Summer is the perfect time to enjoy delicious, sizzling meals straight off the grill! As you get set to fire up your BBQ, instead of the usual meat-focused fare, cook up some grilled veggies instead. Giving up meat doesn’t mean having to give up smoky barbecue flavor. Vegetables are amazing on the grill, plus meatless grilling is an easy way to add vitamin-packed, healthy seasonal produce to your diet, which can help reduce your risk of certain chronic diseases.
“Eating too much meat, particularly red and processed meat, can increase risk of heart disease, diabetes and various forms of cancer,” says Allison Righter, MSPH, RD, Meatless Monday science advisor at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. And it’s not just the amount of meat we eat — it’s also how we cook it. “Cooking meat at high temperatures, like pan frying and grilling/charring over an open flame, forms chemical compounds in the meat that have also been linked to cancer,” Righter says. The good news is that many of these chemicals are not formed when grilling vegetables or fruits. “So you can enjoy their grilled flavor worry-free!”
So get grilling and take a break from meat with these 10 easy summer grilling tips:
1. Many vegetables can be thrown right on the grill with just a light brushing of olive oil (with delicious results)! Fresh corn, tomatoes, asparagus, eggplant, zucchini, squash and bell peppers are just some to try.
2. Kabobs are a BBQ staple that make the perfect meatless entree. Add tofu cubes, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, roasted potatoes or just about any other vegetable that strikes your fancy.
3. Grilled fruit is amazing too. For a sweet side dish or dessert, try peach halves, pineapples, plums, melon, kiwi, pears or figs with a touch of honey marinade.
4. Swap a hamburger for a portobello mushroom burger or grilled eggplant slices. Put the BBQ’d veggies on a bun and add your favorite toppings, like avocados, caramelized onions, roasted red peppers or an olive spread.
5. Try a veggie burger recipe that celebrates hearty ingredients like black beans, lentils, quinoa and chickpeas. You can also find healthy pre-made patties at supermarkets and natural food stores.
6. Make a delicious, smoky pizza pie right on the grill — all you need is pizza dough, sauce and your favorite vegetables thinly sliced or pre-grilled.
7. Use your favorite marinade recipe to add flavor to extra firm tofu cubes. Grill them up and add them to a salad, serve them with veggies or enjoy them on their own.
8. Add grilled vegetables to a filling summer salad. Garnish fresh lettuces with a bit of fruit, feta cheese and olive oil to complete the dish; or think beyond lettuce and concoct a bean or grain salad.
9. Consider your sides when planning a meatless BBQ. Pasta salads, raw vegetables and hummus dip are great ways to turn your plant-based dishes into a full meal.
10. End the meal on a healthy note with a tray of fresh fruit, a parfait or homemade smoothies.
It’s easy to remember to cut back on meat with Meatless Monday, a public health campaign that encourages individuals to start the week off with healthy meat-free meals. Get a free online Monday Burgers Cookbook. Founded in 2003 at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the campaign has become an international movement with support from celebrities, chefs, schools and communities.