It’s somehow already Fourth of July weekend, meaning we’ve hit peak grilling season. Not only is grilling a great way to spend time outside and enjoy a great meal, but it’s also super healthy. Andrea Mathis, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist based in Alabama, says that as long as you don’t load up on sugary marinades, grilling can be healthier than cooking on the stove or in the oven.
“Because you’re not adding any additional fat to cook your meats and because some of that fat from the meat is dripping off into the grill, your meat is going to contain less fat than it would if you were like to cook it on the stovetop or something like that,” explains Mathis. And when you grill fruits and veggies, they’re able to retain more of their vitamins and nutrients than if they were baked or boiled in water. “When you expose fruits and veggies to an extended period of heat it extracts the nutrients. If you’re just cooking it on the grill for [a few minutes] the heat doesn’t have that time to take all those nutrients out.”
However, you can only reap all of these benefits if you make sure you’re not loading up your food with lots of not-so-great additives.
“I love to use the low-fat and low-sodium salad dressings, like maybe like an Italian vinaigrette or balsamic vinaigrette, to marinate my meat in so that you won’t have to add additional seasonings like extra salt and things like that that could definitely make meat a bit that unhealthy,” says Mathis. If you prefer sauces, she says to also look for ones that are low in salt, sugar, and fat, and be sure to baste them on while they’re cooking instead of dipping them while you’re eating. “Sometimes people will just pour like sauce all over their food before they eat it and if you maybe brush a little light amount on it while it’s grilling it’ll absorb some of those flavors.” That way, you aren’t tempted to overdo it at once it’s on your plate. You can also try out these healthy spice rubs.
If you’re new to grilling, Mathis’ biggest tip is to go low and slow. “If you do cook your food or your meat so that you are charring it or cooking it at a really high temperature really fast, sometimes the inside will not be able to cook thoroughly or to reach a proper temperature, which can put people at risk for foodborne illnesses.”
If you find yourself in need of a grill, shop some of our picks below.
Best grills to buy for healthy cooking
Shop: Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill 22″, $165
This Weber grill is the classic choice for anyone who loves the flavor you can only get from charcoal grilling. With a 22-inch diameter, you’ll be able to cook enough to serve four to six people at a time. The premium takes the original model up a notch with an upgraded cleaning system.
This stainless steel gas grill from Char-Broil is a great four-burner grill. It also has an extra side burner that’s perfect for cooking any side dishes. A push-to-start electric ignition makes firing up your grill easier. Stainless steel burners emit flame from the top to allow for more even cooking. There’s also a lid-mounted temperature gauge so you always know how hot it is on the inside.
3. Weber Spirit II E-310 Gas Grill, $479
Shop now: Weber Spirit II E-310 Gas Grill, $479
The Weber Spirit is beloved by grillers everywhere. This three burner grill has a spacious grilling area and convenient side tables for placing serving trays. It also has tool hooks for hanging your tongs and spatula. If you have a natural gas hook-up, opt for this version instead.
4. Spark Grills, $949
Shop now: Spark Grills, $949
If you’re looking for a grill that’s particularly easy on the eyes, Spark’s grill is perfect. It’s unique in that it provides the flavor of natural charcoal with the ease of a gas grill. It uses a solid charcoal brick instead of individual charcoal rock to make getting it started a bit easier. It’s currently available for pre-order, shipping this fall.
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