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3 Ways to Cook Healthy on the Grill

Get fired up with these light and family-friendly recipes.
By Erin O'Donnell
And Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD
WebMD Magazine - Feature

Nothing says summer like a sizzling grill. But too often, the all-American- cookout involves a lot of red meat.

Eating too much red meat on a regular basis can raise the risk of colorectal cancer, studies show. And when that meat is grilled, a new problem arises. Exposing any type of meat to high temperatures or direct flame creates carcinogens. "They could theoretically increase the risk for cancer, so it's prudent to avoid them," says Alice Bender, RDN, associate director for nutrition programs at the American Institute for Cancer Research.

It may help to marinate meat for at least 30 minutes in an acid-based marinade (vinegar, lemon juice, or wine). Also, trim visible fat that might drip into the fire, and keep the grill heat low. "Make sure the flames are not leaping and charring the meat," Bender says.

While you're at it, expand your menu to grill more veggies and even fruit.

1. Grilled Peach Salad

When fruit hits the grill, something magical happens: The high heat causes the sugars to caramelize, creating a delectable smoky-sweet flavor. This summer salad features grilled peaches, but you can also grill pineapple, pears, and bananas.

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients

3 firm, ripe peaches, cut in half and pitted

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar

1 tsp honey

dash of salt

freshly ground pepper

8 oz baby mixed greens or arugula

2 tbsp crumbled goat cheese

2 tbsp chopped pistachios

Directions

1. Heat grill to medium-high. Coat grill rack and peach halves with cooking spray. Place peaches on grill about 1 minute or until grill marks appear. Remove from grill and set aside.

2. In a large bowl, combine oil, vinegar, honey, salt, and pepper, and whisk to mix. Add greens and toss until leaves are lightly dressed. Divide greens onto six plates. Top each with a grilled peach half, and sprinkle with goat cheese and pistachios. Serve immediately.

Per serving

150 calories, 4 g protein, 16 g carbohydrate, 8 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 3 mg cholesterol, 2 g fiber, 8 g sugar, 292 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 49%

2. Grilled Veggie Pizza

Baking pizza crust on your backyard grill gives it a delicious flavor, and kids love to help choose the toppings. Use your favorite pizza dough recipe, or save time with premade whole wheat pizza dough from your supermarket. 

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

½ lb asparagus, tough ends removed

1 small red pepper, deseeded and cut into quarters

1 small sweet onion, cut into quarters

1 8-oz portion whole wheat pizza dough

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided

½ cup no-salt-added petite diced tomatoes, drained and patted dry

½ cup basil, chopped

3 oz part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded

optional garnishes: garlic, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes

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