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Image by Vincent Keiman

Time to Get Grilling

Image by Daniel Hooper
Image by Michal Matlon
Give Yourself the "Go" To Get Grilling!

Grilling is a pastime rooted in many family and warm-weather holiday traditions. Over the years, processed foods infiltrated grilling menus across the country and this edition of REAL Living is here to guide you to flavor, fun AND health. ​

From protein choice, nutrient dense sides and grilling to reduce carcinogens, there's much to consider when cooking outdoors. Read on for ideas that will challenge your typical grilled dinner, moving vegetables to the spotlight and bringing creative flavor combinations to the table. Efforts to improve your protein selection, pairing it with high fiber sides can help you create a healthy and delicious meal everyone will enjoy. 


Whether you use a gas grill, charcoal, smoker or camp grill, you should find some tips and tricks to dine al fresco the healthy way. Not a grill master? Take the recipes shared here and apply them indoors. Most can be replicated indoors with a cast iron skillet, griddle or hot oven. 


Guide to
Safe Grilling

Start with a clean grill, removing charred food debris to prevent bacteria growth. Scrub the grates while preheating the grill with a ball of aluminum foil or steel wool, or use a scraper for built up spots. If using a charcoal grill, be sure to remove ash after each use.

Prevent cross-contamination by staying aware of what surfaces, utensils and towels raw foods may touch. Use paper towels to clean spills when grilling, and a fresh plate for finished food. Wash all items in hot soapy water between uses or designate separate items for use with raw foods and cooked foods.

Don't use the same marinade before, during and after grilling. Instead, make extra and dispose of the original marinade that the meat sat in. While at the grill, never use the same brush on raw and cooked meats, use a new brush or wash between uses.


Use a thermometer for accuracy and safety

Use a food thermometer to ensure meat is not dried out, but also cooked enough to kill harmful germs. Whether you use an instant read, wireless or laser surface thermometer, ensure it's approved for use on the grill. The following guide will help help you create expertly cooked meats.


Insert thermometer probe into the thickest portion of the meat, avoiding touching any bones, which will cause an incorrect reading.


  • 145°F - Whole cuts beef, pork, lamb, veal, fish (let rest for 3 minutes after)

  • 160°F – Hamburgers and other ground beef

  • 165°F – all poultry, and pre-cooked meats, like hot dogs.

Note; Keep meat smoking cook temperatures at 225°F-300°F.

Turkey Burgers
Salmon Fillet
Chicken Sandwich

Building a Better Burger


Mix 1 lb ground turkey with 1 tsp cumin, 2 tsp dried oregano, 2 cloves minced garlic, 1/4 c feta cheese, 1 c chopped spinach and a pinch of black pepper. Form into patties and grill. Serve with whole wheat pita and grilled zucchini, onion, peppers and tomato. Add a dollop or tzatziki for extra flavor.


Grill salmon fillets as usual, seasoning with lemon and dill if desired. On a thin, whole wheat bun, spread a mix of avocado oil mayonnaise, chopped capers and basil. Add spinach, a thick tomato slice and fresh onion to the burger.


Slice chicken breasts in half lengthwise and marinate with dried Italian herbs, lemon, garlic and olive oil. Grill until done, and build a sandwich on whole wheat bread. Add a slaw mixed with sliced apple, broccoli slaw and a vinaigrette of olive oil, apple cider vinegar, honey and Herbs de Provence.

Avoid Carcinogens, Not the Grill 

While it's true that grilling proteins can create known carcinogens heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) there are steps you can take to reduce or prevent the formation of these hazardous compounds. The biggest take home message is to avoid over-cooking, charring and flame flare ups, but these tips can help you adopt the healthiest grilling tactics possible. 

  • Choose lean and light meat with skin removed and fat trimmed. 

  • Marinate meats in a lemon- or vinegar-based marinade to reduce the formation of HCAs by 57 - 88%. If a marinade is thicker or made with sugar or honey, use only in the last two minutes of grilling as the sweetener can cause meat to char. 

  • Grill foods on a cedar plank or wrapped in aluminum foil. 

  • Grilling using indirect flames.

  • Don’t press the meat while it cooks, which releases drippings onto the flame.

  • Clean the grill and/or replace charcoal after every use. Residual meat and fat drippings can continue to cook and become carcinogenic.

Serving Up Healthier Sides

Pair your grilled fare with plenty of vegetables, whole grains and beans. From basic grilled vegetables to fresh cut salads, there's plenty to choose from that goes beyond baked beans and potato salad. Start with these ideas and branch out with the Fattoush Salad recipe below for your next grilling menu!

Marinated Cucumbers

Lemon, Garlic and Dill Quinoa

Easy Slaws with DIY Vinaigrettes

Grilled Sweet Potato "Fries"

Chopped Salad with Apples and Walnuts

Black-eyed Pea Salad




Chunky chopped vegetables

(Traditionally lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, green pepper, onions, radishes)


2 Pita bread loafs



1/8 cup olive oil

1/8 cup fresh squeezed lemon

1 tbsp ground sumac

1 tsp dried mint

3 garlic cloves, minced

Salt and pepper to taste


Chop pita into 1" cubes. Line baking pan with parchment and spread chopped pita in a single layer, do not crowd. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes or until crunchy, Let cool.


Blend ingredients for dressing in food processor until smooth. Chop vegetables and toss with dressing. Top with cooled crunchy pita chips.


Note: Sumac is a spice popular in Middle Eastern cuisine. With it's unique tangy-tart flavors that is nearly citrusy it adds punch to any dish. Find in your local grocery spice aisle or in specialty markets.

Image by Hari Nandakumar

REAL Challenge

Choose a vegetable to grill and take the spotlight for your next grilled meal!


Cauliflower "Steaks"

Zucchini Spears

Eggplant Rounds

Whole Green Beans

Sliced Onions

Whole Tomatoes 

Image by Edson Rosas


RD Sarah here! One of my favorite things to grill is zucchini spears. Slice the squash lengthwise (like a pickle spear) and grill directly on grates, brushing with a balsamic marinade with each turn. 

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