Sports & Recreation

Grilled burgers. Image courtesy of

Fire up the Grill With Five Healthy Tips

By Sheila Begay
Au-Authm Action News

During spring in the Valley, before it gets too hot, it’s only natural to want to head outside and soak up the sun. Cooking out is a great way to enjoy the outdoors, and it’s also a healthy way to go when you incorporate nutritious foods.

“Grilling is really healthy; it’s really low calorie, as opposed to deep-fried foods. It also brings out the flavor of food and makes food taste great. It’s fun, you get to be outside and around other people, [and as you wait], you socialize,” said Margaret Fisher, R.D., CDE, registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator for the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.

The following five tips will keep you grilling healthfully and safely:

Tip 1: Clean Your Grill Keeping your grill in tip-top shape helps meats, vegetables and fruits taste better. Be sure to scrub with a grill brush before and after you grill. Also, washing your grill with soap and water may also help reduce carcinogens, the “blackened” material that builds up over time. Taking the time to have a clean grill will pay off in the long run and will aid in your upcoming healthy-meal preparation!

Tip 2: Choose Healthier Meats When we think of barbecuing or grilling, most often we think of hot dogs and hamburgers. But why not try a healthier alternative that still tastes great? Try grilling lean beef, chicken, fish, seafood, turkey sausage or buffalo meat. We should also think about portion size. A 3-oz. piece of chicken, beef or fish is considered a healthy serving size by nutrition experts. That’s roughly equivalent to the size of a deck of cards. With fish, a 3-oz. piece is equivalent in size to a checkbook. Fisher recommends lean cuts of meat for a healthier barbecue. “For beef, it would be [a cut with the word] ‘loin’ in it. Loin means it’s a lean cut. For pork, tenderloin is good. Stay away from beef that is 90 percent fat or higher. Buffalo meat is almost as lean as chicken, but it might be harder to get.” She recommends staying away from sausages, hot dogs and processed meats, because those are high in fat, unless they’re made from chicken or turkey (like turkey burgers or turkey sausage). “Also, think out of the box a bit and try fish or shrimp. Seafood is really healthy for you; it is also very lean and delicious,” Fisher added.

Tip 3: Add More Color Some people are surprised to learn that grilling is a great way to cook vegetables and even some fruits. There is a huge variety when it comes to fruits and vegetables. Since the key to a healthy meal is adding more color, perhaps grill up some veggie kabobs, corn, squash or pineapple slices—the possibilities are endless! Try some different things that might work for you and your family. “Don’t forget that you can grill your vegetables and fruits too, and it tastes excellent. Grilling makes fruit taste sweeter. I think it’s something people always forget about. I mean, they know it but they tend to forget about it. People always think it’s just meat, meat, meat,” said Fisher.

Tip 4: Oils, Seasoning and Herbs Using oils, seasonings and herbs instead of salt and fat also plays a key role in eating healthfully. “Find ways to add flavor to your food without adding too many calories. Using herbs, chili sauce, tomato paste or something low in calories with no salt and added sugars is a great idea. One example is [making aluminum foil packets of] fish and adding onions or lemon, and putting it on the grill. This is very lean and also tastes great,” said Fisher. When applying healthier oils like olive oil, use a brush to keep from using too much. Go online or jump on your smartphone to search for recipes and new ways to make grilled food taste different but delicious.

Tip 5: Working the Grill When you’re grilling for you and your family, be sure to dedicate yourself to the grill and avoid burning or flare-ups. Flare-ups of the flame causes blackening on food, and the blackened parts contain carcinogens that may play a role in stomach cancer. Although blackened bits of meat have a lot of flavor, it’s best to cut those off before serving. It might also be great to invest in a food thermometer to check for accurate temperatures, especially when grilling chicken or poultry. Place the thermometer into the center of the thickest part of the meat. Being the grill master is a big responsibility, but you can also find ways to make it fun for yourself.

Get the kids involved with food preparation. Children are always willing to help out; for example, having them assemble vegetable and fruit kabobs before grilling will teach them that eating healthy is a great way to go. So get outside, clean that grill and grill up an amazing meal for your family. Happy Grilling! For more cooking tips, call Margaret Fisher, R.D., CDE, at (480) 362-6640.

Cooking Meat Safely

Here are the recommended times and temperatures for cooking meat, according to

  • Whole cuts of pork: 145-160 degrees Fahrenheit, with addition of a three-minute rest time.
  • Pork roasts and chops: 145 degrees Fahrenheit before it’s removed from heat source.
  • Beef, veal and lamb cuts: 145 degrees Fahrenheit, with addition of a three-minute rest time.
  • Ground meats: 160 degrees Fahrenheit; does not require a rest time.
  • Poultry, ground chicken and turkey: 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • According to, “Rest time is the amount of time the product remains at the final temperature after it has been removed from a grill, oven or other heat source. During the three minutes after meat is removed the heat source, its temperature remains constant or continues to rise, which destroys harmful bacteria.”

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