News | Published June 19, 2014 | Written by Gary Glenn, CEC, director and executive chef, nutrition & culinary services, Mount Nittany Medical Center

Healthy grilling tips

With the first official day of summer upon us, and July 4 just a few weeks away, the grilling season is in full swing. Most of us can agree there are few things better than firing up the grill on a warm evening. Everything seems to taste better — from hamburgers, hot dogs, corn on the cob, and even potatoes and veggies.

Foods are usually a little healthier on the grill, too, because the fat drips off and you don’t need a lot of butter or sauces to raise the flavor factor. However, it’s easy to make your grilled dinner even more nutritious and just as tasty with the following tips:

  • When making hamburgers, use ground beef with the lowest fat percentage. You can enhance the flavor by adding in diced onion and sprinkling with garlic.
  • Instead of full-fat burgers and hot dogs, try chicken sausages, lean turkey dogs or veggie burgers. If you’re feeling really creative, try a sweet potato burger!
  • Onions, potatoes, carrots, corn and many other vegetables can be cooked on the grill for a great smoky flavor instead of sautéing them in butter. Wrap them in aluminum foil and let them cook on low while the rest of your food grills.

Grills are great because they require little cleanup, they don’t have to take up a lot of space, and even those of us who aren’t experts in the kitchen can usually manage. But it’s still important to keep safety in mind when grilling, especially as it relates to food-borne illnesses and fire hazards.

  • Preheat the grill for 15-25 minutes to kill off any bacteria before you start cooking.
  • Use separate cutting boards, utensils, and platters for cooked and raw foods to avoid cross contamination.
  • Never let children use or play near a grill, and never leave a grill unattended. Grills easily reach more than 500 degrees and can cause serious burns.
  • Keep water or a fire extinguisher nearby just in case.
  • Prevent burns by using long tongs and even an grill-mitt to flip meat.

With these simple tips in mind, you and your family can enjoy healthy, delicious, and safe meals on the grill all summer long.