Let the fat fall through the grill rack

While you’re enjoying the summer heat, start up your barbecue to enjoy the taste, convenience and health benefits of grilled food. Grilling is a healthy way to prepare some of your favorite meats and vegetables, as it allows some extra fats to fall through the grill rack.

Although grilling helps eliminate some fat, high-fat meats should be used less frequently or only for special occasions. Just because some of the fat is lost during cooking - don’t kid yourself into thinking it takes care of all the fat. Start out with lean meats most of the time, such as chicken without the skin, any fish, shrimp or lean beef (loin and round are good words to indicate lean cuts of meat). Turkey burgers are popular to grill, but can be just as high in fat as ground beef. Make sure the meat is coming from the turkey breast and not a mixture that uses the turkey’s skin, which provides a lot of saturated fat.

Remember to remove skin and trim visible fat from your meat to keep it healthy. Also, try adding some heat. Some research indicates that consuming spicy food may slightly increase the metabolic rate, which may help you burn a few calories. Add a marinade with herbs to increase the antioxidant and photochemical content, as well.

And don’t forget that many vegetables have a great flavor on the grill. Try them on a skewer, sliced or even placed in aluminum foil packets. It’s a tasty way to get your five to nine servings per day.

The sky is the limit when it comes to an open flame. Many non-meat items can be grilled and experimented with. Try fruits like apples, bananas or pears sprinkled with cinnamon, or peaches and pineapple. This is a great alternative to many high-calorie desserts.

I would even place some grilled fruit over a ½ cup of ice cream or frozen yogurt. Breads can be toasted on the grill for a different flavor, and pizzas are quite tasty grilled. Go ahead and bring out your inner Bobby Flay.

On rainy days, indoor grilling with something like a George Foreman grill, or broiling in the oven can be an alternate way to mimic grilled foods. Of course, other low-fat cooking methods include baking, poaching, boiling and braising. Using non-stick spray can help reduce the amount of fat needed.

The best thing about grilling is that it can fit into a fast-paced lifestyle. When your whole meal is cooked on the grill, the clean up is super easy, which allows you to spend less time cleaning and more time with your family.

That seems to be the obstacle to healthy dining at home - lack of time.

Heather Pierce is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator for the Blount Memorial Weight Management Center.

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