Ready, Set, Grill

Sure, firing up the barbecue or gas grill provides you with a sociable, relaxing time in the backyard, which is an instant stress buster. But it’s particularly beneficial for people with diabetes because grilling happens to be a healthy cooking technique. Grilled foods typically don’t require high-fat sauces or accompaniments. And much of the fat drips away and never makes it to your plate. Here are a few ways to make your outdoor cooking even more healthful.

Bypass burgers and fill the grill with seafood and lean cuts of meat. You don’t have to gorge on fatty burgers and bratwursts just because you’re cooking outside. Healthier choices include skinless chicken breasts, beef tenderloin or sirloin, and fish.

Disrobe your chicken. Or you can leave the skin on while it’s cooking to seal in moisture, and pull it off afterward. It will save you a load of saturated fat—which hampers insulin sensitivity and increases the risk of heart disease—and calories.

Bathe meats in a vinegar-based marinade. A study conducted at Arizona State University found that eating 4 tablespoons of cider vinegar before eating a high glycemic-index meal (one that includes foods that tend to raise blood sugar quickly) lowered the effect of the meal on participants’ blood sugar by about 55 percent. Low-fat Italian vinaigrette salad dressing with extra vinegar added will even do the trick. You also can experiment with your own marinades using vinegar, olive oil, wine, lemon juice, lime juice, garlic, and herbs.

Splurge on grilling lessons. Grilling may seem simple, and it is—if you know how to do it properly. You’d be surprised at how valuable even a few simple grilling secrets can be. Do you know how often to flip a piece of meat and when to do it? How to tell when the food is done without cutting into it? The more you know, the more fun you’ll have. For a special event such as a milestone birthday or anniversary, consider hiring a chef to come to your backyard. He can whip up a meal for your party and work in a lesson. Ask him to focus on healthy foods that you don’t know how to grill—say, salmon fillets, scallops, or pork loin. The more healthy dishes you’re excited to cook at home, the fewer calories (and dollars) you’ll waste at restaurants.

Skewer some squash, portabello mushrooms, eggplant, and zucchini. Many of your favorite fruits and vegetables will pick up an alluring new taste when grilled. Sliced squash, eggplant, bell pepper, portabello mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, pineapple, peaches, and apricots all fare well on a grill. Coat veggies with a little olive oil before adding to the grill. For small or thin slices that might fall through the bars of your grill grate, use skewers or special grilling baskets, which you can buy in home improvement and cooking stores.

Grill delicate foods in packets. Making dinner on the grill doesn’t automatically mean charbroiled meat and corn on the cob. Packet cooking lets you cook all sorts of foods on the grill. Just center the ingredients on a large sheet of aluminum foil, add a little olive oil or broth, then fold up the sides, leaving some room for steam to circulate inside. Set the packets on the grill. This strategy works particularly well for delicate or quick-cooking foods, such as fish and boneless chicken breast. Even lean meats stay tender. Put out a variety of vegetables (bell peppers, onion, snap peas, corn, etc.) and seasonings and let each member of the family design his or her own packet.

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