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More than Just Hot Dogs: Healthy Grilling Options

By Heather Maloney
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center correspondent

When summer hits, many of us take our cooking outside to the backyard grill. But hot dogs and hamburgers are not only boring, they aren't very nutritious either. Liz Moore, RD, LDN, a registered dietitian at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, says it's time to start thinking outside of the hamburger box and offers some healthy options.

"You can pretty much cook anything on the grill,” says Moore. “Fish is always a great option — and a favorite of mine — because it’s lean and there is a wide variety to choose from.”

“Kabobs are another great option,” she adds. “Start with chicken or fish, and add fruit or vegetables for tasty new combinations, like chicken and pineapple.”

If you really crave that hamburger, try a veggie burger instead.

“A veggie burger is much lower in fat than a regular hamburger,” Moore says. “But definitely read the nutrition panel, because some brands contain a lot of sodium.”

Be wary of stocking up on turkey dogs as well.

“The turkey dogs are lower in fat, but like regular hot dogs, they are still very processed, so you really need to limit them,” she says.

Moore also suggests that the more you prepare at home, the better. “If you’re going to have hamburgers, buy ground beef and make the patties yourself instead of buying packaged patties,” she says. “Oftentimes manufacturers will add lots of preservatives to the pre-made products.”

Some of Moore's other tips:

  • Trim the fat off the steak before you grill it, and use a marinade to keep it moist. Each serving should be about 4 ounces (about the size of a deck of cards).
  • Most fishes can be cooked on the grill; cook them on aluminum foil if you think they might fall apart.
  • Try a grilled fruit salad using pineapple, apricots, and plums.
  • Slice onions, eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes and put them on the grill. Eat them as a side dish or as part of a kabob.
  • Cook your corn on the cob on the grill.
  • Marinate meats in a combination of olive oil with rosemary, basil or oregano.

Finally, Moore reminds us to consider the whole meal, not just what’s on the grill.

“When people are grilling, they tend to have high-fat side dishes, like potato salad and pasta salad,” she says. “Make sure the rest of your meal is healthy as well!”

Above content provided by the American Heart Association in partnership with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.

Posted June 2013

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