Summer is grilling season, and this year, as we continue the battle against coronavirus, we have a feeling those backyard getaways are going to be more and more critical. While doing what we can to stay safe is incredibly important, it’s also essential to pay attention to all the aspects of your health, including your heart health. So if you’ve decided this is your year to become a true grill master, here are a few cardiologist approved tips to keep all those delicious barbeque meals on the heart-healthy side.
Keep it Lean
When it comes to heart-healthy grilling, lean meats and proteins rich with omega-3s like chicken (lean) and salmon (rich with omega-3s) are your golden tickets. Grilling them can bring out delicious flavors, but the natural properties of these means make them some of your heart-healthiest choices. They win out by far over the classic red-meat burgers and steaks. An occasional steak is okay (as long as you and your doctors agree). However, focusing on lean meats and vegetables or plant-based alternatives to meat on the grill (portabello mushroom burgers are excellent) will make your outdoor cooking better for your cardiac health.
Grill Those Veggies
Whether straight on the grill itself or wrapped in a tin foil pouch and drizzled with a little olive oil and spices, you can cook all manner of vegetables on the grill and achieve truly delicious results. From leafy greens like swiss chard and romaine hearts to stalky vegetables like asparagus and broccoli to classics like mushrooms, bell peppers, and onions, you can grill up a rainbow for the whole family to enjoy. And, when you grill veggies, especially peppers and onions, they release sugars giving anything you pair with them a little added sweetness. The caveat to grilling veggies is that they tend to dry out. One way to keep them moist during grilling is spraying them with low salt veggie broth or plain water.
Portion control is always an essential part of managing overall health and wellness, but if you’re grilling – and especially if you’re grilling red meats, paying attention to portions is critical. Protein portions should be no larger than the size of your palm – stick to ¼ pound burgers and small filets rather than t-bones and big-mac style burgers.
Be Mindful of Flavor
Everyone loves a flavorful grilled meal, but how you add that flavor matters. Rather than depending on slathered on butter and oils to bring the taste, lean on the power of spices. A little salt (emphasis on little) and pepper, garlic powder, and a dash of chili powder can do wonders. Using salt-free pre-mixed spices like Mrs.Dash is an easy way to take the worry out of how much salt you are adding to your food. Marinades are a great way to add flavor to your protein or vegetables. Just make sure to read the labels as many of these marinades have loads of salt and even fat in them.
Whatever you’re grilling up this season, do your best to keep heart health top of mind. Having a healthy heart helps boost your overall immune system and keeps other pieces of the whole-body-health puzzle running more smoothly. Increased blood flow and circulation help provide more oxygen to your blood. Still not sure what your menu should consist of to keep you healthy and your heart in tip-top shape this summer? If you would like more information on Heart-healthy cooking or would like to schedule an appointment with our Registered Dietitians, visit our website, https://www.southdenver.com/cardiac-services/special-programs/nutritional-consulting/
A special thank you to our good friend Dr. Richard Collins, MD “The Cooking Cardiologist, for his input with this article.