Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Cooking and Produce
Make room for fruits and vegetables during grilling season
Kelli Wilmes, MS, RD, LD, former Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, Nodaway County, University of Missouri Extension
Grilling season is upon us with the arrival of warmer temperatures and longer days. People tend to think of hamburgers, steaks, brats and hot dogs for grill entrees. Instead, move the meat over and make room for fruits and vegetables. Why not try zucchini, eggplant, asparagus or portabella mushrooms?
Research has shown that Americans do not consume enough fruits and vegetables each day. The USDA’s Dietary Guidelines provide three key reasons why people should increase their fruit and vegetable consumption.
- Fruits and vegetables provide important nutrients that are missing in many of our diets, including dietary fiber, potassium, folate, magnesium and vitamins A, C and K.
- Eating fruits and vegetables reduces the risk of many chronic diseases. It has been shown that intake of at least 2½ cups of fruits and vegetables daily reduces the risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke.
- Fruits and vegetables are low in calories when prepared in a healthy way without added fats and sugars. Eating fruits and vegetables instead of high-calorie foods may help with weight loss or maintenance of an already healthy weight.
Grilling provides us with an opportunity to prepare these healthy fruits and vegetables in a quick and different way. Many people think everything tastes better on the grill, which can also hold true for fruits and vegetables. Some people do not like eggplant, zucchini or asparagus until they try it grilled. Taste is not the only benefit. Vegetables and fruit cook so quickly on the grill that they retain much of their vitamin and nutrient content.
To prepare, it is best to have the grill warm, but not as hot as you would for grilling meat. Lightly brush the vegetables with olive oil and put directly on the grill, turning until tender. Try larger hunks like half a green pepper, large slices of squash or portabella mushroom caps, which are large enough to sit on the grates without falling through. A grill basket, aluminum foil pan or kabobs can also be used. If you prefer steamed veggies, wrap the vegetables in aluminum foil with a little olive oil and your favorite marinade or spices. Seal and place on grill, turning occasionally, for 10 to 12 minutes or until veggies are tender.
Experiment with different spices, marinades and sauces when preparing fruits and vegetables. Don’t be afraid to try out various flavors. Store-bought mixes and marinades may have extra sodium, sugar and calories compared to a specialized homemade version. Balsamic vinegar or other flavored vinegars are great for drizzling over grilled vegetables or using in a marinade.
Let’s not forget about dessert — fruits on the grill make a sweet treat. Firmer fruits like apples, pears and pineapple are perfect for grilling. Other fruits, like peaches and mangoes, can also be delicious but need to be monitored more closely to prevent overcooking which causes them to be mushy. Try cutting a fresh peach in half, remove the pit, brush lightly with olive oil and grill for 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Sprinkle with cinnamon and add a dollop of light whipped topping or low-fat frozen yogurt for a yummy treat.
Remember to always practice safe grilling techniques and be aware of food safety when preparing any food.
Last update: Monday, June 19, 2017