When the weather’s perfect for firing up the grill, which foods come to mind first? Probably meat — especially good old-fashioned beef burgers and hot dogs. While meat certainly isn’t the enemy, your grill can do a lot more than heat a hamburger or bake a potato. There are so many fruits, vegetables, and other ingredients whose taste and texture improve significantly when grilled. Have you ever tried any? There’s no better time.
Before you cover up your grill for the summer, give these delicious and healthy recipes a try. You may not have thought to toss these ingredients on the grill, but they could become important staples for all your grilling endeavors in the future.
Health benefits of grilling your food
Grilling is obviously a healthier cooking method than frying. While frying involves actually cooking food in oil, you grill food on top of oiled grates — which doesn’t affect the nutritional value of what you are eating. But there are plenty of other benefits that make grilling a variety of foods worth your time.
- Grilled vegetables are more nutritious than vegetables cooked any other way.
- Reduced fat content of every food you cook (it pretty much just melts away).
- Grilling moistens your food, so you’ll add fewer unhealthy condiments.
Of course, healthy grilling does require that you start with healthy foods. A little red meat every now and then isn’t the end of the world, but if you’re grilling burgers every weekend, your freshly grilled diet could use some variety.
The healthiest foods you can grill
It’s easy to throw ground beef, steak, or hot dogs onto the grill — you’ve probably done it for years. But you don’t have to limit yourself to grilling only meat and potatoes. It can’t hurt to take a step back from red meat and try something new. If you don’t like the taste of raw vegetables, grilling is also a great way to sneak more fiber into your diet.
These are some of the healthiest foods you can slide onto your grill this weekend:
- Romaine lettuce
- Potatoes, white or sweet
Now for a few healthy recipes to try. There’s something on this list for everyone. Whether you’re craving seafood, a juicy burger, or you want to eat a vegetable that isn’t canned or doused in oil, there’s a healthy recipe here for you. Enjoy!
Hungry for a healthy helping of easy to grill seafood? It turns out salmon isn’t the only fish you can toss onto the grill. Grilled shrimp — whether you use it as a side dish, incorporate it into another dish like pasta, or snack on it as an appetizer, provides both flavor and a number of health benefits.
Spicy Grilled Shrimp (serves 6)
Prep time: 21 minutes
- 1 clove garlic, large
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 2 pounds shrimp, large, peeled
Prepare grill to cook on medium heat. Lightly oil grill grate.
In a small bowl, combine garlic and salt. Mix in cayenne pepper and paprika. Stir in olive oil and lemon juice. Mix all these ingredients together until a paste forms.
Add paste and shrimp to large bowl. Toss shrimp in paste until evenly coated.
On lightly oiled grill (medium heat), cook coated shrimp 3 minutes on each side. Transfer to dish (or combine with pasta, rice, or salad ingredients) and serve.
You can also use this recipe to make shrimp skewers, adding other vegetables to grill with shrimp for added flavor and texture.
Health benefits of shrimp
According to Organic Facts, shrimp is extremely rich in vitamins and minerals, low in calories, and completely free of carbohydrates. You’ll also get a healthy dose of protein and a very small amount of healthy fat with each shrimp you consume.
Grilling your shrimp is one of the healthiest ways to eat it. Many people turn to fried shrimp and other seafood, but as you likely already know, frying anything even in a lower-fat oil still isn’t the best cooking choice for your health. Grilling brings out shrimp’s flavor (plus the flavors you add to it) without breading and frying it.
When it comes to vegetables, roasting, boiling, and even frying are common cooking go-to options. However, you can also grill vegetables like zucchini to bring out their natural flavors and add more fiber and other nutrients to your meal.
Grilled Balsamic Zucchini (serves 4)
Prep time: 15 minutes
- 2 zucchini, quartered (length-wise)
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1 pinch salt
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Prepare grill to cook on medium-low heat. Lightly oil grill grate.
Brush zucchini with olive oil and sprinkle garlic powder, Italian seasoning, and salt on top.
On lightly oiled grill (medium-low heat), cook zucchini 4 minutes on each side, or until it starts to brown. Brush balsamic vinegar onto zucchini and cook 1 more minute before serving hot.
You can serve your grilled zucchini as a healthy side dish, or create a grilled fruit and vegetable salad with mozzarella and herbs. You can also add grilled zucchini to balsamic seasoned pasta.
Health benefits of zucchini
Livestrong.com says zucchini comes packed with vitamins C and A, as well as other vitamins and minerals for optimal health. Like many other vegetables, zucchini also provides a lot of nutrition in exchange for an extremely small amount of calories.
Many people tend to stay away from vegetables like zucchini because they are used to foods with bold flavors. On their own, zucchini’s flavor might not appeal to you much. However, recipes like the one above allow you to add a lot of flavor to “spice” up your grilled veggies without frying them or adding too much extra salt.
Grilled “veggie” burgers
The burgers you know and love taste great, but they’re made with red meat — which you should really only eat every once in awhile. When you have the option, you should try to choose different meat, or use a meat substitute to create a meatless burger. They’re generically called “veggie” burgers, but you can make them with grains too, not just beans or chickpeas. You could just buy frozen pre-packaged meatless burgers and throw them on the grill, but it’s much more satisfying — and healthier — to make them yourself.
