But, just maybe, you’ve found yourself thinking that somewhere, out there, there must exist tasty foods to grill that aren’t red meat. Or perhaps you’ve contemplated: “Could my way of grilling be healthier?
Well, rest assured, fellow grilling fanatic. You are not alone.
Globally, there seems to be a shift towards healthier eating and living in general, with more and more people opting for a sugar-free, low-carb or plant-based diet. A quick Google search will prove to you that there is no shortage of healthy grilling recipes and healthy food tips out there.
If you’ve been curious about healthy grilling ideas for your next cookout (without having to compromise on taste and flavor, obvs), read on for the low-down on good old BBQ grilling, done the healthier way.
We've also thrown in some neat, healthy grilling tips and recipe suggestions.
The bottom line? There’s an almost endless supply of super-tasty, super-healthy food options out there just waiting to hit your grill and bring your tastebuds to their knees.
Ready? Let’s explore!
WHY GRILLING IS GREAT FOR YOU
Are grilled foods healthier than their fried, boiled or baked counterparts? In a word, yes. Besides adding texture and locking in flavor, grilling also ensures you will ingest the least amount of fat, as grease melts onto the dripping trays during the cooking process.
Here are 3 more reasons why grilling your food is a great idea
- Apart from locking in meat’s flavor, grilling also preserves the nutrients thiamine (vitamin B1) and riboflavin (vitamin B2) in meat. Riboflavin assists the body with energy production while thiamine helps carbohydrates break down into energy and prevents certain diseases.
- Vegetables, especially those with a low water content, retain more of their minerals and vitamins when grilled, as opposed to when baked, cooked or fried.
- Grilling gets you outside and spending time socialising with loved ones, which improves your emotional and mental wellbeing (and, in turn, has a positive impact on your physical health). Being outdoors in the sunlight also allows you to get your necessary dose of vitamin D, essential for healthy bones, muscles and teeth.
WANT TO GRILL LIKE A PRO, THE HEALTHY WAY?
Let’s explore 5 ways in which you can take your personal 2021 healthy grilling game to the next level – and beyond!
2021 HEALTHY GRILLING TIP 1 – KEEP IT LEAN
When grilling meat, always go for a lean cut. Beef, lamb and pork contain the highest amount of fat out of all types of red meat, so you may want to look into other kinds for grilling, such as ostrich, poultry or seafood. If you do decide to grill beef, lamb or pork, try to get hold of the leanest cut, trimming all visible excess fat before grilling.
2021 HEALTHY GRILLING TIP 2 – THINK BEYOND RED
Yes, red meat is very tasty and, sure, some people will never be converted to grilling anything else. But they would be missing out on a world of deliciousness just waiting to be devoured. It’s time to expand those grilling horizons.
- Grilled salmon with avocado salsa
- Flame-grilled ostrich with spicy marinade and citrus sauce
- Greek marinated chicken with Greek yogurt, lemon and oregano
Not only are all these dishes low on fat and high on flavor, they also all have healthy, easily digestible protein sources as their main ingredient.
Just ensure that your meat, chicken or seafood is free-range, organic and/or sustainably harvested and you’re good to go!
OTHER HEALTHY-GRILLING MEAT ALTERNATIVES
- Grilled haloumi cheese
- Grilled marinated vegetables
- Grilled peaches
- Grilled avocado
- Grilled eggplant
2021 HEALTHY GRILLING TIP 3 – KEEP IT LOW-CARB
Oh, carbs. They are many a grilling fanatic’s weak spot, because they are indeed delicious (think garlic bread, potato bakes, French fries – you get the drift) and us humans seem to have a natural affinity for this calorie-laden food group.
But replacing carb-rich sides with low-carb alternatives at your BBQ spread does not mean you have to compromise on flavor at all!
A crunchy vegetable stir-fry with a tasty, tangy dressing, grilled sweet potato wedges or curried brown rice, quinoa and creamy yogurt salad, anyone?
