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Fire Up that Grill!
Why Grilling Is One of the Best Ways to Cook Food!
By Cheryl Forberg, RD
Who knew that one of the most flavorful cooking methods is healthy too? Since grilling doesn't require much added fat, it's an easy way to economize on calories without sacrificing flavor. The added bonus is the extra layer of smoky flavor it imparts to any food cooked to perfection on a nice hot grill.
Anyone who's trying to drop a few pounds quickly learns that sautéing and frying are not part of their cooking vocabulary. This is because meats that are cooked in a sauté pan or in the oven typically sit in their own fatty juices as they cook. Some recipes also require the addition of cooking oil or other fats. Since fat has more than twice as many calories as protein or carbohydrate, it's the perfect ingredient to minimize when trying to shave away calories. Cooking methods that don't require added fat include - steaming, poaching, baking, broiling and grilling.
Grilling allows most of the fat to melt and drip away from the food. But that doesn't mean that a fatty cut of meat won't still be high in fat. You need to begin with fairly lean choices.
How we prepare our foods for grilling also plays a role in determining their fat and calorie content. If you slather on a sugary barbeque sauce, or oil-rich marinades, the health benefits achieved by grilling are negated. A light brush of olive oil or a flavorful dipping sauce recipe is often all that's needed to add a little ooh-la-la to a moist filet of fish or a juicy chicken breast.
Healthy Grilling Tips
Fire It Up
To minimize sticking, be sure the grill is hot before adding your food carefully hold your hand just above the grill grate. If you can hold it for one second the heat is high, two seconds = medium-high, 3 seconds = medium and 5 seconds = low.
Oil It Up
Even on a clean, hot grill, very lean foods can stick. But don't use cooking oil spray on a hot grill. Use a vegetable-oil soaked paper towel or cloth. Hold it with a tongs and quickly rub over the grill rack.
Tongs are an indispensable cooking tool, especially for grilling. Be sure to find a pair that is long enough to reach the back of your grill so that you don't have to hold your hands over the high heat.
Avoid cross-contamination by using separate cutting boards, utensils and platters for cooked and raw foods. Refrigerate marinated foods and don't baste with your marinating liquid. You can boil (and cool) the marinating liquid if you want to use it for basting.
A grill basket works wonders to keep smaller foods from falling through the grill grids. It's also much easier to turn over sliced vegetables or fruits in a basket than turning one by one.
Cut vegetables such as eggplant, zucchini or bell peppers in even-sized pieces and thread them on skewers with mushrooms or cherry tomatoes. When they're all the same size, they'll cook at the same rate. Use leftover veggies the next day to make flavorful salads.
For your next picnic, choose 4 ounce extra-lean turkey burgers over traditional ground beef. This will save you over 150 calories and 20 grams of fat. A 4-ounce turkey burger has 122 calories and 1.5 grams fat while 4 ounces of ground beef (80% lean) has 288 calories and 23 grams of fat.
Salmon, halibut and mahi mahi are great grilling choices as they're thick, firm and easier to turn on the grill. Delicate thinner fish can still be grilled, but you'll need to purchase a special grilling basket to help you turn them.
Take plenty of vegetables along to grill with your burgers, chicken or fish. Slice onions crosswise, in 1/2 in thick rings. Hold the rings intact while grilling, by first inserting a toothpick in the side. Save any leftover grilled onions to chop in the morning and add to your egg white omelettes.
Though boneless skinless chicken breasts are a fabulously lean choice, they're very easy to overcook. To ensure even cooking, place each breast between two sheets of wax paper or plastic wrap, and pound it to an even thickness with a the smooth side of a meat tenderizer.
If you're in a hurry, fat-free or low-fat vinaigrettes make great last minute marinades, and they also add flavor when brushed on grilled vegetables.
Rest It A Bit
Allow cooked meat and chicken to rest on a clean platter covered with foil or a clean cloth for about 10 minutes before carving. This allows the juices to redistribute evenly.
Leave Your Buns at Home
Forget about rolls or buns made from white flour. If you must have a bun for your burger, be sure to choose one made of whole grains with fiber.
A tablespoon of Dijon mustard has 18 calories with no added sugar or fat while mayonnaise has 57 calories (and 5 grams of fat). Ketchup has the same calories as mustard but may be loaded with hidden sugar. Shop for ketchup in the health food section to find a brand with no added sugar. Some are sweetened with fruit juice or agave nectar instead of refined sugar.
Grilling fruit is a best kept secret! When the coals have died down and the heat is low, that is the best time to add raw fruit to the grill. Be sure not to use overly ripe fruit or it will stick and burn. Try peach or pear halves or slices of pineapple (not too thin). Be careful of your serving sizes here -- keep them small and save the leftovers. Grilled fruit is a great addition to a salad the next day.