  • Grill vegetables such as potatoes, zucchini, peppers and eggplant.

Here are a few of my grilled favorites:

For a healthier version of French fries, I spray the inside of an old metal cake pan with a non-stick cooking spray, then scatter thinly cut strips of raw potatoes in the pan. I add a little salt and pepper and place the pan on the grill over a low flame. I'll go back and turn the potatoes occasionally until they are tender and ready to serve.

My favorite way to cook fish is to place a fillet on a large sheet of aluminum foil with a few fresh herbs, a little garlic, some lemon slices and a splash of white wine. I carefully fold the aluminum foil into a packet and place it on the grill and cook until the fish is done.

I love grilled sweet corn, and it's so easy to prepare. Take a few ears of corn with the husks still on and remove the silk tassels. Soak the ears of corn in water for about 30 minutes, then place the corn, husks and all, on the grill for five to ten minutes. Pull back the husks and serve with a light coating of butter and a little salt.

Finally, I grill pineapple slices for dessert. This one is very simple. I buy a can of sliced pineapple and place the slices on the grill and cook them until they are heated through, just a couple of minutes. Serve the pineapple rings with a little bit of frozen yogurt and a sprinkling of nuts.

More Healthy Grilling Ideas

Grilled Tomatoes - tomatoes are a great source of vitamins and an a phytochemical called lycopene

Grilled Squash - squash has a sweet flavor and loads of vitamin A. Squash can be grilled just as easily as it can be baked in the oven.

How to Grill Tuna - tuna is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids and it's easy to cook on the grill.

Marinades - marinades add flavor and keep your meats healthy when you grill.

Sources:

United States Department of Agriculture. "Barbecue and Food Safety." Updated April 2007.

Koutros S, Cross AJ, Sandler DP, Hoppin JA, Ma X, Zheng T, Alavanja MC, Sinha R. "Meat and meat mutagens and risk of prostate cancer in the Agricultural Health Study." Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2008 Jan;17(1):80-7.

Santarelli RL, Pierre F, Corpet DE. "Processed meat and colorectal cancer: a review of epidemiologic and experimental evidence." Nutr Cancer. 2008 Mar-Apr;60(2):131-44.

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