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Summer Barbecue 101: Planning a Healthy Cookout

Smoking Herb Mop

Summertime is the time when many of our spouses love to don their chef’s apron and light up the barbecue grill to cook outdoors.  Personally, I love it!  I do prepare the foods in the house, the marinades, salads etc.   I set up everything in individual Tupperware containers with seals, so they stay bug-free outdoors, than I let “hubbie” take over!  I am free to enjoy my guests without worrying about the cooking. All the men also love to congregate around the barbecue grill sharing their opinions.

Grilling is a favorite summer cooking technique that enhances the flavor of many dishes, including lean meat, skinless chicken breasts, fish, veggies, and even fruits. Whether you’re already a grill master — or aspiring to become one — you’ll still benefit from using the right grilling utensils. If you are a“newbie”, make sure you have the following equipment on hand before you get started. (clicking on the links will take you to our Amazon store page)

  1. Long-handled metal tongs: A pair of extra-long tongs is essential for picking up and turning pieces of food on the grill. Metal tongs won't burn, and long ones will keep your hands at a safe distance from the heat. That said, many people like to wear a heatproof grilling glove as an extra precaution.
  2. Long-handled two-prong fork: Like the tongs, a long fork is good for flipping large pieces of lean meat or poultry.
  3. Metal spatula: This tool is especially helpful when flipping chicken breasts or fish steaks or fillets. Unlike tongs, a spatula will keep delicate food intact.
  4. Basting brush: Use this tool to mop, or baste, foods with marinades. Look for a brush with heat-resistant silicone bristles that won’t shed. Since your brush may come into contact with raw meat or poultry, make sure you clean it well with soap and hot water before you baste veggies, fruits, or other foods that you may be cooking along with, or after, the meat or poultry.  Tupperware just came out with a Clip-N-Click Silicone Brush. It’s great for spreading sauces over BBQ foods, decorate bakery goods or glaze fruit quickly and completely. The brush head folds away inside the handle for safe storage. It is dishwasher safe.
  5. Instant-read thermometer: This important tool works just as well in the backyard as it does in the kitchen. Use it to determine when your meat is cooked to perfection.
  6. Grill racks and baskets: Perforated nonstick grill racks (also called grill toppers), grill baskets, or shaped fish baskets can be used to grill small or delicate vegetables and fruits, whole fish, and more, ensuring that the food won’t slip through the grates or stick to the grill.

Once you have all your tools assembled, you are ready to grill!

When hosting a cookout, there’s no need to miss out on your favorite eats just because you’re following a healthier food plan. Grilled burgers, dogs, and veggies, and grilled fruits, can all be enjoyed on your plan. We love grilling because it’s a healthy way to cook, and you won’t be slaving over a hot stove.

Here are some great ways to make traditional cookout food with an emphasis on healthier eating.

Hot-Dog with Peppers and Onions

Hot-Dog with Peppers and Onions

Hamburgers and Hot Dogs
When cooking up burgers, choose lean ground round or ground sirloin, ground turkey or chicken breast. Ground salmon and tuna also make great patties.  When on a healthier food plan, you can occasionally enjoy hot dogs made with beef, poultry, or soy, as long as they are at least 97 percent fat-free (3 to 6 g fat per serving). Aaron’s Best makes these amazing frankfurters that taste like fleishig but are made from karp!  They are Pareve and delicious!  They were just introduced to the market at Kosherfest this past October.   It is an Asian recipe, with omega-3, a healthier food indeed!  Shelf life on the product is 90 days, and yes, it can be frozen. They looked AND tasted like a good frankfurter!  I served these at our family Chanukah party, and no one could tell the difference!

Serve the burgers or hot dogs on 100% whole-grain or whole-wheat buns.  Last time I grilled hamburgers, I wrapped them in lettuce leaves and sliced tomatoes.  . You can also use romaine lettuce leaves, or portobello mushroom caps as your “bun.” When it comes to toppings, skip sugary condiments and go for Dijon mustard, sugar-free ketchup and sliced tomatoes, and onions. Or prepare your own healthy topping: Try a sun-dried tomato mayonnaise or jalapeño salsa as an alternative.

Chicken and Veggie Skewers

Vegetable Skewers

Veggies on the grill
Grilled or steamed corn is a cookout favorite that is rich in vitamins and fiber, but because of its natural sugars, it is recommended you stick to 1/2 ear and eat it only on occasion. For a nutritious and delicious alternative, prepare grilled vegetable kebabs. (Soak the wooden skewers in water for several hours beforehand to prevent them from burning.)  Marinate chopped pieces of zucchini or other summer squash, mushrooms, tomatoes, and bell peppers, in a mixture of fresh lemon juice, chopped garlic, and extra-virgin olive oil. Place the veggies on skewers, in a grilling basket, or on a grill topper so they won’t fall through the grates. Try making grilled sweet potato fries with olive oil and some salt.

Grilled Plums with Kale Salad

Fruit on the grill

Summer fruit favorites like watermelon and pineapple should be avoided when first planning your healthier menus.  Because these fruit contain a high concentration of natural sugars that can affect blood-sugar levels and cause cravings, there are many other delicious fruits that can still be enjoyed on most food plans. Try making fruit kebabs with peaches, plums, nectarines, and/or mangoes, and grill over medium heat. Keep an eye on the fruit and turn frequently so it doesn’t burn. If you like, melt dark chocolate for a delicious fruit fondue.  Some dieters must avoid fruit but can enjoy a sugar-free frozen fruit-flavored pop as a sweet summer treat.

gorgeous mushroom salad

Umeboshi Mushroom Salad

Summer Salads

My nutritionist recommended I should stick with a fresh green salad or a mixed bean (or other legume) salad when starting on my food plan. I add to it a variety of vegetables, like chopped bell peppers, kirbies, onions, zucchini, and tomatoes. I also add whole-wheat or whole-grain elbow or penne pasta instead of the white-flour varieties for macaroni salad. Be sure to stick with 2 tablespoons of light mayonnaise per serving when you’re making the dressing — for Pareve or use low-fat or nonfat plain Greek yogurt (Dairy) or vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil. Roasted bell peppers are also a nice addition. For a healthier diet-friendly potato salad, use sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes, and mix with nonfat or low-fat plain yogurt, scallions, chopped fresh basil, red-wine vinegar, and a pinch of salt for a tasty dressing.

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