W.Who doesn’t love a grill? Lighting the grill in the early evening, watching the kids play outside, and waiting for a delicious meal that won’t heat up the house can only be a win-win for everyone. But did you know that grilling also has health benefits? Abby Douglas, RDN, LD of Synergy Health and Wellness, gives us an overview of the benefits of taking it outdoors.
What Are Some Of The Health Benefits Of Grilling Meat And Fish?
Grilling allows the fat from the rack to drain off the meat, while roasting and baking preserves the saturated fat and any extra fats that may be added during the process. Grilling lean meat and fish like chicken or salmon is a great way to get heart-healthy protein that is low in saturated fat. Grilling oily fish such as salmon, steelhead trout and tuna increases your heart-healthy fat absorption through OMEGA 3 in fish oil, which reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Grilling also offers mental health benefits. Being outside in the fresh air and creating a delicious meal for loved ones can be a real mood lift!
What about vegetables and fruits?
Grilled vegetables are best when seared quickly with a little caramelization. This helps the nutrients stay intact as some are sensitive to heat and will break down if cooked for long periods of time. Most home cooks know that browning, also known as caramelization, is synonymous with good taste. This Maillard reaction occurs when natural sugars and amino acids are exposed to high heat and it tastes delicious! The added flavor can help those with picky palates better accept nutritious foods like fruits and vegetables. And let’s be honest: grilled fresh pineapples or peaches make a delicious side dish or dessert for any meal!
What cooking tips should people keep in mind when grilling?
Avoid excessive charring of food. Part of what grilled food tastes so good is its natural browning and caramelization. However, foods that turn black form chemical compounds that correlate with an increased risk of cancer. Monitor the heat of your grill closely to avoid charring or overcooking. Have a food thermometer handy so you know when your meat is getting the perfect internal temperature. This is a proven food safety practice, but it will also make your grilled meat taste better. For gas grill owners, clean the inside of your grill every six months, as dirt and oil build-up can lead to grease fires. For charcoal grill owners, ash and debris should be removed after each use.
What are some healthy foods or dishes that people can cook on the grill with an emphasis on including things from the garden?
For gardeners, grilled home-grown vegetables can be used in several ways. Grilling vegetables with a light dash of olive or avocado oil and salt / pepper is easy and delicious. Some of my favorites that have been grilled this way are asparagus, broccolini, zucchini, and yellow squash. A side dish that many don’t think of is grilled vegetables like Romaine or Swiss chard. You can do this with any type of greens for quick caramelization and added flavor. Hearty herbs like rosemary, oregano and thyme stand up to the grill very well if they are used in a meat / fish marinade or as a seasoning for fresh vegetables.
Any other tips for grilling lean protein or vegetarian options?
A tip is to leave the skin on fish fillets or poultry when grilling. It’s easy to remove and helps improve the taste. If you accidentally charge the skin, it can be removed! For meatless grilled protein options, try grilling tempeh, tofu, paneer / haloumi cheese, or veggie burgers with black beans or lentils. These are great options for a vegetarian or something else.
Caramelized grilled chicken and pineapple
(Serves 4 hungry people)
1 cup of pineapple juice
½ cup of soy sauce
¼ cup of ketchup
2-4 cloves of chopped garlic
1 tbsp freshly grated ginger (or ½ teaspoon ground ginger)
Black pepper to taste
2 pounds of chicken drumsticks, thighs, or breasts will work
1 fresh pineapple
2-3 spring onions, sliced
• Whisk all ingredients in a medium saucepan until everything is well mixed. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture thickens.
• In a large bowl or zippered bag, stir together pineapple juice, soy sauce, ketchup, garlic, ginger, and pepper. Reserve half a cup of marinade for basting later.
• Add the chicken to the marinade and refrigerate for at least four hours or up to 12 hours. * Tip * If possible, leave the chicken skin on. The skin can be removed if you accidentally char some meat.
• Cut the fresh pineapple into pieces. Remove the skin and core from the fresh pineapple and cut them into large rings or large pieces. Put aside.
• Preheat the grill to medium heat (approx. 375-400 ° F). Remove the chicken and discard any excess marinade. Place the chicken on hot oiled grill racks. Grill, turn and baste every 5 minutes with the reserved marinade. Grill chicken breasts to an internal temperature of 165 ° F and chicken thighs / thighs to 175-180 ° F. Remove from the grill and let rest for 5-10 minutes.
• As soon as the chicken is about half cooked, place the fresh pineapple on the grill. Pour the reserved marinade over 1 or 2 times. Grill until there are caramelized grill marks, approx. 4-5 minutes per side.
• Serve the chicken and grilled pineapple with grilled vegetables of your choice (my favorite on this dish are grilled broccolini) and, if desired, coconut brown rice. Garnish with sliced spring onions.
Prescription from Abby Douglas, RDN, LD