Many Americans find it challenging to fill half their plate each meal with fruits and vegetables, as dietary guidelines recommend. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics encourages Americans to add both color and nutrients to Memorial Day cookouts by grilling with a variety of healthy fruits and vegetables.
“Fill up on fewer calories with nutrient-rich, low-calorie produce,” says nutritionist Judy Caplan. “It’s not only good for your waistline, but water-rich produce will also help keep you hydrated on hot summer days.”
A quick and easy way to pack nutrients into your grill-centered meal is to skewer marinated vegetables like red, yellow or orange bell peppers, mushrooms, eggplant, cherry tomatoes and onions into a tasty kabob. Simply brush the vegetables with olive oil and your favorite herbs and spices, and grill over medium heat; turning until marked and tender (about 12-15 minutes, and 8-10 minutes for cherry tomatoes and pre-boiled potatoes).
“For a sweet treat, grill sliced watermelon for about 30 seconds on each side,” says Caplan. “Some of the water will evaporate over the heat, which leaves an intensely flavored watermelon slice to savor and enjoy.”
Summer squash like zucchini, patty pans and yellow crooknecks are other delicious options that you can stuff, bake, steam or grill:
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- Grate squash as a replacement for angel hair pasta and top with tomato sauce; pack grated squash into meatloaf, muffins or quick breads.
- Place zucchini halves (cut length-wise) on the grill and heat until soft (about 15 minutes). Stuff with cooked quinoa or shredded chicken breast, flaked salmon or browned, lean turkey meat.
- Slice a variety of summer squash and toss with olive oil, minced garlic and rosemary sprigs and put into a vegetable grill basket, heating through until tender and flavorful.
Sweet potatoes add a splash of color and are loaded with beta-carotene – a carotenoid that is great for eye health and is an anti-oxidant, which can help keep your cells healthy:
- Slice a sweet potato, toss with olive oil add a pinch of salt, pepper and cayenne (if you like a spicy flavor). Place over a medium heat; turn each side after 10 minutes. Remove when crisp and browned (but take care not to char as they will not be as tasty).
- Cut into strips and bake for sweet potato fries. Sprinkle with garlic or onion powder for more flavor.
- Wrap a medium whole sweet potato in tin foil and place over medium heat, cover and let cook for 45-60 minutes. When done, top with salsa and a dollop of plain yogurt or a hint of brown sugar and freshly grated nutmeg.
For more information on healthy ways to enjoy summertime and to locate a registered dietitian nutritionist in your area, visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics atwww.eatright.org.