Find out what cuts of meat are better for you and which you should stay away from.
Teriyaki-Glazed Grilled Chicken
Credit: Kate Sears

One of the best parts of summer is enjoying meals outdoors and eating lots and lots of grilled food. From burgers to baby back ribs and grilled vegetables galore, there's nothing like the taste of smoky, charred meat and flame-kissed sides. But how much meat is too much, and are there any health risks associated with eating lots of grilled food? "If you're someone who eats red meat multiple times a week, lives a sedentary lifestyle, and isn't incorporating fruits and vegetables into your diet, then you're at risk for health conditions down the road. However, a cheeseburger at a backyard barbecue isn't going to hurt you as long as you're generally living a healthy lifestyle," says Vanessa Rissetto, MS, RD, CDN, co-founder of Culina Health.

What to Grill

If you're looking for healthy proteins to grill, Rissetto recommends white fish, pork tenderloin, chicken breasts, or lean cuts of steak like flank steak, tenderloin, or sirloin. Stay away from cuts of steak that have heavy marbling such as a New York strip or rib-eye, which will be much fattier. Instead of an all-beef burger, try this Grilled Salt-Rubbed Fish Sandwich or portobello mushrooms for a healthier alternative.

Of course, if you're grilling in summer, make use of an abundance of fresh, seasonal produce. Corn on the cob, zucchini and yellow squash, eggplant, and bell or shishito peppers all shine when grilled.

Healthy Grilled Recipes

Be mindful of how much salad dressing or barbecue sauce you are using, though Rissetto says that you don't need to skip them altogether. Instead of tossing greens and vegetables with lots of dressing, opt for just a couple of tablespoons and make your own. Additionally, while store-bought salad dressing labeled "light" may appear to be healthier, brands typically compensate fat with sugar so they're not always better for you. Try our truly light Cucumber-Herb Salad—a simple dressing is made from extra-virgin olive oil, unseasoned rice vinegar, salt, and pepper—which will pair well with grilled meat and vegetables. For delicious and nutritious meals that will feed a family of four any night of the week, try this Whole Grilled Eggplant with Rice Pilaf or Grilled-Chicken-and-Zucchini Salad.

Other healthy grilled sides include our recipe for Grilled Corn with Lime and Chile, which is flavorful and spicy thanks to chipotle-chile powder. Our colorful Grilled Vegetables and White-Bean Fattoush is a fabulous, crowd-friendly side dish or appetizer; grilled bell peppers are served alongside chopped escarole, feta cheese, pita bread, and cannellini beans.


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