Here’s how you can take grilling to an even healthier level (recipes included)
12/11/2020 / By Leslie Locklear / Comments
Here’s how you can take grilling to an even healthier level (recipes included)

It may not look like it but grilling is actually a very healthy way to cook food.

This is because the process itself uses the inherent oils and moisture in the ingredients to cook them, thus negating the need for extra cooking oils. Not only that but because the method uses high heat, it quickly cooks the food thereby locking in and preserving more of its nutrients and natural flavors.

However, did you know that there are ways to make this already healthy cooking method even healthier? Here are some of them:

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Make your own healthy marinades

The best marinades do more than just add flavor to your grilled meats and veg: they also help keep the food healthy and nutritious.

For instance, marinades such as those made with pineapple juice, olive oil and herbs such as basil, mint, rosemary, thyme, oregano and sage can help reduce the formation of carcinogens in grilled meats by a whopping 99 percent.

It goes without saying, however, that the best marinades to use when cooking for your friends and family are the ones that you make yourself. This is mainly because store-bought ones are often overflowing with excess sodium and added sugar.

Having trouble deciding what marinade to make? Just keep in mind the Holy Trinity of marinades — Acid, Fat, Seasoning — and how they work.

Acids help soften the meat’s surface, allowing them to absorb more seasonings and flavorings This component can come in the form of fruit juices, buttermilk or wine and vinegar; Fat, on the other hand, act as moistening agents, and can come in the form of olive oil, yogurt and coconut milk; Seasonings, for their part, impart flavor and — in the case of sugars — help facilitate caramelization. You can use fresh or dried herbs to add a bit more oomph to your dish.

Try using plant-based proteins

As flavorful as they are, one cannot deny that animal protein comes with caveats such as increased risks of stroke and cardiovascular diseases.

With this in mind, it is indeed a much smarter choice to opt for plant-based proteins for your next cookout. Not only will you get a much lower risk for cancer and metabolic and cardiovascular diseases, you’ll also get more nutrients, fiber and antioxidants — all of which can help boost your overall health.

Still not sure which plant-based proteins to use? You can never go wrong with using legumes such as beans and chickpeas as well as mashed tofu as a base for “meatballs,” “sausages” and “burger patties.”

Grill your vegetables for optimum nutrition

By now it’s safe to assume that you’re more used to seeing meats on the grill. However, did you know that you can actually grill vegetables?

Not only are grilled vegetables a tasty side accompaniment to barbecued meats — or meat substitutes — they are also incredibly healthy.

To ensure that your veg of choice won’t stick to your grill, brush them generously with some healthy oil such as camelina, which can withstand the high temperatures without turning rancid. Remember to cut your veg evenly in order for them to cook in a uniform manner though — you wouldn’t want to bite into a half-cooked eggplant now, do you?

Some vegetables that taste good when grilled include bell peppers, corn, portobello mushrooms, eggplants, asparagus and zucchini.

Use healthy oils — but sparingly

Grilling is considered to be a healthy method of cooking because any excess fat from the food being cooked just runs off into the coals.

However, there comes a time when you have to use oil, usually when cooking extra-large cuts. When this happens, make sure you choose oils that can withstand high temperatures since, based on experience, high heat can cause most oils to oxidize and become rancid. Opt for healthy oils that are resistant to oxidation and rancidification such as camelina and extra-virgin coconut oil.

Sweeten your meals with grilled fruits

Want to add something unique to your meal? Fire up that grill and cook up some fruits on it.

This is because fruits are loaded with natural sugars that, when grilled and cooked at high temperatures, begin to caramelize and develop new flavors.

Some fruits that would taste well after some grilling would be pineapples, carambola or starfruit, peaches, apples, bananas, figs and the firmer types of melons.

Go loco on herbs and natural seasonings

We know it’s absolutely tempting to bust out your Top Chef-style moves when cooking for a crowd but please don’t get carried away when it comes to your use of salt, sugar and pre-packaged seasonings while grilling.

This is because while those can save you time while cooking, they’re also loaded with nasty chemicals you wouldn’t want anywhere near your body.

