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Taking Nutrition Outdoors

Jun 29, 2012

Healthy Grilling Techniques

It is summer! The best time to take advantage of the spectacularly healthy cooking technique most of us love—grilling! Grilling can not only be a healthy and fun way to cook, if done correctly, but it can save you tons of calories and make those high nutrient foods oh so flavorful. The main drawback is the potential for the formation of carcinogens. The good news is there are several actions you can take that can help reduce the formation of carcinogenic Heterocyclic Amines (HA) and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH). These proven carcinogens are chemicals formed when food, especially fatty foods such as meats, are placed in contact with intense heat and flame for a prolonged period of time. Studies have shown that HCA and PAH formation can be lessened and even prevented by taking a few simple measures. Here are five tips to help you grill safely this summer:

  1. Pre-cook meats. The less contact with high heat and flames the food has the less chance for the formation of carcinogens. Try pre-cooking chicken or other meats in the microwave for a minute or so to lessen cooking time on the grill.
  2. Use low-fat meats and trim excess fat. The key word in healthful grilling is low-fat. That’s because the fat is what causes the problems, so eating lean is your best bet. Trim all visible fat off of meats and poultry or better yet, eat lean fish or shellfish!
  3. Use marinades. Marinating low fat foods not only adds flavor but is also a great way to prevent the formation of HA and PAH. The best marinade choice is an extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), citrus and herb concoction (think lemon juice, rosemary, basil or thyme and EVOO). EVOO provides a healthful outer shield to foods; herbs and citrus provide antioxidants that have been scientifically proven to reduce carcinogen formation.
  4. Avoid flare-ups. Flame flare-ups (i.e, when the fire erupts engulfing food in flames), burn foods—increasing the formation of carcinogenic compounds.
  5. Don’t char foods. It is not wise to char foods, especially meats. The small areas of char are actually the most highly concentrated sources of HA and PAH, so cut off the charred sections of your BBQ and toss them.

Follow these five tips for safe grilling and enjoy the flavor and health benefits of cooking in this favorite American cooking pastime. Don’t forget to combine your healthy outdoor nutrition with a regular exercise program for total health and fitness.

5 superfoods that cook up great on the grill!

Juicy peaches, red ripe and sweet tomatoes, fresh picked corn-on-the-cob. Its summer, the produce stands are brimming with farm fresh fruits and vegetables—two food categories that Americans simply do not eat enough of. So why not try grilling them to help you up your daily intake? What’s great about grilling veggies is they taste better grilled than just about any other way! Remember that marinating fruits and veggies first (such as coating quickly with a touch of olive oil and balsamic vinegar) will help them caramelize better to bring out the flavors. So, try these five superfoods that grill up perfectly, and give your summer BBQ a healthful makeover:

  1. Pineapple. Most fruit is too fragile to grill. Not true for pineapple! Hearty pineapple is definitely an exception to this rule and tastes sweet and delicious after just a few minutes on the flame. Brush with a touch of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), toss on the grill and you have the perfect garnish to jazz up a burger or place under a grilled lobster tail. Nutritionally speaking, pineapple is low in calories and packed with vitamin C—1/2 cup provides you with 20% of your daily needs.
  2. Asparagus. A simple marinade of EVOO and balsamic vinegar makes this super easy to make and flavor-packed veggie a must grill side dish. Nutritionally speaking, asparagus is actually a member of the lily family—extra low in calories yet rich in fiber, folic acid, potassium, thiamin, and vitamins A, B6, and C.
  3. Corn. Grilled corn-on-the-cob is a popular menu item for BBQs and clam bakes and fortunately is a healthy nutrition choice too. Grilling brings out the natural sweetness in corn—and allows its natural sweet flavor to surface without the need for too many unhealthful additives. Roasting the corn in the husks is the best way to cook them (just be sure to soak in lightly salted water for 30 minutes before tossing them on the grill). Corn is quite nutritious—filled with phytochemicals, B vitamins, folic acid as well as a notable amount of protein.
  4. Zucchini. Zucchini, sliced lengthwise, are super easy to grill and with their ability to capture those perfect crosshatch grill marks make them a nice visual addition to your menu. Flavor with a touch of EVOO and lemon juice, toss on a low heat and you’re good to go. Nutritionally speaking, zucchini falls into the super low calorie vegetable class (one entire zucchini contains a measly 20 calories). And for those 20 calories, you get a nice amount of vitamin C, vitamin A, fiber, calcium and iron.
  5. Portobello mushrooms. Marinate these meaty mushrooms in a little EVOO, balsamic vinegar, garlic and onion for an hour, toss them onto a hot grill and it just doesn’t get any better than this for both taste and nutrition. Dense and flavorful, you can use them as a burger substitute, make them into pizzas, or serve them sliced as a side dish. Any way you eat them; these super-tasty and hearty mushrooms are the perfect low-calorie addition to your summer BBQ. Nutritionally speaking, these mushrooms pack a wallop. For just about 70 calories you get a nice amount of B vitamins, vitamin D, potassium and copper.

Make sure to add these five superfoods to your summer menu and enjoy the flavor and health benefits of bringing your nutrition outdoors and enjoying this favorite American summer pastime—grilling! Tap into the season’s bounty of fresh nutrient-packed foods. Use grilling for a flavor-packed light and healthy meal and enjoy the perfect outdoor cooking method. Don’t forget to combine your healthy summer BBQ with frequent workouts to keep your body beach-ready. Let Fitness Together help you make this “Summer of 2012” your best yet!

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