VA dietitian shares tips for healthier grilling



There is nothing quite like the mouth-watering smell and taste of a grilled meal. However, some grilled meals have the potential to put quite a damper on health goals. Small, healthful changes to your grilling routine can improve your overall health.

Consider these tips for a healthy, delicious grill out:

Choose healthy proteins

Many traditionally grilled meats are high in saturated fat and sodium, such as brats and hot dogs. Instead of using these, look for whole cuts of lean meat and poultry, fish, or choose a plant-based protein such as tofu. Have you ever cooked tofu before? No problem! Choose firm or extra-firm varieties, dry well, and cook over low, indirect heat.  To add flavor to your tofu explore with various spices or sauces.

Try a rub instead of a sauce

If used in large amounts, marinades and other sauces can quickly add excess calories and sodium to meals. Instead of a sauce, consider using a low-sodium, dry rub. Check out the video above that shows how to prepare a great spice rub (perfect for meats and vegetables)! Need more moisture on your dish? Try seasoning with freshly-squeezed lemon, lime or orange juice, or healthy oils such as olive or canola oil.

Put veggies in the spotlight

Meats are frequently the main dish for meals and are often served in portions that exceed the recommended serving size. Did you know that a serving of meat is typically only three ounces (or about the size of a deck of cards)? Instead of taking a larger portion of meat, consider filling half your plate with flavorful, grilled vegetables. Here are a few ideas:

  • Zucchini, yellow squash, and eggplant skewers seasoned with lemon juice and Italian seasoning.
  • Carrots and parsnips with a sprinkle of brown sugar.
  • Asparagus spears brushed with olive oil.

Try grilled fruit for a sweet finish

Per the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020, most Americans are not consuming the recommended amount of fruit each day (1.5-2 servings for women and 2-2.5 servings for men). Using whole fruit as the basis of your dessert ensures you are getting the sweetness you desire, in a nutrient-dense food! Good options for grilling are apples with nutmeg or pineapple with a pinch of cinnamon.

Interested in learning about healthier grilled meals or have other nutrition questions? Contact your local VA today to schedule an appointment with a VA dietitian.


Image of Liz KlismithAbout the author: Liz Klismith is a VA dietitian who works primarily with Veterans undergoing inpatient rehabilitation. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking and has taught outpatient healthy cooking classes for Veterans at her facility.

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