Instead, do what traditional professional cooks do and use an armada of spices such as dried basil, oregano, cumin and others, to give your food a nice kick in terms of flavor and nutrition.

Keep your grill clean

This isn’t exactly the most fun of activities, but when everything has winded down, be sure to scrub down the rack or grill pan thoroughly. This means removing leftover burnt pieces of food from the grill, as well as stripping it of grease and oil. This prevents burning, smoking and the development of bitter flavors the next time you use it.

Other ways to ensure that your next family cookout is healthy include the following:

  • Trim excess fats from foods. These fats are known for being troublemakers health-wise so it’s best to keep their presence to a minimum.
  • Don’t overcook foods. The charred bits on foods are the largest sources of carcinogens such as Heterocyclic Amines (HCA) and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH), so if you have charred sections of meat it’s best to cut them off.
  • Avoid grill flare-ups. Flare-ups burn foods and this increases carcinogen formation.

With that said, here are some recipes you can try on your next cookout with friends and family:

Sprouted Lentil Burger Patties

Who says veg can’t take the place of red meat? This recipe, which we adapted from Feasting At Home, is a wholesome and healthy take on the traditional burger we often see sizzling on our grills during cookouts. The good news: it’s just as tasty and juicy as the non-vegan version.

Note: Because sprouting the lentils can take some time, it is recommended that you prepare the ingredients at least one full day before making this dish for friends and family.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups sprouted organic black, green or brown lentils
  • 1 cup cooked organic brown rice or quinoa
  • 1 cup organic walnuts, lightly toasted
  • 1 tablespoon organic miso paste
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons organic whole grain mustard
  • 2 teaspoons granulated organic garlic
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2–4 tablespoons, fresh herbs
  • 2–3 tablespoons, toasted sesame seeds

Preparation:

  1. The morning before you want to make your veggie burgers, place 1 cup of dry whole lentils and 3 to 4 cups of water in a large mason jar. Let this soak for 8 hours.
  2. After 8 hours, drain the jar and turn it on its side letting lentils spread out a bit. Let the lentils continue to sit on the counter overnight
  3. The lentils are ready once you see the tiny tip of the white sprout begin to emerge. This generally takes 24-30 hours.
  4. Drain and add 1 ½ cups of the raw sprouted lentils into a large mixing bowl, add the cooked rice or quinoa, toasted walnuts, miso, oil, mustard, garlic, salt, spices and pepper in the food processor and pulse until well-combined or until it looks like a coarse dough.
  5. Check the flavor and adjust by adding seasonings as needed.
  6. Place the sesame seeds in a large saucer and then set aside.
  7. Using wet hands, divide the dough into four balls and press down to form about four 1-inch thick patties. Dip into the sesame seeds, making sure to cover both sides.
  8. Place the patties in the fridge for about 15 minutes in order for them to firm up. At this point, you can start preheating the grill to 400 F
  9. Once the grill is hot, sear the lentil burgers until grill marks appear. This will take about 4-5 minutes on each side.
  10. Once cooked, you can assemble these into burgers or serve them as is.

Grilled Peaches

Grilled peaches — such as this recipe from Love and Lemons —  make for really good summer desserts. Not only are they tasty on their own, but they are also the perfect base for add-ons such as organic ice cream or organic frozen yogurt.

Ingredients:

  • 4 ripe organic peaches, halved and pitted
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing
  • 1/2 cup organic walnuts, toasted and crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon, organic cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon, sea salt
  • Organic vanilla ice cream

Preparation:

  1. Preheat a grill or grill pan to medium heat.
  2. Brush the cut side of the peaches with a little olive oil and grill cut-side down for 3 minutes, until char marks form.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the walnuts, cinnamon, and salt.
  4. Remove the peaches from the grill and serve with organic vanilla ice cream and sprinkle with the walnut mixture.
  5. Serve and enjoy!

Cooking foods on the grill is a very fun — not to mention healthy — way to prepare nutritious food for yourself or your friends and family. However, there are still ways in which you can make the experience even more healthy and fulfilling.

Sources:

AugustaFreePress.com

Heart.org

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