Healthy Summer Grilling Tips and Ideas
Many Americans find it challenging to fill half their plate each meal with fruits and vegetables – a recommendation of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics encourages Americans to add both color and nutrients to 4th of July cookouts by grilling with a variety of healthy fruits and vegetables.
“Fill up on fewer calories with nutrient-rich, low-calorie produce,” says Christina Rollins, Registered Dietitian for Memorial Medical Center and spokesperson for the Illinois Dietetic Association. “It’s not only good for your waistline, but water-rich produce will also help keep you hydrated on hot summer days.”
A quick and easy way to pack nutrients into your grill-centered meal is to skewer marinated vegetables like red, yellow or orange bell peppers, mushrooms, eggplant, cherry tomatoes and onions into a tasty kabob. Simply brush the vegetables with olive oil and your favorite herbs and spices, and grill over medium heat; turning until marked and tender (about 12 – 15 minutes and 8 – 10 minutes for cherry tomatoes and pre-boiled potatoes). “For a sweet treat, grill cubed pineapple drizzled with a little honey, lime juice and pepper for about 4 minutes on each side,” says Rollins. “This can act as a dessert instead of indulging on other high fat alternatives.”
Summer squash like zucchini, patty pans and yellow crooknecks are other delicious options that you can stuff, bake, steam or grill:
- Grate squash as a replacement for angel hair pasta and top with tomato sauce; pack grated squash into meatloaf, muffins or quick breads.
- Place zucchini halves (cut length-wise) on the grill and heat until soft (about 15 minutes). Stuff with cooked quinoa or shredded chicken breast, flaked salmon or browned, lean turkey meat.
- Slice a variety of summer squash and toss with olive oil, minced garlic and rosemary sprigs and put into a vegetable grill basket and heat through until tender and flavorful.
Sweet potatoes add a splash of color and are loaded with beta-carotene – a carotenoid that is great for eye health and is an anti-oxidant, which can help keep your cells healthy:
- Slice a sweet potato, toss with olive oil add a pinch of salt, pepper and cayenne (if you like a spicy flavor). Place over a medium heat; turn each side after 10 minutes. Remove when crisp and browned (but take care not to char as they will not be as tasty).
- Cut into strips and bake for sweet potato fries. Sprinkle with garlic or onion powder for more flavor.
- Wrap a medium whole sweet potato in tin foil and place over medium heat, cover and let cook for 45 – 60 minutes. When done, top with salsa and a dollop of plain yogurt or a hint of brown sugar and freshly grated nutmeg.
For more information on healthy ways to enjoy summertime and to locate a registered dietitian nutritionist in your area, visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics at http://www.eatright.org
Christina Rollins, MS RD LDN CNSC
Clinical Dietitian III, Memorial Medical Center
Spokesperson, Illinois Dietetic Association