Summer is a great time to fire up the grill. Consider yourself a grill master? Spice up any cookout by adding fruits and vegetables to the menu.
Beyond the benefits of adding color, variety and flavor to the menu with fruits and vegetables, you're also serving up a variety of vitamins and nutrients. Remember, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables at each meal.
Throw a kabob of color onto the grill with marinated vegetables including red or yellow bell peppers, mushrooms, eggplant, cherry tomatoes and onions. Simply brush the vegetables with olive oil and your favorite spices and grill over medium heat, turning until marked and tender (about 12 to 15 minutes, and 8 to 10 minutes for cherry tomatoes and pre-boiled potatoes).
Whether you're a vegetarian or an avid meat lover, a grilled, marinated Portobello burger is a tasty alternative. Marinate and grill mushrooms, gill sides up, over medium-low heat with the grill covered until they are marked and softened (about 15 minutes). Flip and grill until cooked through, being careful not to char the gills (1 to 2 minutes).
For a flavorful dessert, try fruit kabobs with pineapple slices or peach halves. Grill on low heat until the fruit is hot and slightly golden. Serve them on top of low-fat frozen yogurt or angel food cake.
Another tasty option — grilled watermelon! Since watermelon is primarily made up of water, when you put it on the grill some of the water evaporates, leaving an intense watermelon flavor. Grilling watermelon slices only takes about 30 seconds on each side.
If you're grilling meat as well, choose healthier options such as lean cuts of beef, pork, chicken or fish. As you grill, keep raw meat and poultry (and raw meat juices) separate from ready-to-eat foods, including fruits and vegetables. This means using separate plates, cooking utensils and cutting boards.
Remember to always use a food thermometer when cooking meat, poultry or fish to ensure it reaches a safe minimum internal temperature. Using a food thermometer is key to reducing your risk of food poisoning.
To learn more about safe grilling and eating right all summer long, visit www.eatright.org and consult a registered dietitian nutritionist.
Reviewed July 2014