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4 Great Foods for Grilling Healthy Proteins

Fitday Editor
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Summer is almost here and many of us find ourselves dusting off that outdoor grill. Summer barbecues and pool parties can be fat-laden affairs, but we've got suggestions for keeping those grilled items lean and delicious.

First and foremost, if you plan on grilling a lot of fish this spring and summer (and you should--it's delicious and very lean), consider purchasing a grilling basket. It will make grilling your fillets much easier. The flesh of fish is so delicate that it tends to flake apart and fall through the cooking grate onto the flames, but these grilling baskets hold the fish in place while you turn it over on the grill. An added bonus--these baskets are also ideal for cooking vegetables, particularly small vegetables that don't stay put on the grill. They're also very easy to clean.

grilled fish.jpgIf you'd rather not purchase a grilling basket, fish can be easily grilled inside a foil pouch placed on top of the grill. Rather than seasoning with the old standby of lemon wedges, why not try and kick things up a notch by adding slices of oranges, limes, or pineapple instead? Add a little cayenne pepper and small amount of maple syrup to serve up a sweet and spicy fish fillet.

Chicken is a lean protein (as long as you remove the skin and trim the fat first). Rather than grilling the same boring, plain barbeque chicken breast, try some unique marinades. Marinades generally start off with some sort of acid (such as vinegar) and often contain some sort of sweet component (such as molasses, maple syrup, brown sugar, concentrated fruit juices or other sweeteners). But rather than sticking with familiar flavorings, try getting outside of your cooking comfort zone by exploring exotic or sweet spices and herbs, including cilantro, cumin, cinnamon, curry powder, star anise, ginger and saffron.

Also, consider preparing kabobs using chicken pieces and various fruits and veggies to incorporate vitamins, antioxidants, fiber and, of course, flavor from the produce.

To give your chicken a little smokiness, brush your chicken breasts with a combination of orange juice concentrate, chopped chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, balsamic vinegar, molasses and Dijon mustard. Cook about five minutes on each side, or until there is no pink left.

Tofu itself is flavorless, but think of it as a blank canvas for a variety of delicious flavor combinations. Because tofu tends to want to stick to your grill, be sure to spray your cooking grate with non-stick cooking spray first. Use extra-firm tofu and press is well before grilling it. Marinate your tofu in a delicious sauce, such as soy sauce, barbecue sauce (yes, you can use barbecue sauce on foods other than meats!) or your own personal favorite sauce. Place your tofu on skewers and cook for approximately seven minutes on each side.

grilled tofu.jpgVegetable Burgers
Veggie burgers are perfect for your grill and are a convenient vehicle for a number of tasty seasonings and add-ons. Whether you opt for store-bought veggie burgers or prefer to make your own from scratch, you can grill them just like burgers made from meat. Try adding homemade fruit or vegetable salsa, slices of avocado, pesto or grilled veggies.

Kari Hartel, RD, LD is a Registered Dietitian and freelance writer based out of St. Louis, MO. Kari is passionate about nutrition education and the prevention of chronic disease through a healthy diet and active lifestyle. Kari holds a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics from Southeast Missouri State University and is committed to helping people lead healthy lives. She completed a yearlong dietetic internship at OSF St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria, IL, where she worked with a multitude of clients and patients with complicated diagnoses. She planned, marketed, and implemented nutrition education programs and cooking demonstrations for the general public as well as for special populations, including patients with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, obesity, and school-aged children. Contact Kari at [email protected].

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