The grilling season is upon us, and who doesn’t like a good BBQ? Your cardiologist, that’s who.
That is, of course, if your cuisine consists of fatty meats, high in calories. We’re talking ribs, pork chops, sausages, even good ole burgers and steaks. Hot dogs? Everyone’s Fourth of July favorite, not to mention all processed meats are a nutritional wasteland, that the AICR (American Institute for Cancer Research) has linked to causing cancer, largely of the colorectal variety.
Not to scare you away from the grill this season, but facts are facts. Over-charring, over-smoking, even keeping an unkempt grill can affect the nutritional content of your meat. A clean grill coupled with some efficient cooking is key in serving the best quality food to your family and friends.
But which meats are the best to serve? There is a way to go clean and lean without sacrificing anything in the way of taste at the picnic table. Or rooftop floor, front porch, etc.
Here are five proteins (not counting chicken breasts, aka Captain Obvious) primed for summer grilling that will cut down on the gluttonous filling.
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1) Ground Turkey Burger
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A BBQ without burgers is criminal, but the same can be said for red meat in your diet. Lean to extra lean ground turkey meat is a solid substitute for beef, but it’s important to remember that not all turkey burgers are created equal. Make sure to get ground turkey “breast” that is devoid of dark meat and skin, if you really want to cut the fat. And to avoid the dreaded dry turkey burger, mix in some olive oil to the patties (3 to 5 ounces in size), cook them quickly at roughly 165°, and finish them off with a slice of white American cheese.
Nutritional info (per 5 oz): Protein – 41g Fat – 3.5g Carbs – 0g Calories – 196
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2) Pork Tenderlion
Everyone loves a good pork chop. Too bad your average cut is lined with a fortress of fat that seeps through the entire slab. A 4-oz pork chop contains 275 calories and 16g of fat. By comparison, a 4-oz serving of pork tenderloin (a lean strip located on the backbone) contains 120 calories and just 4g of fat. It’s a drastic difference, not to mention the tenderloin is loaded with protein (22g per serving) resulting in some serious fat burning. Before laying it out on the grill, give the tenderloin a nice dry rub consisting of some oregano, garlic powder, ground cumin, and dried thyme.
Nutritional info (per 5 oz): Protein – 22g Fat – 4.6g Carbs – 0g Calories – 137
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3) Flank Steak
For some people, standard BBQ fare of burgers and hot dogs just doesn’t cut the mustard. When it comes to grilling snobs, steak will always reign supreme. With respect to the red flag on red meat, if you want to incorporate some steak into your BBQ at least go with a lean cut. Flank steak is a great (and cheap) example—low in fat and calories compared to other steaks, while also being rich in protein (23g per serving) and iron. While not ideally tender, a lean meat like flank steak can be softened up with a marinade consisting of Worcestershire, soy, or chili sauce. Here’s a great idea: grill the meat and slice it diagonally for some steak tacos, topped with some grilled onions and peppers, and fresh guacamole.
Nutritional info (per 5 oz): Protein – 39g Fat – 10g Carbs – 0g Calories – 260
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Of course, if you want to go super-healthy (i.e., low in fat/calories) at your BBQ, fish is always the best way to go. But which fish is best fit for the grill? Our answer is swordfish; a beautiful steak that is meaty and firm and perfect for the rigors of backyard broiling. Swordfish is versatile, in that it can simply be prepared with some olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper, or can be marinated in a variety of different (healthy) sauce options. Best of all, swordfish’s dense texture makes for perfect grill marks. Just make sure not to cook it any longer than 5-7 minutes, to prevent the meat from drying out.
Nutritional info (per 5 oz): Protein – 33g Fat – 11g Carbs – 0g Calories – 244
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For a more exotic form of fowl at your BBQ, ditch the grilled chicken for some wild or farm-raised pheasant. The lean game bird’s caloric content is made up of 78% protein, and the meat is also high in B vitamins and potassium. To maximize the healthiness, shed the skin and grill the tiny bird as you would a whole rotisserie chicken. While pheasant is low in the white meat department, it is still a lean option for your BBQ that packs a smoky taste very conducive to the grilling process.
Nutritional info (per 5 oz): Protein – 45g Fat – 17g Carbs – 0g Calories – 335