Grilling has to be one of the best ways to enjoy Summertime meals – plus it’s a great way to cook foods that promote weight loss. What’s better than firing up the grill, loading it with your favorite meats, seafood and veggies and simply relaxing in the summer sun while all the work is being done.
Well, maybe it’s not that simple… but it sure beats staying in the kitchen frying, baking or sautéing your meal while trying to beat the summer heat. Grilling can be a very healthy and easy option for meal preparation – but there are a few things to keep in mind to make sure your delicious, seasonal meals remain as healthy as possible.
Tips for healthy meals on the grill
1) Trim the fat: Removing the fat from a steak or any other meat is a great way to keep unnecessary calories down. Just a little trim can save you about 100 calories and 16 grams of fat. Another reason to remove excess fatty spots from meat prior to cooking is to keep the risk of carcinogens down. The fat drippings from the meat can drip down onto the grill and create a gas and char that is a known carcinogen.
2) Load up on veggies: For some reason, most people tend to think of meats when they think of grilling. However, grilled veggies can be a great addition to your summertime grilled meal. Your choice of veggies will pop with a bit of olive oil, lemon juice and seasonings like salt and pepper. Don’t forget to wrap your veggies in aluminum foil to avoid charring.
3) Update your burger: If you love a big, juicy burger: listen up! You can enjoy a good and, most importantly, healthy burger but it may require some tweaking of old habits. Instead of choosing hamburger meat, which is very high in fat, try making patties with lean sirloin or ground turkey for calorie and fat control. Limit the amount of condiments you throw on top of your burger. Avoid heavy items like mayonnaise, ranch dressing or any other creamy concoction. Instead, try a light mayo, mustard or ketchup. Get even more daring with fresh salsa, hot sauce or a low-sugar bbq sauce. Serve your burger in a fresh, crispy lettuce wrap to majorly save on calories and carbs. If you need the carbs, make sure the bun is a whole grain, light variety to get more from your burger without adding too many calories.
4) Marinade: Give your grilled goodies a flavor infusion with an easy to make marinade. You probably already have just what you need in your kitchen. A bit of olive oil, some spices like cayenne pepper, salt, fresh garlic and herbs are everyday kitchen finds that will help your meats (and veggies too) taste phenomenal. And, marinades pull double duty because they help reduce the risk of carcinogens begin released during the grilling process.
5) Read the label: although a protein source, meat does have calories and now you can find nutrition info on almost all packaging labels. Choose meats that are low in fat (less than 10 grams per serving) and low in calories (anything under 400 calories). It’s not as hard as you may think. Higher priced meats tend to be leaner cuts, containing less fat. However, you can find lower priced meat, like round steak, that fits nicely into both your budget and your diet.
6) The spicier, the better: Hot spices like cayenne pepper, white pepper and others are great for livening up a dish and helping you fight the fat. The spicier the ingredient is, the more likely it is to suppress appetite and possibly boost metabolism.
7) Add fish: Grilled fish is a wonderful, light dish for the summertime. Fish is known to be a low fat, high protein meat. Skip the packaged fish if you can help it and hit the fresh fish section of the market. You’ll get a nicer taste from the fresh option as opposed to the packaged, processed fish in bags.
8) Barbecue sauce beware: Okay, this one is tricky. You can enjoy a great barbecue sauce, but you have to make sure that the first ingredient isn’t sugar. Also, be careful not to choose one that has a high sugar content. Read the labels to find a sauce that doesn’t have extra sugars added. Anything that is honey flavored or uses the word “sweet” to describe its taste is probably a bad idea. Also, remember your marinade! There’s no need to slather your food in barbeque sauce while its cooking, just a little for dipping is all you need to hit your taste buds with that summertime flavor.
9) Include a variety of meat: In other words, don’t be afraid to eat meat with your meal. While fish is a great source of protein, red meat definitely reigns supreme as a protein source. The key is to choose a cut that is low fat. Because it takes your body more time to digest proteins (say, over carbs) you’ll stay fuller for a longer period of time and that goes a long way in fighting the fat.
10) Restaurant quality, healthy choices: If you have a staple food from the drive-thru that you love, make an at-home healthy version. Burgers, fries and a drink don’t have to be a meal that sets you back a days worth of calories. Upgrade your burger (see tips above), switch to bake sweet potato fries and ditch the soda for a summer drink like iced tea or lemonade.
Your diet doesn’t have to suffer during the summer. In fact, it should thrive! Grilling is a great way to enjoy the outdoors while preparing a great meal. Use these tips to ensure that you stay full, fit and fabulous this summer season.