3 Ways to Cook Healthy on the Grill

Get fired up with these light and family-friendly recipes.

From the WebMD Archives

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


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


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


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


1. Heat grill to medium-high. Coat grill rack with cooking spray. Lay asparagus, red pepper, and onion on rack and cook until tender and grill marks appear. Cut grilled veggies into bite-sized pieces and set aside.

2. Roll dough into 12-inch circle (using rolling pin, or your hands) on a lightly floured board. Stretching dough and allowing it to rest can make it easier to handle.

3. Brush dough with 1 tbsp olive oil on each side, and place directly on rack 2 minutes or until grill marks appear. Remove dough from grill and place on cookie sheet. Reduce heat to low, and return dough to grill, raw side down. Top with grilled chopped veggies, tomatoes, basil, and cheese. Close grill lid and cook until cheese melts, about 3–5 minutes.

4. Remove pizza from grill using cookie sheet. Top with optional garnishes, if desired. Cut into slices and serve.

Per serving

270 calories, 10 g protein, 30 g carbohydrate, 13 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 13 mg cholesterol, 5 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 375 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 43%

3. Sizzling Grilled Salmon With Mango Salsa

Salmon's firm flesh works well on the grill, and the fruity salsa adds bright, summery color and flavor.

Makes 4 servings


2 plum tomatoes, diced

1 small cucumber, peeled and diced

1 large ripe mango, peeled and diced

1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus 2 tbsp for garnish


2 tbsp fresh lime juice

3 tbsp minced red onion

4 6-oz salmon filets

dash of salt

freshly ground pepper


1. In a small bowl, prepare mango salsa by combining first seven ingredients. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 20–30 minutes before serving.

2. Preheat grill to medium-high. Coat salmon on both sides with cooking spray and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place salmon skin- side down on grill rack. Grill 3–5 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.

3. Serve salmon with mango salsa. Garnish with extra cilantro.

Per serving

401 calories, 36 g protein, 12 g carbohydrate, 23 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 94 mg cholesterol, 2 g fiber, 9 g sugar, 250 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 52%

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Pantry Picks

For tasty results with our three grill recipes, Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD, suggests these healthy ingredients, which are staples in her own kitchen.

Great Greens: Zelman likes her greens easy, so she shops for lettuce brands that are triple-washed and ready to eat, including Organic Girl Baby Spring Mix and Fresh Express 50/50 Mix.

Glaze Amazing: Zelman uses just a squirt of balsamic vinegar glaze to give dishes a brilliant, sweet-tangy flavor. Her picks include Trader Joe's Trader Giotto's Balsamic Glaze and Acetum Blaze Balsamic Glaze.

Tiny Tomatoes: Every pantry should have canned diced tomatoes, a convenient addition to soups, stews, and casseroles. Try Hunt's Original Diced No Salt Added Tomatoes and Del Monte Petite Cut Diced Tomatoes.

Find more articles, browse back issues, and read the current issue of "WebMD Magazine."

WebMD Magazine - Feature Reviewed by Hansa D. Bhargava, MD on April 14, 2014



Alice Bender, MS, RDN, associate director of nutrition programs, American Institute of Cancer Research.

News release, American Institute of Cancer Research.

American Institute for Cancer Research: "Five Steps for Grilling Safety."

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