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Healthy Grilling Options

08/12/2013 06:31 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST
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Close up of charred chilies on grill

Summer's here and that means patios, cold drinks, gelato and many, many barbeques.

Why grill? Apart from the joy of being outside in fabulous weather, barbequing gives you an option for healthy, flavourful food. Excess fat drips off meat and the high heat sears the outside, sealing in flavour and moisture, keeping the meat tender.

If you're going to grill meat, remember to store your meat and marinate it in the refrigerator, and then cook it to a safe internal temperature. When cooking, keep raw meat away from other foods and always use separate utensils.

But if you think the barbecue is just about meat, you're missing out on the full potential of your barbecue and your outdoor meals. Fish, tofu, vegetables, and even cheese taste great when cooked on the grill.

The rule of thumb is to use firm fruits, vegetables, and meats. They hold up to the heat and don't fall apart. So, what can you grill? For starters:

Chicken

The trick is to sear them but don't let them get charred. Charring creates potentially cancer-causing compounds called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

Burgers

Beef burgers are delicious but why not mix in some veggies like lentils or sweet peppers into your meat mix? Also try different seasonings instead of the regular salt and pepper.

Asparagus

Asparagus: the perfect summer food. Toss a few of these stalks on your grill with a little lemon juice, and pair them with your meat.

Mango

The sweetness combined with the smokiness from the grill makes a great dessert. Use a ripe, but not too ripe, mango. You want it to be firm.

Pineapple

Where mango goes, pineapple follows. Put it on the grill, and add some cinnamon for a kick of flavour.

Bell peppers

Green, red, yellow, orange, purple; throw them all on the barbeque. The heat of the grill will make them sweeter. You can also try stuffed peppers for a complete meal in a pepper.

Zucchini

Cut them thick so they don't get too mushy and fall apart. Brush with your vegetable oil of choice.

Onions

Large or small, onions are great on the barbeque. If you want, you can make kebabs (vegetarian and meat) and use small onions as spacers between the meat, the fruit and the vegetables.

Apples and Pears

You might have picked pears or a few bushels of apples; why not grill some? Serve with sorbet for a delicious, cool, and healthy dessert.

Watermelon

New York Times food writer Mark Bittman likes to brush slices of watermelon with olive oil, minced onion, and salt and pepper. He grills them for five minutes on each side. He says it turns the sweetness into a savoury, smoky dish.

Sweet potatoes

If you can grill potatoes, you can grill sweet potatoes. You can go savoury with garlic and parsley with a hint of butter -- or go sweet with brown sugar.

Avocado

Again, a firm fruit or vegetable can stand up to a grill. You're going to make guacamole anyway, why not add some smokiness to it?

Fish

Salmon and other firm fish do well on a barbecue. Again, season to suit your taste. We like lemon and a splash of white wine.

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Healthy Grilling Options