Grilling brings out flavors in an authentic and simple way, which means you don’t have to do too much prep work after a long day to make dinner tasty.
Plus, grilling isn’t just for summertime! Your grill can be the star of the show any season of the year. Here’s how to make healthy, quick and delicious dinners outdoors.
Step one: Choose your main meat or veggie
- White meat: Chicken or turkey patties and chicken breasts. While white meats contain a small amount of saturated fat, the skin contains the most. Grill these meats without the skin or remove some or all of the skin before enjoying.
- Lean red meat in moderation: Lean beef patties (90% to 95% lean), pork chops or lean cuts of beef (eye of round roast and steak, sirloin tip side steak, top round roast and steak, or top sirloin steak).1
- Fish and shellfish: Tuna or salmon steaks, mackerel, snapper, shrimp kabobs, scallops and lobster—there are many types of fish and shellfish that are nutrient powerhouses. If you’re new to grilling fish, check out this recipe roundup.
- Tofu: For both meat and veggie lovers, tofu makes for the base of a great BBQ. Choose a firm or extra-firm variety and marinate it for at least 30 minutes before throwing it on the grill. Check out this article for more tofu grilling tips.
- Veggie burgers: Typically made with a mixture of beans, quinoa, sweet potatoes and other veggies, both store-bought and homemade options can be a flavorful addition to your grill.
Season your main course with a dry rub, or soak it in low-sodium marinade for a delicious, moist texture, advises Teladoc dietitian Robin Rood, RD, LD, MEd, MA..
Prep the desired portions the night before or that morning and store them in the fridge so the meat is cleaned, seasoned and ready to grill at dinnertime. Always wash your hands after handling raw meat, and when using the grill, “Use a meat thermometer to make sure you’re cooking these dishes to a safe temperature to kill bacteria, viruses or parasites,” Rood says.
Mind your portions
Personal portion control is especially important when cooking on a large grill: 3 to 4 ounces of meat—about the size of a deck of cards—is the recommended amount, Rood notes. If you’re eating low carb, use lettuce leaves or tomato ends to sandwich your patty instead of a roll.
Step two: Serve up the (vegetable-heavy) sides
Sides like grilled vegetables are some of grilling’s greatest unexpected delights! Veggies are so nutrient-rich you want to make sure they’re not only included in your grilled feast but that they’re a big part. “Grill equal amounts of vegetables and protein to maintain a healthy diet,” Rood recommends.
There’s no limit to the types of vegetables you can grill, says Rood. She recommends including low-starch varieties like broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts on the menu.
Choose the right cooking method
While certain veggies like corn on the cob, asparagus and sliced zucchini can be tossed right on the grates, others are better chopped ahead and cooked in a grill basket or aluminum foil packet. For those that require longer cooking times, like mini potatoes or squash, microwave them for a few minutes prior to grilling to quicken softening.
Start with these easy ideas
Use mixed veggies like onions, bell peppers, mushrooms and eggplant for a colorful side dish in the basket or on a kebab. Toss them with some staples like olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, salt, pepper and herbs to bring out their natural, fresh flavor. These easily pair with cupboard-friendly foods like rice, beans or pasta to complete a meal.
Don’t forget about fruit
- Grill pineapple to pair with teriyaki glazed chicken or serve it with vanilla ice cream for dessert.
- Thread strawberries through a skewer and brush with butter, honey, lemon zest and salt for an out-of-this-world salad topper. Or wow your guests by adding a chocolate drizzle to them for the final course!
- Grill firm peaches on medium heat with an olive oil coating to accompany pork tenderloin, or top peaches with a small serving of yogurt and toasted pecans.
Step three: Enjoy your leftovers
One night’s effort at the grill can support many dishes in the days ahead. Grill extra so you have leftovers for when you’re too tired or busy to think about starting a meal from scratch.
Leftover meat and fish
- Mix chicken with celery, onion, non-fat Greek yogurt and seasonings to create an easy chicken salad.
- Mix fish with vinaigrette, red onions and ripe tomatoes for a light salad.
- Add chicken or steak on top of a whole wheat tortilla wrap with reduced-fat Monterey Jack cheese, bell peppers and salsa for quesadillas.
- Add any meat or fish to a stack of fresh veggies and dollop of Dijon and assemble between two slices of fresh sourdough bread for an easy flavor-packed sandwich.
- Grilled-ahead veggies are perfect for unique homemade pizzas, flatbreads and stir-fries.
- Toss veggies into an egg scramble on the grill or skillet, adding hot sauce to taste.
- Mix your grilled vegetable medley with chickpeas and whole wheat penne for a simple and filling pasta salad.
- Or add grilled veggies to toasted pitas with tzatziki sauce or hummus to add a depth of flavor for an unforgettable lunch.
Need more nutrition help?
If grilling healthy meals still seems a bit daunting, a Teladoc dietitian can help. Our network of 150-plus expert registered dietitians will customize a nutrition plan and help you meet your personal health goals.
Choose your dietitian, make an appointment seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m and start improving your health today.
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Updated September 2, 2021