Grilling offers healthy options for meats, veggies

Published 3:46 pm Tuesday, June 12, 2012

What started out on campsites and picnics in the early 1900s quickly transformed into a backyard epidemic of healthy eating.

For most people, throwing a hamburger on the grill is an easy way to get a great meal, but in the 1950s, it was the invention of the Weber grill transformed the world of grilling.

“In suburban Chicago, George Stephen, a metalworker by trade and a tinkerer by habit, had grown frustrated with the flat, open brazier-style grills common at the time,” according to an article on Food

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After inheriting control of interest in the Weber Bros. Metal Spinning Co., a company that made harbor buoys, he decided the buoy needed some adjustments.

“He cut it along its equator, added a grate, used the top as a lid and cut vents for controlling temperature,” the article stated. “The Weber grill was born and backyard cooking has never been the same.”

For many people, grilling has now become a way to escape the heavy-calorie diet and move to a direction of healthy meats and more vegetables.

“It’s a lean way to prepare food,” said Leah Skipper, registered dietitian at L.V. Stabler Memorial Hospital. “When you grill, adding fat is not necessary and much of the fat that naturally comes in meat drains out. The open flame provides a high heat so foods cooks quickly, it sears the outside so foods retaining most of their vitamins and juiciness.”

Some healthy choices include fish like salmon, snapper, tuna, tilapia an fillets because of the high protein and low fat. Other healthy items include corn on the cob, potatoes, squash, green tomatoes, peppers and onions.

“Some vegetables that may fall through the grill like green beans, broccoli, cauliflower can be grilled using a grilling basket or wrapping in aluminum foil,” Skipper said. “Firm fruit like pineapple is a favorite for kabobs but you can also ‘grill’ other fruits like apple or pear slices, figs and berries using a baking dish over the flame to keep the sticky juices contained.”

One aspect to avoid while grilling is cooking the food for a long period of time so that it turns burned or black.

“Food that has burned or turned black in areas increases the amount of carcinogens in that food,” Skipper said. “Our bodies are always working to kill off carcinogens with the antioxidants we get from a healthy diet, but we don’t want to tips the scales of good antioxidants versus bad carcinogens unnecessarily because the more exposure the body has to carcinogens the greater your risk of developing cancer. You want the heat from the flame to cook your food, not the flame itself touching and burning the food.”