By Shawnee Seitz

Summertime usually means time to light up the grill. With growing evidence linking red meat and processed meat consumption to cardiovascular disease and cancer, we should find creative ways to reduce these types of food without sacrificing our summer grilling. Reducing meat consumption is also beneficial to the planet. The World Resources Institute recently recommended that Americans cut their average meat consumption by 40% in order to create a sustainable food future. Since most Americans don’t eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables, it makes sense to swap some traditional grilling foods like hamburgers and hot dogs for more plant based grilling recipes. Here’s a few ideas to try.

Grilled vegetable kebabs- Thread your favorite vegetables on skewers, brush with olive oil and throw on the grill. Rotate every 5 minutes until vegetables are softening and browning. Using a variety of different colored vegetables will give you a variety of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, which have been shown to have many potential health benefits. Try using red onions, mushrooms, bell peppers, zucchini, and summer squash. You can also throw some fruit like pineapple on the skewers for some sweetness.

Grilled fish foil pouches- The American Heart Association recommends we eat fish twice a week. Try cooking your favorite seafood in an aluminum foil pouch, you can even add some extra veggies in with it like asparagus, potatoes, and cherry tomatoes. Just add fish, olive oil, lemon, and any herbs you like to the foil pouch. Fold the edges of the pouch so it’s completely sealed, grill pouches for 10-15 minutes or until fish reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees. Some of the best fish choices for heart health are oily fishes including salmon, mackerel, lake trout, albacore tuna, and sardines.

Grilled cauliflower steaks or cabbage steaks- Both cauliflower and cabbage provide a nutritious boost of Vitamin C and fiber. To make these vegetables into steaks, start by trimming off ends of vegetable. Cut vegetable into ½ -1 inch steak, drizzle with olive oil and season the way you like (try using your favorite Mrs. Dash salt-free seasoning). Keeping a close eye on them, grill for a few minutes on each side, flipping until both sides are tender and crispy on the outside.

Portobello mushroom burger- Using a vegetable with a steak texture can make a good swap for a burger. You can even give the mushroom a meaty flavor by marinating with balsamic vinegar, low sodium soy sauce, and steak seasoning. When grill is heated, brush the grates with oil and start grilling the mushroom burger. Grill for about 5-7 minutes on each side or until tender. Assemble your burger the way you would your typical beef burger or try using a whole wheat bun, reduced-fat Swiss cheese, red onion, and spinach. 

Grilled Fruit- Grilling fruit caramelizes the sugars in fruit and brings out the flavor for a sweet treat or great addition to a summer salad. Peaches, pineapple, watermelon are all great for grilling. Start by cutting fruit down to desired size.

  • For a peach dessert, just half peaches, brush with oil and throw on grill, grill both sides. Sprinkle with cinnamon and serve with vanilla ice cream if you like!
  • Cut pineapple into 1-inch cubes, brush with oil and grill until they are slightly tender. Try chopping up the grilled pineapple to add to a salsa or taco dish.
  • Grilled watermelon can add a fresh sweet taste to a summer salad. Start by cutting watermelon into triangles with the rind attached. Grill watermelon slices for about 2-3 minutes each side or until grill marks appear. Try adding the grilled watermelon to an arugula or spinach salad with some feta cheese and balsamic vinegar.


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