Fire Up the Grill! 8 Tips for a Perfect Summer Meal

Summer is here, and that means it’s time for lots of outdoor activities including barbecues, which are delicious, but not always the healthiest meals. Typical BBQ fare consists of burgers, hot dogs, chips, and mayo-drenched potato salad and cole slaw. Unfortunately, indulging in this array of food all summer long won’t do much good for your waistline. Sure, an occasional hot dog and ice cream sandwich is perfectly fine, but when you’re grilling every weekend you might want to consider some better-for-you options. Here are some ways to keep the grilling – and all that goes with it – on the lighter side this summer.

  • Keep the grill clean. It’s always a good idea to start with a clean slate. Use a grill brush to scrub off the built-up char before and after grilling food. 
  • Make it hot, hot, hot! Preheat the grill before you put anything on it. Once the grill is hot, you can sear meat and lock in the juices – and flavor. 
  • Think out of the box. Hamburgers and hot dogs aren’t the only BBQ choices. Try grilling whole fish or salmon burgers for some omega-3s or grill up some tofu steaks for the vegetarians in your crowd. 
  • Don’t forget the sides. The grill is the perfect place to make your side dishes, especially vegetables like zucchini, onions, corn, sweet potatoes, fennel, and tomatoes. Use a grill basket for small or thin items that may slip through the grates. 
  • Marinate! Not only will they add flavor, but acidic marinades will break down tough fibers in meats and make them more tender. Plus, some studies show that marinating meat reduces the formation of carcinogenic substances called HCAs, heterocyclic amines. 
  • Drink up. Quench your thirst and stay hydrated throughout the day, especially when you’re outside. If water doesn’t excite your taste buds, go for a diet soda or a refreshing drink like this Light Lemonade made with fresh lemon, mint, and sweetened with sucralose, which keeps it calorie-free!
  • Envision MyPlate. As with all meals, keep the picture of USDA’s MyPlate front of mind as you fill your plate. Remember, half the plate should be filled with fruit and vegetables, ¼ of the plate with lean protein, and ¼ with grains. 
  • Save room for dessert. Whether you indulge in a scoop of ice cream or grill some fruit like nectarines and pineapple, finish off your barbecue with a sweet treat. Remember, all foods fit in moderation! 



Jessica Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN is a registered dietitian nutritionist and culinary nutrition expert. She has extensive experience as a recipe developer, writer, editor, and speaker. She is the co-author of We Can Cook: Introduce Your Child to the Joy of Cooking with 75 Simple Recipes and Activities (Barron’s, 2011), past columnist for the Culinary Corner column in Today’s Dietitian Magazine, and maintains a popular blog at Jessica is an active member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) and various Dietetic Practice Groups of the AND, including Nutrition Entrepreneurs, Food and Culinary Professionals, and Dietitians in Business and Communications. Follow her out on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

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June 13, 2014 Lifestyle Advice