Monday, June 27, 2016


Summer grilling makeover — building a healthy plate

For those grilling this summer, a juicy steak with a side of potatoes might sound like the perfect meal but before taking a bite, you might want to look at the numbers.

One half pound of New York Strip steak garnished with roasted potatoes and a pat of butter contains one day’s worth of protein (50 grams) and 60 percent of the daily value for saturated fat (12 grams).

But don't worry; you can make healthy choices and still enjoy the foods you love by following these simple tips to build a healthy plate this summer:

1) Keep portion sizes right. Choose a four-ounce portion of lean meat and surround it with antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables. Kebabs make it easy to serve a balanced meal because they can be assembled in advance and take just minutes to cook. Try tossing cubed skinless chicken thighs with bold spices, and then thread them onto skewers alternately with your choice of fruits and vegetables such as: pineapple chunks, red onion, and mushrooms. Cook’s tip: Soak wooden kebab sticks in water for 30 minutes and freeze in a plastic storage bag so they are ready when you are.

2) Try grilling fish. Toss shrimp in a grill basket with vegetables for a tasty taco filling or satisfying stir fry. Another smart choice is skinless salmon filets. Packed with heart healthy omega-3 fats salmon can handle the heat of the grill and does not tend to fall apart like white fish. Cook’s tip: Place salmon filets on cedar planks and close the lid to infuse them with flavor.

3) Grill leaner red meat. Choose ground buffalo, it has fewer calories and half the saturated fat of 90 percent lean ground beef. To keep these extra-lean burgers moist add a small handful of parmesan cheese and a splash of extra virgin olive oil. Another smart option is flank steak because it has 30 percent less saturated fat than top sirloin. For best results, cook flank steak quickly over high heat, let it rest for five minutes, and slice thinly against the grain. Cook’s tips: Handle ground meat gently to avoid dense, tough burgers. Score flank steak lightly so it lays flat on the grill.

4) Make better beverage choices. Reach for sparkling water with a splash of 100 percent juice instead of soda.

5) Use a grill basket to cook more vegetables with ease. A variety of colorful vegetables such as corn, bell peppers, chilies, and onions make a lovely grilled vegetable salad that can be the star of any dinner menu. Crank up the heat to maximize flavor, then toss cooked vegetables with avocado, black beans, cumin, lime juice, fresh herbs, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Now wipe out that grill basket because it’s time for dessert.

6) Make dessert delicious with fruit. There are many fruits that are suitable for grilling such as: peaches, pineapple, melons, and—if you own a grill basket—you can wow your guests with grilled cherries. Try grilled peaches topped with fresh raspberries, two tablespoons Greek yogurt cream*, dark chocolate, and fresh mint for a satisfying dessert that is less than 200 calories. (*For the Greek yogurt cream mix: ½ cup non-fat Greek yogurt, 3 tablespoons cream, 1 tablespoon honey and ¼ teaspoon of vanilla.)

Brenda Viens is a registered dietitian at Backus Hospital and Thames Valley Council for Community Action. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal health care provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Viens or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

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