Healthy meal ideas for summer grillin’ and chillin’
Find tips and recipes for delicious, healthy summer meals
Summer is here and that often means weekends at the farmers market or afternoons cooking on the grill. Warmer months bring a variety of healthy seasonal dishes that are easy to make. Below you’ll find tips and recipes to help make your summer meals delicious for your tastebuds and good for your health.
Healthy summer grilling
Outdoor BBQs are a great way to enjoy summer meals with friends and family in an open, well-ventilated space. But you’ll want to keep a few things in mind when grilling.
Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are chemicals created when meat is cooked at a high temperature over direct flame. These chemicals are linked with increasing cancer risk. But before you toss out your grill, follow these tips to help reduce your exposure to HCAs and PAHs.
- Grill fruits and vegetables instead.
- Use aluminum foil to avoid meat being directly exposed to flame.
- Marinate meat before grilling.
- Microwave meat before putting on grill to reduce grill time.
- Turn meat over consistently when grilling.
- Remove charred or blackened portions of meat before serving.
Another consideration for a healthy BBQ is to make sure that cooking areas are clean, and that meat is cooked thoroughly. This can reduce the risk of food poisoning. Some tips include:
- Store raw meat and produce in separate containers.
- Refrigerate meat below 40°F.
- Wash your hands before grilling or preparing food.
- Don’t cross-contaminate food prep areas.
- Throw out meat marinades when done.
- Use a meat thermometer to make sure meat reaches proper cooking temperatures:
- 145°F – whole cuts of beef, pork, lamb, and veal (stand-time of 3 minutes)
- 145°F – fish
- 160°F – hamburgers and other ground beef
- 160°F – poultry and pre-cooked meats, such as hot dogs
Healthy summer snacking
Summer means vacation for many of us. Whether it’s a road trip or just a day at the beach, you’re going to need a healthy snack to help fuel your fun. It’s tempting to grab a bag of chips or a candy bar at the gas station, but these snacks are often easy to overeat, offer little in nutrition, and may make you feel worse in the long run. Here are a few foods to help you keep going – the healthy way – all day.
- Combine complex carbohydrates with protein for sustainable energy, such as:
- Apples and nut butter
- Cheese and grapes
- Carrots and hummus
- Yogurt and fruit
- Nuts and raisins
- Whole-grain crackers and tuna
Healthy summer shopping
The latest USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend focusing on a variety of nutrient-dense foods. These foods provide vitamins, minerals, and other healthy compounds such as antioxidants. They also have little to no added sugars, saturated fat, and added sodium. These foods include:
- Whole grains
- Low-fat dairy
- Lean protein, such as beans, peas, and lentils; nuts and seeds; and lean meats like fish and poultry
- Healthy fats, like seafood and nuts
If you’re on a budget, eating with the seasons is usually more affordable than eating foods out of season. So, focusing on farmers market crops may be good for your health and your wallet. Learn more about what’s in season using the table below.
Healthy summer cooking
You’ve done the shopping, invited a few folks over for an outdoor BBQ, and are ready to cook! Here are a few quick, healthy, and seasonal dishes that are sure to make a splash with your guests.
- Cover a wooden cutting board with your favorite seasonal dips and veggies
- Yogurt with dill and olive oil
- Feta cheese
- Grilled red peppers
- Mix these ingredients together for a protein-packed vegetarian feast
- 5 plum tomatoes
- Half a chopped white onion
- 2 serrano chiles or 1 jalapeno pepper (optional)
- Half a cup cilantro
- Three 15-ounce cans of beans (options: black, kidney, cannellini, garbanzo, lima)
- Half pound of snap beans (Romano, wax, or green beans), thinly sliced
- Half cup of olive oil
- 3 tablespoons lime juice
- 1 teaspoon salt
Summer may mean vacation, but it doesn’t have to be a vacation from healthy eating. By following the tips above, you and your family can enjoy their healthiest summer yet! Plus, by grilling safely and choosing seasonal food, you are laying the foundation for healthy eating habits for every season.
Ready to grill and chill this summer – the healthy way? Get personalized meal support (and more!) with Wellvolution®.
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