We all look forward to balmy days when we can light up the grill, smoke ascending to the heavens, our neighbors deeply jealous if they’re not doing the same!
Slugs of Salt
But for our hearts and waistlines, grilling is often not so good because we tend to overeat foods that are fatty, highly seasoned with salt, and dense with calories.
Healthy Grilling Recipes
But there really is such a thing as grilling that’s both healthy and delicious. That’s certainly what our thousands of guests at our Pritikin Longevity Center + Spa have discovered over the past 39 years. We grill regularly at Pritikin, and our guests love it.
With grilling, the fat in the meat tends to drain away, which means there’s less fat draining into your arteries, including the saturated fat found in many meats.
You just don’t want to grill every night because all animal food – chicken and seafood as well as red meat – have compounds that react at high temperatures and create carcinogens called heterocyclic amines, or HCAs. Scientists don’t really know what “dose” is safe, but chances are that firing up the BBQ once or twice a week poses little, if any, risk, especially if you’re using our healthy grilling recipes and tips.
When you’re grilling lean cuts of meat and poultry, which is what we serve at Pritikin, it’s important to remember that you can easily lose moisture (juices), and therefore flavor. We don’t have that problem at Pritikin because we put back flavor with savory marinades.
Healthy Grilling Tip #1.
Use healthy, flavorful marinades for healthy meats.
A typical serving of a calorie-dense, sodium-soaked marinade of oil, salt, and soy sauce can easily tally up 200 calories and a whopping 800mg of sodium (that’s half the sodium we should have in an entire day.)
Be kind to your blood pressure and waistline and enjoy fabulous tangy flavor by blending up your own zesty combination of chopped onion, garlic, fresh thyme, black pepper, sage, orange juice, grapefruit juice, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar (optional), and a bit of low-sodium stock or water.
All this fabulous flavor adds up to only about 50 calories and 50 milligrams of sodium. Voila! The acid in the citrus will penetrate whatever type of meat, poultry, or seafood you’re grilling, and will also add a nice freshness.
People have this notion that if you want good flavor, you should only buy meat that has marble (pockets of fat). True, pockets of fat lubricate the connective tissues and leave the meat juicy, but they also pile up pockets of fat, or plaque, in your coronary arteries. What’s more, you don’t need fat for flavor. A good marinade like the one above does the same, and more.
Be creative! Experiment! As long as you stay away from salt, fat (oils), and sugar, you can create a variety of marinades and seasonings. Superb seasonings to experiment with are curry powder, paprika, allspice, and coriander.
Healthy Grilling Tip #2.
Do not over marinate.
Too much marinade can cause your meat or fish to lose its natural flavor, which means all you’ll be tasting is the marinade. In our cooking classes at Pritikin, our chefs teach our guests how to season and marinate to enhance and complement natural flavors, not kill them.
When using a marinade with citrus, marinate your fish/seafood for no more than 10 minutes; with chicken breast, just 30 minutes or less; with vegetables, just 5 to 10 minutes.
The red meat we grill at Pritikin is lean game meat like bison, venison, and elk because they are very low in artery-clogging saturated fat, as low as chicken breast. When using a marinade containing citrus on game meat, don’t marinate your meat for more than 45 minutes.
Healthy Grilling Tip #3.
Practice good techniques.
- The grill should be very hot. Spray or rub your grill with oil like canola or olive oil. Remember: A little oil goes a long way. Whenever you’re using oil, it’s always a good idea to think in terms of a teaspoon or a spray, not tablespoons. Coating your meat with a hefty amount of oil can tally up as many calories as two scoops of premium ice cream. When we use oil (which is always sparingly) at Pritikin, we prefer canola oil because it is rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
- When the grill is HOT (not warm), begin the cooking process. Remove your meat from the marinade and place it smooth side down on the grill. Grill 3 to 5 minutes depending on how thick the meat is (but only about 1 minute if you’re searing), then flip to the opposite side and cook for the same amount of time. Remove from heat. For fancy grillwork such as lattice marks, place each side vertical, then horizontal, on the grill, but cook for the same total amount of time.
- You do NOT want to cook the product all the way through on the high flame of the grill. Always remove your food from the heat one “doneness” before your preference. For example, if you want medium-rare, remove your meat from the grill when it’s rare, but let it sit a minute or two, and it will continue cooking on its own, till it’s medium rare.
Practice all of these techniques, and you’ll avoid what all grillers want to avoid most of all: overcooked, dry, flavorless results.
Healthy Grilling Recipes. One last tip…
For most entrees, serve sauce on the side. Many of your guests probably have varying tastes when it comes to sauce amounts – some like a lot of sauce, some just a little. So you accommodate everyone by allowing them to select how much they want. And since many sauces are calorie-rich, particularly the ones you order in restaurants, side servings also mean you can more easily keep your calorie intake in check.