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Enjoy a healthier barbecue with these easy-to-follow tips.

Grilling is a staple of summer. Firing up the grill can be an easy way to cook healthy food that tastes delicious, but it can also be a source of fat, sodium and calories. The secret to taking advantage of the exceptional taste of grilled foods while being good to your health is to follow a few guidelines when preparing, cooking and consuming foods.

Here are some tips for healthier grilling:
Lower the fat in your main ingredient.

Most grilled meals make protein the star of the show, but not all protein is created equal when it comes to its healthfulness. Whether you prefer poultry, beef, pork, fish or a vegetarian protein source, here are some ways to make your selection healthier:

  • Remove skin from poultry before eating, even if you prefer to keep it on while cooking to retain moisture.
  • Choose lean or extra lean options of beef and pork. Loin, round, choice or select cuts are leaner.
  • Fish is a healthy protein to grill. Thicker steaks of salmon, tuna and swordfish are perfect for grilling. Thinner filets can be wrapped in aluminum foil so they don’t fall apart.
  • Don’t grill meats at high temperatures or char them because unhealthy chemicals can form. To reduce this risk, trim visible fat and marinate meat using acidic ingredients (vinegar, lemon, lime or orange juice) and/or herbs and spices, which contain antioxidants.
  • Skip the meat and opt for vegetarian options, such as extra firm tofu or portobello mushrooms.
Give vegetables and fruits a starring role.

Enjoy loads of flavor while getting an abundance of fiber, vitamins and minerals by grilling up lots of vegetables and fruits. They taste delicious on their own or alongside protein, such as in kebabs. Here are some good options to consider:

  • Vegetables – Asparagus, eggplant, squash, zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, bell peppers, onion, mushrooms and potatoes are so tasty when grilled. They’re delicious as a side dish or can even be the main course.
  • Fruits – Nothing enhances the sweetness of fruit like a few minutes on the grill. Try fresh fruits like pineapple, peaches (you’ll love this Grilled Peach Salad!), nectarines, mangos, plums and watermelon. They may just become your new favorite food on the grill!
Season foods with less fat, sodium and sugar.

Marinades, sauces and condiments can make or break the healthfulness of your grilled dish. For healthier options, give these tips a try:

  • Skip the salt and use a mix of spices and herbs in marinades and dry rubs, such as garlic, cumin, rosemary, oregano, paprika, chili powder and pepper. This is a great way to lower the sodium.
  • Many sauces are loaded with sugar, such as barbecue sauce. You can still enjoy the flavors you love but make your own instead of using bottled sauce so you can control what goes into it.
  • Don’t drown grilled foods in sauces, dressings or condiments full of fat, salt, sugar or calories. A little goes a long way. You can also enhance flavor naturally with a squeeze of lemon or lime.

With a few tweaks to how you prepare and serve foods, you can turn your grilled meals into ones filled with healthy ingredients while limiting the amount of fat, salt and sugar they contain.


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Date Last Reviewed: April 17, 2024

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Jane Schwartz, RDN, CLT

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