Grilling and healthy eating: A few tasty tricks


A few simple tips can make grilling healthy for your family.

Summer means fixing delicious meals on the grill – and being tempted to let your healthy eating goals slide. But grilling can be heart-healthy when you skip the hot dogs and brats and opt for lean protein such as fish, skinless chicken breasts, and lean pork.

You can even use your grill to bypass pasta salad and potato chips in favor of flavorful grilled vegetables and fruit to complement your meal.

To make healthy recipes on the grill this Fourth of July, you have to follow a few tricks. Lean protein does not contain the fat that keeps most grilled meats tender, and fruits and vegetables can easily fall through the slats of the grill. You can keep foods juicy, tender, and intact by using a healthy marinade and a few easy preparation techniques. 

How do I grill lean meats?

Some grilling aficionados shy away from fish on the grill because it can fall apart easily when it’s heated. This is easily remedied with the use of a cedar board. A cedar board adds a rich, woody flavor while keeping your filet tender and in one piece.

Cedar boards are sold in major supermarkets and hardware stores, and they’re easy to use. Simply soak the board in water for one to two hours, then place fish filets on the board, skin side down. Brush the fish with olive oil and add seasonings such as chopped or dried dill. Set the board on the grill (at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for gas grills), close the cover, and cook the fish for 10 to 15 minutes. Carefully transfer the filets to a serving platter, leaving the skin on the board. Cleanup is effortless – cedar boards can be either discarded or washed and reused.     

For skinless chicken breasts, use a marinade to keep the meat tender and moist. Marinate chicken breasts in lite Italian salad dressing or in the American Heart Association’s All Purpose Grilling Marinade recipe (below) for at least one hour before grilling. Discard all unused marinade (or thoroughly boil it on the stove for use at the table) to avoid the cross-contamination that occurs when a marinade brush is brushed across semi-raw food and dipped back into the marinade.

Marinating a pork tenderloin – the leanest cut of pork – before placing it on the grill will help keep it juicy. Center-loin pork chops tend to dry out more easily, so it helps to marinate them and brush them often with marinade during grilling. Lean pork tastes wonderful with grilled peaches, which are in season during the summer. Use the recipe below to make grilled peaches to go along with your pork entree.

How do I prepare vegetables on the grill?

Grilled vegetables are a tasty, easy side dish to complete a healthy meal on the grill. The trick to grilling vegetables is to keep them as whole as possible to preserve tenderness and prevent pieces from falling through the grill rack. Zucchini, yellow squash, peppers, and green onions are delicious and easy to prepare.

To grill vegetables, wash them, trim off the ends and stems, slice them in half and remove the seeds if necessary, then spray or brush both sides of the vegetables with olive oil. Place them on the grill, turning them often. Cook them to the desired tenderness – keep in mind that grilled foods continue to cook for a few minutes after being removed from the grill – then transfer the vegetables to a cutting board. Slice them into bite-sized pieces, sprinkle with light salt and paprika, and transfer to a serving platter.

A kid-friendly favorite is corn on the cob, which can be rinsed and grilled in the husk to keep it from drying out. Corn on the cob needs to be grilled for 15 to 20 minutes and turned often to ensure all kernels are cooked. After the corn is cooked, let it sit for a few minutes before peeling away the husk.

How do I keep meat dishes safe to eat?

As you light up the grill, keep food safety in mind. Thicker cuts of meat or bone-in chicken should be pre-cooked in the oven or microwave before grilling, or vice-versa. Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest portion of the meat to check its internal temperature.

Aim for:

  • 145 degrees for pork chops or tenderloin
  • 145 degrees for fish or shellfish (the meat should appear pearly and opaque)
  • 135 to 150 degrees for steak
  • 160 degrees for hamburgers
  • 165 degrees for chicken pieces or turkey burgers

It’s important to wash the spatulas and tongs you use at the grill before using them to transfer food to serving platters. This will help you avoid contaminating cooked food with bacteria from raw or semi-cooked foods.

Also, remember to refrigerate your food promptly – to avoid spoilage, do not let cooked foods sit at room temperature for more than two hours.  

All-Purpose Marinade

The American Heart Association recommends this all-purpose marinade that can be used on meat, seafood, poultry, or vegetables.


  • 3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons white or apple cider vinegar
  • 3 cloves garlic (or 2 teaspoons)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil


Combine first four ingredients. Whisk in oil.

Yield: Enough for up to 1 pound of food.

Grilled Pork and Peaches


  • 2 pounds pork tenderloin
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger powder
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 6 to 8 ripe (but firm) peaches


Put all ingredients except peaches in a gallon plastic bag. Marinate for 48 hours in the refrigerator. Grill the tenderloin for approximately 20 minutes. Slice through the pork – if it is still pink, gently roll it into foil and continue to heat it for another 10 to 15 minutes. Wash and cut the peaches into halves (leave the skin on) and grill for 5 to 7 minutes, turning over at least once.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings. You can substitute pork chops for the tenderloin; they should be grilled for about 10 minutes.