August 30, 2014

Nutri-Savvy’s Healthy BBQ!

Last week I hosted a BBQ – all week-long! Well, it was a virtual one, but nonetheless a great way to connect and share healthy, tasty dishes.

Among my favorite Facebook shares were a tri-colored quinoa salad by Lauren K., a tandoori chicken dish by Sonali, Chicken (ka)Bobs by Rachel, and for dessert, grilled peaches by Susan T. It was “yummy”. As if that weren’t enough to keep my tastebuds dancing, Lindsey E. found this great recipe for grilled watermelon with feta.

Surfing through the web, I found this great Cooking With Sugar video tutorial. I couldn’t resist sharing this one. Sugar shows us how to put fish on the grill, featuring foiled grilled tilapia with a combination of herbs/spices and colorful veggies.

So now that you’ve got some tastey recipes for inspiration, here are some tips for creating your own healthy BBQ meal:

Get Veggie-ful!: Grilling is a great medium for your colorful variety of summer-time vegetables (and fruits, too). Think asparagus! Add some lemon juice/zest and a little garlic to your spears and dig in to that tangy delight. Speaking of tips, layer a kabob with mushrooms, zucchini, tomatoes and bell pepper. Grill a mixture of your favorite starchy and non-starchy vegetables and serve up a rainbow of flavor. Here are a list of in-season produce to get you started.

Fish is in the wraps: Get a piece of foil, place inside your favorite fish (tilapia is great), add a little EVOO and your favorite herbs and spices, layer on top some lemon slices and your favorite combo of veggies. Wrap it all over and heat over the grill.

Go light on the marinades: Marinades can be heavy in salt and /or sugars. Mix up your own and use sparingly. You don’t want the natural flavors of your foods to be weighed down in dressing. Here are some easy, healthy recipes.

Season superb(ly) with fresh spices and herb(s): Basil, thyme, rosemary are just a few of my favorite spices, but cumin, cilantro and chili can certainly spice up your meal. They’re all low in calories, are naturally pure (no sugars, no fats) and can add a lot flavor without excess in added sugars, salts and/ or fats. Experiment on your own or try these tips.

Go easy on the oil, use EVOO! Fruits, vegetables and healthy proteins naturally have flavor, so just a little oil can go a long way in preserving and enhancing the mouthfeel of your naturally great tasting foods. Besides fat is higher in calories than carbohydrates and proteins, so minimal is the way to go if you are watching your waist.

While you can enjoy plenty of healthier grilling, it is important to remember that not all grilling is safe or healthy. Here are some things to avoid or limit as much possible:

  • It’s Smokin’: Heavy smoke and charcoal: These increase the danger of inhalation and carcinogenic dangers.
  • Beware of the burn (marks): They may look inviting and a provide a mark of “good-taste” for your senses, but burnt foods are a cancer-causing agent. So try to limit overdoing your meats and vegetables with such high heat and overkill.
  • That old flame: Sure they’re a part of your BBQ event, but keep the flames under your watch and control, especially if you’ve got kids or dogs that can accidentally overturn or run into your pit.
  • Meat your match: There is a danger to grilled animal meats. Those juices in the flesh of processed meats form cancer-causing Hetero-cyclic Amines (HCA). And that’s not all. When the drippings hit the coals. They form Poly-cyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH). Research suggests that both HCA’s and PAH’s are carcinogenic risks.
Hope you enjoy your heart-healthy BBQs all summer long.
What is your favorite food to put on the grill?
An RD Behind the Plate,
~Lauren
About Lauren O'Connor, MS, RD

Lauren O’Connor, MS, RD is a registered dietitian and owner/nutritional consultant for Nutri-Savvy. Her approach and motto is: “Savor, Taste and Enjoy…Nutrition”. She focuses on building healthy values and choosing a wide variety of foods, allowing for all foods – even sweets, in moderation. O’Connor is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly known as the ADA). As a nutritional expert, she’s contributed to various online media including abcnews, everydayhealth, iVillage, Shine by yahoo, Shape, LivingInThin, FitSugar and Multiples&More.