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A Healthier Way to Grill

6 ways to avoid the pitfalls of barbecuing

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3. Marinate, Marinate, Marinate

You've gotta love the idea of infusing flavor into meats, fruits, and vegetables by soaking them in a tasty marinade. Some favorite marinade ingredients include wines, vinegars, lemon or lime juice, low-sodium soy sauce, honey, garlic, onions, herbs, and spices. Use fat-free or low-fat marinades on your grilled meats, fish, and poultry to limit the fat that drips on the coals. The simple act of marinating before grilling has been shown to reduce the formation of HCAs by as much as 92% to 99% in some studies.

Keep these marinating tips in mind:

  • When choosing bottled marinades or making your own, look for products or recipes that contain olive or canola oil (and that only use a little oil).
  • Refrigerate any foods that are marinating longer than 1/2 hour.
  • Don't baste your food during grilling with the liquid the meat was marinating in (this passes raw meat juices to your cooked meat). Before you add the meat, set aside some of your marinade for this purpose.
  • Meats and poultry should marinate at least 1-2 hours; fish and vegetables generally only need to marinate for an hour.

4. Cut Down on Grilling Time

Grill smaller portions of meat, poultry, and fish so they cook faster and spend less time on the grill. Another trick is to precook the meat, fish, and poultry in the oven or microwave, then finish cooking on the grill.

5. Flip It -- Flip It Good

Flipping food frequently may help prevent the formation of HCAs, according to recent research using hamburger patties. To turn meat without piercing it (which releases juices that drip onto the coals), use tongs or spatulas instead of a fork.

6. Skewer It

A fun way to cut down on grilling time is to thread small pieces of meat or fish on a skewer. Scallops and shrimp are naturals for skewers, too. I like to alternate pieces of meat, chicken, or seafood with bell pepper and onion pieces, zucchini slices, cherry tomatoes, and/or small mushrooms.

Don't have skewers? No problemo. I love to use branches of rosemary as my skewers. They infuse a hint of rosemary into the food as it cooks -- not to mention the beautiful presentation it makes.

Fire Up the Barbie

Now that you've learned some healthy grilling secrets, here are three lightened-up recipes to try.

Teriyaki Portabella Mushroom Burger with Garlic Mayonnaise

Journal as: 1 veggie burger OR 2 slices bread + 1/2 cup vegetable without added fat + 1 teaspoon mayonnaise.

Burgers:
2 portabella mushrooms (about 3 1/2 inches wide), cleaned and stems removed
2 tablespoons bottled teriyaki sauce
2 large, thin slices reduced-fat Jack cheese (1-2 ounces)
2 multigrain or whole-wheat hamburger buns
2 leaves lettuce
4 tomato slices

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