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Summer Grilling Can Provide Healthy, Delicious Meals

Summer is just around the corner and it’s time to get the outdoor grill cleaned up and ready for a summer of grilled treats.

Your outdoor (or indoor) grilling can be a healthy eating experience just by following a few tips from Anna Mazzei, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at Washington Hospital.

Healthy summertime grilling at home can be good for you if you focus on low-fat grilling, Mazzei says. “Use lean meat with excess fat removed, ground beef or turkey that’s 90 percent fat free, and use marinades which can enhance the grilled meat while providing some protection from grill smoke.”

Mazzei and Washington Hospital Chef Alfredo Macias will demonstrate healthy grilling and share recipes at a two-hour seminar on Wednesday, June 8. The free seminar will be from 1 to 3 p.m. in the Conrad E. Anderson, MD, Auditorium at Washington West, rooms A & B, 2500 Mowry Ave., in Fremont.

Enrollment is limited, so register early. Sufficient parking is available in the Washington West parking lot. Mazzei will discuss ways to grill meat, poultry, fish, vegetables and fruit to provide healthy meals for all the family. Chef Macias will demonstrate several recipes that then will be available for tasting by the audience.

Contrary to some reports, grilling food needn’t be harmful as long as you don’t let fat from the food being grilled melt onto the coals or the gas grill, causing smoke to come back up onto the food, Mazzei explains.

“It’s the smoke that’s not healthy, along with the char that develops on food — meats and vegetables — cooked over a too-high flame with flare-ups that the griller needs to eliminate.”

The American Institute for Cancer Research’s Guide to Safe Grilling (on its website) recommends:

  • Pre-cooking large cuts of meat to reduce the time the meat is on the grill and exposed to flames or smoke
  • Using lean cuts of meat trimmed of fat, and turning the meat often on the grill
  • Cutting meat into smaller portions and mixing with vegetables such as fish or chicken kabobs
  • Marinating (just be sure to throw out the used marinade to avoid food poisoning)

The AICR guide also recommends avoiding hot dogs, sausages and other processed meat.

Chicken and fish, including shrimp, are great on the grill, Mazzei says. If you want to cook beef, use lean cuts with the excess fat trimmed and make sure ground beef or turkey for hamburgers is 90 percent fat free. If you like pork, lean pork can have less fat than chicken thighs. But other meats, such as high-fat pork ribs, for example, are not good choices.

You can use a variety of marinades to flavor the food, she explains, and use a little olive oil or canola oil to keep the food from sticking to the grill. Mazzei also will share recipes for marinades and explain how to successfully grill a wide variety of vegetables and fruit.

She also recommends that, when grilling fish, you should use a thick cut so that the fish doesn’t begin to fall apart when removing it from the grill.

A healthy grilled meal should be half vegetables along side the meat. “And grilled vegetables and fruit can be delicious.” Fruit that is firm-fleshed does best when grilled. Try peaches, nectarines, plums, bananas, pineapple chunks and strawberries.

Other tips include:

  • Flipping meat with a spatula or tongs to avoid piercing that lets juices run out
  • Using tinfoil between the meat and the flames
  • Keeping a water-spray bottle on hand to keep flames in check
  • Not squirting water onto the coals while meats are cooking (as that creates smoke)

To register or for more information, visit or call 800.963.7070.

For those unable to attend the monthly program, the seminars may be televised on InHealth, a Washington Hospital Channel (Comcast Channel 78) and online at