Whether you are grilling vegetables, seafood, beef, pork or poultry, use these healthy cooking tips to add flavor–but not fat–to your next cookout. Grilling is one of the healthiest cooking methods available because it sears in flavor while the fat drips away. The BBQ’s smokiness adds calorie-free flavor and you can add more flavor to grilled foods in other ways, also. Choose fresh and flavorful ingredients that have taste without adding fat or sodium. Here are some of my suggestions:
1. When choosing marinades, look out for high proportions of oil, which can add fat without contributing flavor. Rely on marinades that use juices and vinegar for acid. And opt for recipes that flavor with fresh or low-sodium ingredients.
For Grilled Chicken
Lemon-Thyme Marinade: In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley; 1/4 cup lemon juice; 1/4 cup olive oil; 1 tablespoon snipped fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed; 2 teaspoons snipped fresh marjoram or 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram, crushed; 2 cloves garlic, minced; 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper and 1/8 teaspoon salt.
Place 1 1/4 pounds boneless chicken breasts in a resealable plastic bag set in a shallow dish. Pour the marinade into the bag with the chicken; seal the bag. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or up to 4 hours, turning bag occasionally. Drain chicken; reserve marinade.
Tip: Make extra marinade and marinate some of your favorite vegetables to grill alongside the chicken.
Place chicken on an oiled grill and cook for 15 to 18 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink (165 degrees F), turning once and brushing with reserved marinade once halfway through grilling. Discard leftover marinade. Makes 4 servings.
For Grilled Flank Steak
Rosemary-Onion Marinade: In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup chopped onion; 1/4 cup olive oil; 1/4 cup white wine vinegar; 1 tablespoon snipped fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed; 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper and 1/8 teaspoon salt.
Trim fat from one flank steak. Score both sides of the steak in a diamond pattern by making shallow diagonal cuts at 1-inch intervals. Place steak in a resealable plastic bag. Pour the marinade over steak in the bag. Seal bag; turn to coat steak. Marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Drain and discard the marinade.
Preheat grill and reduce heat to medium. Oil the grates and cook the steak about 15 minutes. Grilled corn and red bell peppers go well with this steak and you can use leftovers to make a salad for the next day.
For Grilled Fish
Garlic Marinade: In a blender or processor combine 6 garlic cloves, peeled and quartered, 1/2 onion, quartered, 1/2 red sweet pepper, quartered and seeded, 1/4 cup dry white wine, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons ketchup, 2 teaspoons sweet paprika, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper until coarsely chopped. Stir in ¼ cup slivered fresh basil leaves.
Transfer half of the marinade to a small bowl; cover and chill until ready to serve.
Place 1 1/2 pounds fresh fish steaks or fillets (such as tuna, sea bass, swordfish or salmon), cut 1 inch thick in a shallow glass dish. Spoon remaining marinade over fish; turn fish to coat. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 2 to 4 hours, turning fish occasionally.
Drain fish, discarding marinade in the dish. Grill fish in an oiled grill basket over medium for 8 to 12 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Gently turn the basket once halfway through the grilling time. Serve fish with the reserved marinade. Makes 4-6 servings.
2. Wood chunks or chips infuse meat with flavor without adding calories. You can choose from mesquite, alder, maple, cedar, nut woods (such as hickory and pecan) or fruit woods (such as cherry and apple). Soak them first in water for an hour, then drain and sprinkle directly onto the coals (for gas or electric grills, put the wood in a smoker box or heavy-duty foil). If you’re grilling longer than an hour, plan to add more wood during cooking.
Apple-Smoked Pork Loin
- 3 cups apple wood chips or 6 to 8 apple wood chunks
- One 2 – 2 1/2 pound boneless pork top loin roast (single loin)
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano, crushed
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
At least 1 hour before cooking, soak wood chips or chunks in enough water to cover.
Trim fat from the roast. Place roast in a shallow dish. In a small bowl, stir together dried oregano, garlic, salt and pepper. Sprinkle evenly over all sides of the roast; rub in with your fingers.
Drain wood chips. Prepare grill for indirect grilling over medium-low heat. For a charcoal grill use a drip pan. Sprinkle half of the drained wood chips over the coals. For a gas grill place the chips in a smoker box or in heavy-duty foil.
Place roast on the grill rack on the indirect side of the grill. Cover and grill for 1 to 1-1/2 hours or until internal temperature registers 145 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer. Add more wood chips as needed during grilling. Remove roast from grill. Cover with foil; let stand for 15 minutes before slicing.
3. Glazes are brushed onto meat near the end of cooking to add flavor. Look for glazes that rely on low sugar jellies or preserves. Here is a simple recipe to make.
Brush on chicken, salmon or pork during the last 5 minutes of grilling time.
- 2/3 cup low-sugar fruit preserves (such as apricot, berry or peach)
- 1/4 cup pineapple juice
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
Place fruit preserves in a small saucepan; snip any large pieces of fruit. Stir in pineapple juice, lemon juice and cardamom. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Cool about 10 minutes (glaze will thicken as it cools). Makes about 3/4 cup.
For Grilled Salmon
Rinse 1 lb of salmon and pat dry with paper towels. Cut into 4 equal pieces and measure thickness of the salmon. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Place salmon on oiled grill rack or in an oiled fish basket over medium heat. Grill 4-6 minutes per 1/2-inch thickness or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork, turning once halfway through grilling. Brush with fruit glaze during the last minute or two of cooking time.
4. Seasonings that are rubbed directly onto the meat’s surface are excellent, low-fat ways to flavor grilled foods. Look for rubs with salt-free seasonings. To use a rub, sprinkle the mixture evenly over the meat. Next, rub the mixture into the meat with your fingertips.
Garlic Herb Rub
- 1 tablespoon dried basil, crushed
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme, crushed
- 1 tablespoon dried marjoram, crushed
- 1 tablespoon finely shredded lemon peel or dried lemon peel
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons dried sage, crushed
- 2 teaspoons fennel seeds, crushed
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
In a small bowl, combine all ingredients. Rub about 1 tablespoon of the herb mixture on 1 pound of meat and cook as desired.
If using fresh lemon peel, store rub in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 1 month. If using dried lemon peel, store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 6 months.
Grilled Lamb Chops
Trim fat from 6 lamb chops, cut 1 inch thick. Place the chops on a plate. Sprinkle garlic herb mixture evenly over chops; rub in with your fingers. Cover the chops with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator at least 30 minutes or up to 24 hours.
Grill chops on an oiled grill on medium until chops are cooked to your likeness. (Allow 10 to 14 minutes for medium-rare and 14 to 16 minutes for medium.) Let rest 5 minutes before serving.