Healthy ideas for grilling season

April 8, 2013

Grilled Honey Lime ChickenHello, warm weather. We’re so pleased to see you.

And right on cue, grilling season begins. You know what that looks like, right? Piles of hotdogs and hamburgers, those soft squishy buns, and colorful bottles of ketchup, mustard, relish, beer.

Grilling is awesome. But I’m not a fan of those buns, or the cheap meats, or the lack of vegetables. It’s so American. As in, Standard American Diet (SAD).

So let’s step up our game this season, shall we? Because everyone likes to have fun, but it’s no fun waking up the next day with a hotdog bun hangover. Read on for a recipe for my Grilled Honey Lime Chicken, Black Bean and Jicama Salad, plus 6 tips for a healthy grill season.

1. Quality meat makes all the difference

All meat is not created equal. Whether you care about animal welfare, the environment or your own nutritional needs – meat sourced from healthy, pastured animals is always the way to go. I cringe when I go to Whole Foods and see their animal welfare rating system because they can’t even live up to their own standards. Most meat I see there is marked with a 1 or 2 (the lowest scores). Arguably, this stuff is better than the meat sold at conventional grocery stores…but still. Your best bet? Buy meat from local, trustworthy farms. You can also order online from places like US Wellness Meats.

2. Nix the buns

Grilling can actually be an amazing way to feed yourself without the extra calories and digestion-inhibiting properties of bread. Gluten-free? Grill season is your season! When I make things like chicken parts, steak or fish I don’t miss the bun at all.

And the key to great chicken? A great marinade. Here’s one of my new faves:

Grilled Honey Lime Chicken
2-3 lbs. chicken parts (I like using leg/thighs)
3 Tbl. raw honey
1/4 cup chicken stock
Juice of 3 limes
Zest of 3 limes
1/2 cup minced cilantro
1 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1/2 tsp. salt

Arrange chicken in a baking dish. Whisk all other ingredients in a bowl, then pour over chicken. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours, turning occasionally.

Remove chicken from baking dish and pour marinade into a bowl. Set aside. Return chicken to dish and bring to room temperature. Bake at 325F for 30-40 minutes. Then transfer to a hot grill and cook for 5 minutes on each side, basting with reserved marinade.

3. Put thought into your condiments

I don’t like ketchup. It’s just one more way sugar and high fructose corn syrup sneak into our diets. Seriously, we don’t need it.

Instead, how about pesto sauce over chicken? Salsa with fish? Tzatziki over steak? Get creative. Bonus points if you make your own condiments.

Island Fruit Topping
1 mango, chopped
1 kiwi, chopped
1/2 orange, chopped
1 avocado, chopped
2 Tbl. toasted sesame seeds
1 Tbl. tamari
1/4 cup toasted sesame oil

Gently combine all ingredients. Serve cold or at room temperature.

4. Grill your veggies

If you’ve always had a grill full of meat, you may be surprised at how easily you can grill your vegetables. Eggplant is beautiful on the grill. So is asparagus. The drill is usually the same: coat with oil, salt and pepper and grill until tender or slightly charred.

Another benefit: bringing a huge bunch of kale to a BBQ costs way less than bringing steak, and you’ll impress the heck out of your friends by showing them how to grill it:

Grilled Tuscan Kale
1 bunch Tuscan kale
2-3 Tbl. melted coconut oil
Salt and pepper

With your fingers, massage oil onto the front and back of each leaf. Place leaves on hot grill, cook just a few minutes, until tender. Flip to char a bit on both sides.

5. It doesn’t all have to be grilled

Duh, right? BBQs are a perfect time to break out a sparkly salad. Go for something with mad color and flavor. I swear I’ve had the junk-food lovers in my group of friends fall in love with simple veggie salads like this:

Black Bean Jicama Salad
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup jicama matchsticks
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 avocado, chopped
1/3 cup minced cilantro
1/3 cup minced Swiss chard
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. salt
Juice of 1 lime

Toss all ingredients in a bowl. Adjust seasonings to taste.

6. Drink something special

Same old beer? First of all, beer does not agree with my stomach. I don’t know about you, but I feel a lot better without it. Instead of feeling deprived, make yourself something yummy and fizzy that celebrates the warm weather:

White Wine Strawberry Fizzy
1 bottle white wine of choice
2 liters soda water
1 cup ripe strawberries, cut in large pieces
1 handful fresh mint leaves

Combine everything in a pitcher. Smush strawberries with a wooden spoon to help turn the drink pink! Serve chilled.

Here’s to a happy, healthy grill season. Enjoy!