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Ready to fire up the grill?

Essential tips for your next BBQ

Barbecue season is in full swing. To stay healthy and safe while dining outdoors, consider these tips. 

Lighten up the grill

Each Fourth of July, Americans spend on average around 7 billion dollars External Site on food for holiday cookouts and picnics. And, you don't have to sacrifice to make your barbecue a healthy one.

Enjoy lean meats

  1. Pork: A lean 4-oz pork cut (tenderloin) comes in around 140 calories.
  2. Steak: A lean 4-oz steak (top sirloin), trimmed of visible fat has about 230 calories.
  3. Chicken: A skinless, boneless, 8-oz breast, or two skinless 4-oz thighs are around 300 calories
  4. Burgers: Skip some toppings, like cheese and mayo, and pile on the veggies. A lean, 3-oz burger on a bun is about 315 calories.

Lean meats taste better when they’re marinated. Marinades add lots of flavor and break down the tough fibers in leaner meats. But, keep in mind that marinades tenderize only the surface of the meat to about ¼ inch. It helps to score the meat (cut into the surface about ¼ inch deep with a sharp knife in several places) and be sure it is coated in marinade.

Not in the mood for meat? No problem! While most traditional grilled menu options include it, don’t rule out the vegetarian or vegan possibilities.

Try fresh summer side dishes

Summer is a great time to find locally grown and organic produce from places like your local farmers' market.

So, skip the chips and potato salad and think green, leafy vegetables and summer fruits. Try spinach, watermelon, corn on the cob or strawberries.

Throw some veggies on the grill

Cut up a variety of your favorite vegetables. Try a combination of three or four, options include: bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, zucchini, summer squash, sweet or regular potatoes.

Place the vegetables on kabobs, or wrap them in a greased square of aluminum foil, sprinkle with your choice of seasonings, and spray the kabobs with a little olive oil cooking spray. Grill for about 30 minutes over low heat.

Have a little more time? Marinate your vegetables for about an hour before putting them on the grill. They’ll caramelize better, which brings out more flavor.

Keep safety in mind

It can be easy to get distracted when you're cooking on the grill and putting the finishing touches on some healthy side dishes.

Here's what you should keep in mind to stay safe: 

  • Keep your distance

    The grill should be at least two feet away from your house siding and any outdoor equipment that may easily catch fire, like a swing set or shed.
  • Use a thermometer

    It's the number-one tool you should use when grilling because color isn't always an accurate measure. Meat should be cooked to a safe internal temperature External Site to destroy harmful bacteria. 
  • Cleanliness is key

    Wait to work with food until you've properly washed your hands. You should also thoroughly wash your produce before serving or cooking.
  • Beware of leftovers

    Cooked or raw meats, even salads, shouldn't be left out at room temperature for more than two hours.

Still need more ideas to make your barbecue great? Check out all our recipes. With healthy appetizer options to tasty desserts, they're sure to make your menu planning just a little bit easier.