Okay, even though it doesn’t feel like it, it is officially spring, ladies and gentlemen!! You know what that means? My favorite season! GRILLING SEASON! I love when I am driving through the neighborhood on my way home from work and I can just smell the crisp freshness of food sizzling on the grill! I absolutely LOVE grilled food. I feel bad for the other residents in my apartment, because I use the grill almost every night in the summer. I sit back in a lawn chair, sipping on a cold glass of water with a fresh squeeze of lemon as I take in the fresh air; it’s so relaxing!
Since I am a dietitian, you guessed it; I will be giving out tips on grilling and talking about the benefits of this cooking method!
Health Benefits of Grilling
Grilling is a great way to cook your food, not only because of the fantastic flavor, but because grilling gets some of the excess fat out of meats by letting it drizzle down onto the charcoal. This is one of the ways I recommend people cook their food, due to this fact. You also don’t need butter or oil, cutting even more calories and fat! Even though I mentioned that grilling is a great way to cook your food, it is also important to choose the right foods to cook and the right seasonings to put on your grilled food, otherwise it is not necessarily “better” for you.
Here are some “dietitian approved” foods to grill:
Use the leanest ground beef to make home-made hamburger patties. Coborn’s carries 93% lean. When you buy premade hamburger patties you are most likely taking in a lot of unnecessary sodium that can be easily avoided by just preparing your own burgers at home! One other item to note is, what are you adding to your hamburger before eating it? Layer your burger with as many fresh vegetables as possible. Some of my favorites include: romaine lettuce, tomatoes, red onions (not fried), and avocado. If you find it absolutely necessary to put bacon on, at the very least choose low sodium turkey bacon. Sometimes when we have so many other flavors on our burger it is not necessary to put mayo or butter on the bun, try it and see what you think, or better yet, mash your avocado to a consistency of a spread. I bet after doing that once, you will forget mayo even existed! I cannot go without ketchup on my burger, and because I use so much of it, I make sure to buy the “No Salt” version of Ketchup.
If you are craving beef in a different form, here are the leanest cuts of beef; try to choose these more often than not.
- Eye of round roast or steak
- Sirloin tip side steak
- Top round roast and steak
- Bottom round roast and steak
- Top sirloin steak
Here are some more helpful tips: choose cuts that are graded “Choice” or “Select” instead of “Prime,” which usually has more fat. Choose cuts with the least amount of visible fat (marbling).
Now, what if you want something other than beef? Well lean pork can also be a pretty good choice. Pork tenderloin is the leanest cut of pork and has the same number of calories as a chicken breast. A 3-ounce serving of pork tenderloin has only one half a gram more fat than does a chicken breast. A boneless sirloin chop, loin chop and top loin chop all have less fat than a chicken thigh, as does a serving of boneless loin roast or boneless sirloin roast pork.
Chicken is always a great choice, but again, where the meat is from on the chicken matters. Fresh skinless, boneless chicken breast is best. If you buy frozen skinless boneless chicken breast, be sure to look at the sodium content, many times extra sodium is added.
Try a turkey burger, these taste great! They are lower in fat when compared to a regular beef patty.
Vegetarian burgers are a good choice as well. Again, much lower in fat and can even have heart healthy fats and fiber! Watch for the sodium in these though….
Grilled salmon is my absolute favorite fish on the grill, not only because it is high in omega 3s, the heart healthy fats, but the flavor is phenomenal. Mmmmm, add a little olive oil, lemon pepper, and a fresh squeeze of lemon juice. Fish is an overall healthy food to grill because fish tends to be low in fat and high in protein and other minerals. Some fish are high in heart healthy fats such as the salmon mentioned above, as well as mackerel, tuna, herring, and lake trout.
FRUITS and VEGETABLES
Don’t forget about your FRUITS and VEGETABLES! Keep in mind that grilling isn’t just about meat, grilled vegetables drizzled with olive oil have an exceptional flavor! Grilling vegetables can take away some of the natural bitterness present in vegetables and turn it into a bit of a sweeter flavor. Grill almost any vegetable, these are my personal favorites: onions, peppers, potatoes, corn, asparagus, zucchini, eggplant and pineapple; the list goes on and on….You can set them on the grill, or wrap them in tinfoil with a little olive oil and salt free seasoning of course! Fruits are a great food to grill as well. Their natural sweetness is intensified and can be a great addition to any kabob or as a side! My favorite is pineapple. What is your favorite fruit? Pick a fresh firm fruit that is just short of being perfectly ripe. You will want a fruit that is solid enough to hold together and maintain its texture on the grill. For most fruits you can leave the peel on, just cut the fruit open or into slices depending on the size of the fruit. It is a good idea to soak the fruit in water for 20-30 minutes so that the fruit remains juicy while being grilled. To keep the fruit from sticking to the grill, lightly spray them with cooking oil, canola oil would be a good choice as olive oil may be a bit overpowering. Adding fruits and vegetables is another way to add flavor to your grilled items without adding a lot of calories, sodium, and added sugars.
Skip the Brats, SORRY!
I’m sure you are thinking to yourself, “she missed one.” No, I purposely didn’t put brats on the list. That is because they are so high in fat-saturated fat, the “bad” fat, and even if you get low-fat brats they are so so high in sodium. I suppose once in a great while, like maybe for the 4th Of July you can splurge and have a brat. If you do have a brat, remember to watch your serving size. It is very easy and more probable than not, that you will consume your total day’s worth of sodium in just two brats!
Which Seasonings are Best?
Now, when it comes to the seasonings for grilled food, that can wreak havoc on your healthy eating plans as well. You choose the right food to grill, but what you season it with could really change the dynamic in the nutritional value of your meal. Get creative with different spices and seasonings; avoid the salt shaker. Be careful though, many seasoning can be very high in sodium. For example, did you know that the first ingredient in lemon pepper seasoning is salt? Choose onion powder over onion salt, or just use a real onion. The same with garlic; choose garlic powder instead of garlic salt, or of course the actual garlic clove. Doing this will help reduce your sodium intake, without compromising the flavor, the most important part! Use fresh herbs and spices or Mrs. Dash-salt free seasonings-there is a variety of blends that complement different kinds of meat or vegetables. Mrs. Dash also has a variety of salt-free marinades! Marinades are a huge culprit of high sodium. Spike is also a low sodium seasoning that works great over grilled foods. Be sure to check out the natural foods department of your local Coborn’s as there are three varieties of Frontier products that are now “salt-free.” However, it is always best to double check the label. Again, the more control you have when it comes to prepping your foods the better your chances are for consuming less sodium and fat!
Don’t forget to utilize the NuVal scores on food items throughout your local Coborn’s to further assist you in making a more nutritious choice.
Peace and Wellness,
Coborn’s Registered Dietitian
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