The grill is a great tool for healthy eating. You can throw just about any food over the fire to enhance its natural sweetness and add a subtle smoky flavor — no sauces, fats, or sugar needed. Basically, the grill provides calorie-free, fat-free, sugar-free flavor. But lots of people are intimidated by the idea of grilling something other than hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken, or steaks. I talked to Chopped Grillmasters competitor, FBA trained BBQ judge, and grilling expert Robyn Lindars, who has a few healthy grilling tips and recipes to share.
What are some of the common mistakes people make when they’re trying to grill healthy?
A lot of people think they need a marinade when they’re grilling. A lot of the time, marinades are high in sugar, sodium, and preservatives. You don’t necessarily need a marinade — the grill itself is the ultimate ingredient, adding so much flavor — but if you want a marinade, I recommend making your own. You can make a really basic marinade with olive oil, some citrus juice and zest, fresh herbs, salt, and pepper. Then, you can customize it by adding interesting spices like smoked paprika or cumin; the sky’s the limit. Your homemade marinade will be a lot lower in salt and sugar and you’ll know exactly what’s in it.
What are some of the other ways grillers can add flavor without making their food unhealthy?
Look for fresh herbs; they add a ton of flavor. And when you’re using salt don’t use iodized table salt. Sea salt is a better choice because it’s lower in sodium and contributes a ton of flavor. I also like grating hard, flavorful cheeses onto grilled vegetables. With hard cheeses like Parmigiano-Reggiano a little bit really goes a long way so you end up eating fewer calories.
Do you have any healthy go-to grilled side dishes or appetizers?
I love to grill veggies and turn them into a salsa or guacamole. It adds a nice, unexpected, smoky element. You can grill tomatoes, jalapeños, and onions, and you can even grill avocado and limes. Basically, all your salsa ingredients can be thrown onto the grill for added depth of flavor, then chopped up and made into salsa (or guacamole).
When most people think about grilling they think about meat. Do you have any tips for vegans or vegetarians?
The grill is perfect for just about anything you put on it. I actually got really good at grilling tofu when I was preparing for Chopped Grillmasters. Whenever you’re preparing tofu it’s really important to press the water out, since expressing the water allows the tofu to absorb the flavors of whatever you are marinating it in. With something like tofu, make sure you oil the grill grates well; tofu is prone to sticking. Portobello mushrooms are also great on the grill because they’re filling and have a nice meaty texture. I like to top them with tomato sauce and cheese to make carb-free pizzas.
Is there anything else we need to know about healthy grilling?
Try not to compartmentalize grilling as something you do two months out of the year. Think of your grill as an extension of your kitchen and get creative; it’s an intrinsically healthy way to cook and anything you throw on the grill will get great flavor.
West Indies Wings
(Credit: Robyn Lindars/Grill Grrrl)
These tasty grilled wings are one of Robyn’s favorite recipes. You won’t believe the incredible flavor you can create with just four ingredients. Click here for Robyn’s West Indies Wings Recipe.
Grilled Eggplant with Feta and Cucumber
(Credit: Will Budiamin)
Grilling eggplant adds tons of smoky flavor. Topped with salty feta cheese and cool, refreshing cucumber, this healthy vegetable dish will quickly become a healthy grilling staple. Click here to get our Grilled Eggplant with Feta and Cucumber Recipe.
Kristie Collado is The Daily Meal’s Cook Editor. Follow her on Twitter @KColladoCook.
Grilling expert Robyn Lindars is a trained FBA BBQ judge who has appeared on the Food Network, Cooking Channel, the Travel Channel, and the TODAY show. For more information about Robyn (or for more recipes and tips) visit her blog, Grill Grrrl.