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The Best Tips for Healthy Grilling

Move over, hot dogs; we've rounded up the best healthy grilling ideas for all the flavor with a fraction of the calories.

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Young handsome chef smiling and cleaning grillJelena Danilovic/Getty Images

Clean the grill

Hosting a healthy backyard BBQ starts before you even fire up the grill. Wipe down the grates of your grill to remove old food and grease. This prevents sticking and burning, as well as removes carcinogens leftover from animal proteins like steak or burgers. Learn how to clean your grill for a healthier, tastier meal.

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Family enjoying the weekend in their homeKlaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

Choose lean protein

No one can resist a thick, juicy burger right off the grill. It’s great for special occasions, but for everyday grilling, explore lean proteins like chicken breast, turkey burgers or grilled fish. These lighter proteins will give you all the smoky flavor you crave, with less saturated fat.

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Grilling lamb fillet on charcoal grillWestend61/Getty Images

Marinate, marinate, marinate

For tender meat that’s bursting with flavor, break out the easy marinade recipes. Marinating your meat before grilling infuses them with juicy flavor and prevents them from drying out. It can also prevent the formation of heterocyclic amines (HCA) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), cancer-causing chemicals that can be released during grilling.

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Steaks being seasoned with herbs as they cook on bbq grill with vegetable kebabs, mediterranean food, healthy lifestyle, food and drink10'000 Hours/Getty Images

Make your own rub

Skip the salty store-bought rubs and make your own dry rub for grilling. Rubbing chicken or tofu with a dry blend of herbs adds great flavor without extra salt or sugar. Plus, a savory rub will also cut down on the need for calorie-rich condiments at mealtime.

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Meat and kebabs being cooked on barbecue close up, juicy, tender, sizzling, healthy eating10'000 Hours/Getty Images

Turn often

Cook your food evenly and prevent charred buildup by turning food often. Exposing animal proteins to an open flame can produce carcinogens, so turn your food frequently and remove it as soon as it’s cooked through. Many lean proteins like grilled barbecued chicken can quickly dry out, too, so keep an eye on the grill at all times.

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Grilled vegetable platterTaste of Home

Don’t forget the veggies

A backyard cookout usually conjures up images of sizzling burgers and plump hot dogs—but don’t let the meat steal the show! Grilling your vegetables adds a charred, smoky flavor and a tempting crunch to healthy side dishes. Set out a grilled vegetable platter for your family and watch how fast it disappears.

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Senior mother is serving some chicken at her daughter-in-law at a family barbecue, outdoors in summer, on a home porch. Aluminium foil is covering the food to keep it warm. Vertical knee up shot with copyspace. This was taken in Quebec, Canada.martinedoucet/Getty Images

Foil packs for the win

For an easy weeknight meal, skip the Instant Pot and toss a few foil packets on the grill. Top a square of heavy-duty aluminum foil with healthy ingredients like lean proteins, chopped veggies and dried herbs. Turn a few times as you grill, and voila! A delicious, healthy dinner for any night of the week.

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A young group of friends are helping themselves to freshly prepared food at a summer evening Barbecue.Hinterhaus Productions/Getty Images

Go light on condiments

To cut fat, sugar and calories from your meal, have a light hand with the condiments. You can also opt for a healthier version; instead of dousing your burger in ketchup, try spicy chunky salsa, sauteed onions or homemade pesto.

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Fresh healthy food grilling on bbq, meat cooking with cubed mediterranean vegetables, sizzling, temptation, party10'000 Hours/Getty Images

Cut the carbs

Give your plain burger new life with a lettuce wrap or portobello bun. Trying burger bun substitutes at your next cookout cuts back on empty calories from white bread and adds fresh flavor to old favorites. And instead of the usual potato salad, add more healthy nutrients with a quinoa salad.

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Patchwork family at barbeque event in green gardenHinterhaus Productions/Getty Images

Serve healthy sides

When it comes to a healthy barbecue, it’s all about the sides! Skip the creamy pasta salad and delight your taste buds with grilled veggies, bright green salads and fresh fruit kabobs. Load up your picnic table with skinny side dishes to enjoy all the variety of a summer cookout without the food coma later.

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Taste of Home

Make grilled fruit for dessert

Make dessert the main event when you toss it on the grill for a light and healthy dessert. The sky’s the limit when it comes to grilled fruit recipes. Top grilled fruit like peaches, plums or pineapple with a little vanilla Greek yogurt; or add a splash of fun with grilled peach pineapple sangria for the adults.

Carrie Madormo, RN
Now a freelance health and food writer, Carrie worked as a nurse for over a decade. When she isn't hunched over her laptop with a baby in hand, you will find her cooking her grandmother’s recipes, lacing up her running shoes or sipping coffee in the bathroom to hide from her three young children.