Sizzling Secrets for Healthy Summer Grilling

Summer is officially here, which means firing up the grill and enjoying the fresh flavors of the season with family and friends.

Serving more than two billion meals each year, Aramark, a global leader in food, facilities and uniforms, and the American Heart Association (AHA), the nation’s largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke, are sharing tips to make the average summer cookout superb, with secrets straight from the grill.

Aramark and the American Heart Association are sharing tips to make the average summer cookout superb, with secrets straight from the grill. (PRNewsfoto/Aramark)

Aramark’s team of chefs and dietitians rolled up their sleeves and joined forces with experts from the AHA to create the ultimate healthy summer grilling guide, as part of the recently launched Feed Your Potential 365 public health and well-being campaign, encouraging individuals and families to make healthy eating a part of everyday life. The campaign is part of Aramark’s five-year commitment with the AHA to improve the health of Americans 20 percent by 2020.

“Grilling in an excellent way to boost the flavors of food with in season and better for you ingredients and techniques,” said Annette Gray, Leader Culinary Innovation and Research and Development Chef for Aramark. “With so much great and often local produce available, summer is the perfect time to test out new recipes and unlock the full potential of your food.”

“Grilling can be one of the healthiest ways to cook,” said Penny Kris-Etherton, Distinguished Professor of Nutrition at the Pennsylvania State University and American Heart Association spokesperson. “One of my favorite grilling tips is to use lean meats, poultry, and fish whenever possible to reduce cholesterol and saturated fat. Eating fish can also help get you those heart healthy omega-3s.”

TAKE FLAVOR FURTHER: Take flavors to the next level with a few healthy tips and twists.

  • Soak up the marinade
    Start with a healthier marinade before you even light the grill. Healthier marinades contain herbs, spices & healthy oils. Reduce salt with wine vinegar, citrus-infused oil or a little mustard. Reduce added sugar with fruit purées. Try ripe mango or peach purée blended with dried cranberries or white raisins.
  • Rub on the spices
    Spice rubs add flavor to meats, fish and chicken and have fewer calories than traditional BBQ sauces. Spice combinations are endless – from garlic, onion powder, dried basil, oregano, paprika, chili powder and cayenne to spicy Jerk chicken rub.
  • Burst of lemon everywhere
    It’s easy to cut the amount of salt you use on your grilled meats or seafood by 50%. Just replace with lemony goodness. Replace each ½ teaspoon of salt with 5 teaspoons of juice and 1 teaspoon of zest and drizzle flavor directly over foods as they cook. How you tend to food while it’s on the grill can enhance and lock in flavor.

COLOR YOUR PLATE: Make the most of summer’s bounty by tossing garden fresh fruits and veggies on the grill.

  • Start with Veggies on the Grill
    Vegetables are great on the grill. Try them in Kabobs or grill them in slices to serve right next to fish, chicken or meat. Grilled veggies add excitement, freshness and flavor to any meal. Try grilling two or three for every main dish.
  • Pair Fruits with Entrées
    Fruit is no longer just a snack or dessert. The sweet flavors of summer fruits help to enhance grilled seafood, chicken, or beef. Replacing other side dishes with fresh fruit is also a great way to add flavor with fewer calories. Add fruit to the plate and see the colors of summer in a whole new light.
  • Baste on the flavor
    Use a basting brush and pack on additional flavor over the flame. Baste green veggies with olive oil and herb mixes.
  • Top it all off
    Not all flavor is added on the grill, some can be added afterward. Try toppings that add healthy flavors to the plate like a fresh fruit compote or salsa, or top with finely chopped grilled veggies.

REIMAGINE COOKOUT STAPLES: Who says the grill is limited to burgers and franks? Try these unexpected twists on summer grilling staples.

  • Grilled Capresé Chicken Sandwich: Top grilled chicken breasts with sliced, ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced fresh mozzarella, fresh basil and arugula lightly drizzled with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a dash of salt and pepper.
  • Greek Turkey Tzatziki Burger: Top grilled turkey burgers with a dollop of tzatziki spread, feta crumbles and pickled pepperoncini peppers. Add chopped lettuce, cucumbers, tomato and red onion, and serve on a whole grain pita.
  • New American Grilled Salmon Tacos with Dill Avocado Crema: Top grilled salmon tacos with diced mangoes, avocados and radishes. Smash a few avocados and add equal parts of Greek yogurt – stir in some fresh lime juice and freshly chopped dill, to make a Greek yogurt and dill avocado crema.

KEEP SAFETY TOP OF MIND: Before firing up the grill, keep the following safety tips in mind, to ensure summer cookouts are safe and successful.

  • Food Refrigeration Safety
    The summer months can reach scorching temperatures, which means careful refrigeration is a priority with raw meats, fish and poultry before they reach the grill. Always refrigerate meats even when thawing and marinating. Place the food in a tray or container deep enough to collect any draining fluids to prevent contamination of other foods in your refrigerator. If you are grilling on-the-go this summer, be sure to pack meats in a cooler over ice to keep them chilled and fresh.
  • Personal Safety
    Exercise caution while wearing long or lose fitting clothing or aprons around the grill. Use flame retardant mitts and grilling utensils with long handles. More importantly, never leave a hot grill unattended.
  • Food Handling
    Keep it clean. Always wash your hands BEFORE preparing your food and in between other tasks. Keep kitchen counters, cutting boards and utensils clean at all times to prevent cross contamination among food and hard surfaces.
  • Food Preparation
    Cook your raw meat products to the minimum internal temperatures as stated on the product packaging. Poultry browns quickly on the grill but may not be fully cooked inside. You should use a food thermometer to make sure that the internal temperature reaches at least 165°F for poultry, 160°F for ground beef and 145°F for steaks and chops.
  • Leftovers
    Savor those cookout creations the next day with leftovers. Remember to keep leftovers cooled to below 70°F (21°C) within 2 hours, and then to 41°F (5°C) or below within 4 hours.

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