Homemade Grilled Quinoa Burgers (serves 4)
Prep time: 45 minutes
- 2 cups quinoa, cooked
- 1 cup cannellini beans, mashed
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 clove garlic, grated
- 1 teaspoon chile powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/3 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 whole grain hamburger buns
In a large bowl, combine quinoa, mashed cannellini beans, bread crumbs, garlic, chili powder, salt, and pepper. Mix well until ingredients are moist, then add cheddar cheese and mix again.
Form mixture into 4 equal patties. Put in fridge and let chill 30 minutes.
While burger patties chill in the fridge, prepare grill to cook on medium heat. Lightly oil grill grate.
Place patties on grill once chilled and cook 7 minutes on each side. During the last few minutes of cooking on the second side, place buns on grill to toast them, about 2 minutes. Remove patties and buns from grill, build burgers as desired, and serve.
You can also add your own toppings after grilling and placing on buns, such as onions, mozzarella cheese, lettuce, tomato, avocado, or condiments of your choosing.
Health benefits of quinoa
Those with wheat allergies or those who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet can enjoy this wheat-free grain, says BBC Good Food. It’s packed with protein and vitamins, and it’s the perfect alternative to more starchy grains like rice.
When you cook quinoa, it becomes soft and slightly crunchy and creamy. As part of a meat-free burger, quinoa provides moisture and can act as an emulsifying agent — which means it can help the rest of your burger’s ingredients stick together. This is especially beneficial for grilling, because you don’t want your burger patties to crumble and fall through the grate.
Health benefits of beans
Beans are also an important part of any meat-free burger. They add protein and fiber and, like quinoa, help act as a sort of “glue” to keep the rest of your ingredients intact, especially when mashed first. Beans will also help to thicken your burger and give it a texture that more closely resembles a more traditional hamburger made with beef.
Grilled sweet potatoes
If you’re craving fries to go along with your healthy quinoa burgers, you don’t have to buy flash-frozen fried potatoes to heat up in the oven. For a few extra health benefits, grill sweet potato “fries” — they resemble more traditional french fries, but aren’t actually fried. They’re lower in sodium, calories, and fat — and you will absolutely love the taste.
Grilled Sweet Potato “Fries” (serves 4)
Prep time: 32 minutes
- 2 sweet potatoes, medium
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
Prepare grill to cook on medium-high heat. Lightly oil grill grate.
In a microwave, cook sweet potatoes on high about 7 minutes, or until tender. Transfer to cutting board and wait to cool, about 10 minutes.
Cut potatoes into wedges lengthwise, 8 wedges in total. On a sheet pan, drizzle sweet potato wedges with olive oil, paprika and pepper, then toss to coat. Cook on grill about 3 minutes per side, or until wedges are slightly charred and cooked through. Serve as an appetizer or side.
If you have enough room, you can grill your sweet potatoes alongside other items for your meal — just make sure these additional items also cook at medium-high heat. Otherwise, grill separately, or adjust cooking time accordingly.
Health benefits of sweet potatoes
According to The World’s Healthiest Foods, sweet potatoes provide vitamins A and C, fiber, and multiple B vitamins. You’ll also find a healthy amount of antioxidants, compounds in foods that research suggests promote anti-aging.
White potatoes are not bad for you — as long as you avoid frying them. However, unlike white potatoes, sweet potatoes are high in potassium and vitamin A. Dip your sweet potato wedges in a (healthy!) source of fat to optimize vitamin absorption. Greek yogurt is a tasty option.
When hunting for the perfect side dish, it’s tempting to fall back on the familiar — and often times, the familiar isn’t always healthy. You’re much better off skipping the potato salad and going with something you might not consider grilling.
Grilled Basil Tomatoes (serves 4)
Prep time: 15 minutes
- 2 ripe tomatoes
- Black pepper
- Olive oil
- 4 basil leaves, thinly sliced
Prepare grill to cook on high heat. Lightly oil grill grate.
Cut each tomato in half (you should have 4 halves) and remove pulp and seeds. Season each tomato half with salt and pepper, and brush “open” sides with olive oil. Place open side up on grill and cook, covered, for up to 4 minutes. You might want to consider using a grill basket to make cooking your tomatoes easier, but it’s possible to grill them successfully without one (you’ll just have to watch them more closely as they cook).
Remove tomatoes from grill with a spatula, put on serving plate, and add chopped basil leaves to each. Add more olive oil for added flavor before serving. Serve as a side dish or as part of a vegetable salad.
Health benefits of tomatoes
Tomatoes, according to Medical News Today, offer a wide range of health benefits. In addition to their vitamins A and C content, like sweet potatoes, tomatoes are also an excellent source of antioxidants. Their low sodium content makes them an ideal condiment to add to any kind of sandwich.
Eating more tomatoes also benefits your skin, because they’re a prominent source of vitamin C. Your body needs adequate amounts of vitamin C to synthesize a substance called collagen, a protein in your skin (and many other places) essential for optimal health. It’s also important for healthy digestion.
Grilling is a great way to enjoy delicious food while sticking to your diet. Burgers and hot dogs are great, but don’t hesitate to break from BBQ tradition and try something different. Your heart and liver will be eternally grateful for your daring adventures into the realm of healthy grilling — and once you fall in love with grilled veggies, there’s no turning back.
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