Tips for a Healthy Cookout

Reviewed By Taylor Wolfram, MS, RDN, LDN
Vegetable and chicken kebabs on the grill - Get Fired Up! Tips for Healthy, Flavorful Cookouts

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From traditional favorites such as hot dogs to side dishes and desserts, grilling is a great way to add flavor to all types of food. Make sure you do it right with these healthy grilling tips.

Before the Big Cookout

Start by cleaning your grill. Scrub it with hot, soapy water. Then, when you're ready to cook, allow the grill to heat up sufficiently to eliminate potential bacteria problems.

Make sure you have the right tools. Relying on color alone does not ensure the doneness of meat, poultry and fish. A food thermometer is the only way to ensure food has been cooked to a safe internal temperature.

And, remember to pack extra plates and utensils because it's important to separate: use one set for raw meat, poultry and seafood; and the other set for cooked and ready-to-eat foods. The same rule of separation applies when marinating foods. Do not use the same brush to baste raw meat as you do for cooked foods, as doing so can contaminate the cooked foods and result in food poisoning.

Setting the Menu

Once you're equipped for a safe cookout, think beyond the traditional favorites. Start building your healthful barbecue around fruits and vegetables, which are low in calories, high in fiber and packed with the nutrients you need. Look no further than your local grocery store or farmers' market for fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables. Here are a few ideas for featuring fruits and vegetables at your barbecue:

  • Go Lean
    Grill marinated portobello mushrooms or turkey burgers. Ground turkey breast can be as lean as 99 percent fat-free. Add cilantro, shallots or chili sauce to spice things up. Or, mix in feta cheese, Kalamata olives, oregano and pepper and serve on a pita with fresh tomatoes and cucumbers for a Greek-style burger. Just remember to use a food thermometer to ensure ground turkey reaches a safe temperature of 165°F.
  • Grill Vegetables
    Baste vegetables such as red peppers, corn, eggplant, summer squash, sweet potatoes, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms or onions, season with herbs and place directly on a hot grill (or a piece of tin foil) until they are tender and brown.
  • Don't Forget Dessert
    Grill fruit kabobs, pineapple slices or peach halves on low heat until the fruit is hot and slightly golden for a tasty and nutritious dessert. Grill watermelon for 30 seconds on each side to bring out unique flavors. You also could carve out a watermelon to use as a bowl for fruit salad!

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