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10 Healthy Ideas for a Lean Barbecue Season

These grilling tips can help you have a healthier cookout.
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Healthy Barbecue Tip No. 4: Throw some vegetables on the grill

The best part about grilling vegetables is that you don't have to worry about overcooking them as you do with some types of meat. And vegetables seem to taste better grilled than they do cooked any other way.

Marinating vegetables will help them caramelize better when they're grilled, and it's the caramelization that brings the best flavors. Just submerge the vegetables in marinade for about an hour before putting them on the grill. If you don't have that kind of prep time, just coat the vegetables ever so lightly with a little olive oil or canola oil.

The trick to grilling vegetables is cutting them into shapes and sizes that cook well on the grill. When you cook them over direct medium heat, turning frequently, they'll usually be done in 8-10 minutes (sometimes less, depending on the vegetable). Look for grill marks and some light browning to develop.

These vegetables work especially well on the grill.

  • Red, white, or sweet onion, sliced into 1/2-inch thick rounds.
  • Corn on the cob (take off the husks and silks).
  • Whole mushrooms. Grill portabellas like a burger or them cut into thick slices; grill small mushrooms strung on a skewer or kabob.
  • Eggplant, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices.
  • Zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices.
  • Asparagus spears. Just trim off the white end and grill the spears whole.

Healthy Barbecue Tip No. 5: When grilling chicken, take the skin off -- take it all off!

Half the fat and saturated fat in chicken breast and thigh is in the skin, which is why so many of us enjoy our chicken skinless. Consider:

  • 4 ounces of roasted chicken breast with skin contains 223 calories, 8.8 grams of fat, and 2.5 grams of saturated fat
  • 4 ounces of roasted chicken breast WITHOUT skin contains 187 calories, 4 grams of fat, and 1.2 grams of saturated fat

But if you cook your chicken with the skin on, then take it off at the dinner table, you'll lose all the flavor from your marinade, BBQ sauce, or rubs and seasonings. So go ahead and take the skin off before you prepare the chicken for grilling.

Marinate skinless chicken breasts and thighs for about 2 hours in the refrigerator. Let the marinade drain off, then cook chicken over direct high heat or direct medium heat until it's done throughout. Always check the thickest part of the chicken breast or thigh for doneness. You can cook chicken over indirect heat as well; it will just take longer to cook.

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