2021 HEALTHY GRILLING TIP 4 – SKIP THE SUGAR
This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Cane sugar in all its forms and high-fructose corn syrup (a sweetener made from corn starch) are found hidden in many foods these days and can cause a myriad of health problems. Plus, sugar is super addictive so the more you eat, the more you want to eat.
Additionally, adding sugar or corn syrup to your basting sauces will cause your meat to char excessively on the grill – something you want to avoid at all costs.
Instead of adding sugar or corn syrup to your sauces and foods, rather explore ways to add natural sweetness to dishes. This can be done by including fruits (a grilled slice of pineapple on the burger, for example) chopped dates or raisins (great in coleslaws and salads) and a little honey to glazes and marinades.
2021 HEALTHY GRILLING TIP 5 – THE MAGICAL POWER OF MARINADES
Okay, this is a biggie – and it’s more science than magic. But it’s still a really simple, yet major health-boosting change you can easily make to your grilling regime.
According to the American Institute of Cancer Research, marinating your meat before grilling reduces the formation of carcinogenic HCAs by as much as 96%.
Considering how harmful those HCAs are on your health, this, my friends, is a big deal.
So, what makes a great marinade?
Ensure you add these essential ingredients when making your marinade and you cannot go wrong!
- Add an acid such as lemon juice, vinegar, yogurt or wine. This brings enzymes to the mix that will tenderize your meat to the max.
- Add fresh herbs and spices for flavor. Garlic and ginger are old favorites, while herbs like thyme, oregano, sage, and rosemary have been proven to reduce the formation of HCAs.
- Add a tablespoon or so of healthy oil, such as olive, avocado or sesame oil, to lock in moisture as the food grills.
- Allow sufficient time to let the marinating process work. Vegetables and fish can marinate within 30-60 minutes, while beef, pork and poultry should marinate for at least 1-2 hours.
2021 HEALTHY GRILLING TIP 6 – FEAST ON FLAVOR
Once you get the hang of low-fat grilling, you will soon find out that cutting down on fat does not mean losing out on flavor at all.
Yes, fat is tasty, that’s why we humans like it so much. But did you know that your taste buds are super easy to “retrain”?
Here are a few suggestions for foods to add to your grilled or side dishes that will instantly add loads of mouth-watering flavor.
- Citrus juice and zest
- Garlic, ginger and onion
- Fresh herbs and spices
Consider adding ground or whole spices and freshly chopped rosemary, thyme, oregano or holy basil to your basting sauces, marinades, salads and other dishes. Or just sprinkle the chopped herbs liberally over sliced meat just before serving.
ABOUT THE BOOZE...
For most people, hosting or attending a BBQ cookout without a cold beer in hand is simply unimaginable.
Yet, no matter how you look at it – alcohol is a form of sugar, and it contains lots (and lots) of calories. Swapping out the beers and cocktails for some mineral water or a half-half fruit juice-sparkling water combo will mean a lot less calories for your body to contend with.
If you cannot do without a drink while grilling, consider changing to a light beer variant, to a white wine spritzer or to drinking single tots of liquor, using low-calorie or sugar-free mixers, such as sugar-free tonic water.
THE HEALTHY GRILLING LOW-DOWN: 4 QUICK STEPS TO GUILT-FREE GRILLING IN 2021
- Keep it low fat. Choose meats that are naturally low in fat for your cookout, like ostrich, seafood and poultry. Your heart – and your tummy – will thank you!
- Keep it low carb. Ditch the bread, pasta and wheat flour and consider carb-free grains like quinoa and buckwheat for salad bases and sides. Or choose veggie sides and salads over starchy dishes.
- Keep it fresh. Add some color, crunch and nutrients to your plate with delicious salads, stir-fries or crispy, grilled vegetables on the side.
- Keep it full of flavor. Always marinate meat and other foods before grilling. Keep the sugar content in sauces low to reduce charring. Marinating will add lots of flavor, while less charring will make for a healthier meal.
Happy, healthy grilling in 2021 – and beyond!