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Summer Grilling 101

When the weather’s warm, you may find yourself planning and attending many outdoor barbecues. The good news is grilling is a great way to prepare foods. It requires no water and has a short cooking time, two variables that can lead to nutrient loss. Water leaches vitamins from food and longer cooking times can destroy nutrients. The bad news is that grilled foods are often served with heavier dishes. Here are some tips on how to lighten up your summer barbecues.

  1. Grill Leaner: Instead of using ground beef, pork hotdogs, sausage or bratwursts try ground turkey, chicken breast, lean poultry sausages (Applegate Farms brand), veggie burgers and fish.
  2. Grill Smaller: Serve smaller “slider-size” burgers (2-4 oz) so you can enjoy the meats you like without taking a huge calorie hit.
  3. Build a Better Burger: Top your lean meats with whole grain buns, slider buns, ketchup, mustard, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles and/or salsa.
  4. Don’t Forget the Veggies: Grill veggie kabobs and ears of corn right alongside your meats. Grill a large Portobello mushroom instead of a burger. Serve tomatoes sprinkled with basil, olive oil, salt and pepper. Or bring fresh veggies with a healthy dip. Try mixing plain non-fat Greek yogurt with dill weed, minced onion and pepper for a protein-packed, low-calorie dip.
  5. Snack Smarter: For a healthier take on chips, try a few of these brands: Terra chips, Original Sun Chips, Food Should Taste Good, Kettle Brand baked potato chips and Pop Chips. Although these are a more natural and healthier way to satisfy your need to crunch, you still need to watch the portion size! Alternately, reach for a handful of carrots or celery in between the chips.
  6. Always Serve Dessert: Summer is full of colorful fruits that can satisfy your sweet tooth. Watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and raspberries will make a beautiful fruit salad. These fruits also have a high water content, which makes them perfect for staying hydrated in the heat. Pineapple, peaches and nectarines are wonderful when lightly grilled and served with a small scoop of ice cream or sorbet. Alternately, you could make fruit popsicles for dessert by pureeing fruit and freezing in popsicle molds.

Here are a few menu ideas for your next barbeque:

Menu 1:

  • Sirloin sliders with ketchup, mustard, lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles
  • Tomato and basil salad
  • Favorite chip from above brands
  • Grilled peaches w/berry sorbet

Menu 2:

  • Turkey burger on a whole grain bun with ketchup, mustard, lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles
  • Veggie kabob
  • Favorite chip from above brands
  • Fruit salad

Menu 3:

  • Grilled salmon or chicken
  • Corn on the cob
  • Veggies and dip
  • Favorite chip from above brands
  • Fruit popsicle


Adapted from a post by Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD