Updated: Aug 3
It’s summer and we all know what that means – it’s grilling season. While hot dogs and hamburgers are staples, they’re not an ideal choice when trying to stay health-conscious this summer. There are some brain-healthy alternatives that will help keep both your brain and your body in better shape all summer long.
If you’re hoping to enjoy some grilled dishes that won’t undo your diet, take a page from the Mediterranean book. The Mediterranean diet has gained quite a following over the past few years, partly because it’s delicious, and partly because of its impressive health benefits. With links to lower risks of heart attack and stroke, improved memory, and overall improved brain health, it’s no surprise that people are starting to take notice.
What makes the Mediterranean diet unique is that it focuses on vegetables and fruits, legumes, and whole grains to make up the bulk of most meals. While seafood and poultry take the place of red meat. Mediterranean dishes are often seasoned with herbs, spices, and olive oil versus salt and butter.
While this way of eating differs noticeably from the Western way of eating, it’s a great way to break from your norm and try something new.
Here are a few of our tips for putting a brain-healthy spin on grilling this summer.
1. Let Produce Take Center Stage
The Mediterranean style of eating is plant-based, which lends itself to endless experimenting with grilled produce. Challenge yourself to make plants the main course, rather than the expected hamburgers and hotdogs. Try veggie kabobs or grilling unexpected vegetables like tomatoes or squash.
2. Go Lean
If you do decide to serve meat, be intentional with what you choose to grill. Fattier meats like hamburgers and steak may be tempting, but they’re actually not the best choice for grilling. When fat from meat drips onto the grill’s heat source, it creates a smoky flare-up. These high heat flare-ups can cause harmful chemicals to form on the meat.
A great way to cut back on those chemicals is to choose skinless chicken or fish as your protein instead. Salmon is especially tasty when grilled and is also packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which are great for brain health.
3. Spice it Up
Another wonderful way to experiment is with herbs, spices, and marinades. When cooking fish, chicken, or vegetables, think of seasoning as a way to enhance your already great base. Lighter marinades, like a lemon juice, olive oil, and herb combination, will add flavor without adding too many calories or too much sodium.
Marinades also serve as a protective layer from the harmful chemicals found in smoke flare-ups. So, if you’re going to be grilling fatty meats, don’t skip the marinade. Let the meat soak for no more than five hours before grilling. For bonus points, choose a marinade that has antioxidant-rich ingredients, like red wine or rosemary. The antioxidants are not only good for your heart and brain, but they also help reduce the formation of harmful chemicals too.
It's okay to eat the occasional hamburger or hot dog, but remember, there are delicious ways to eat healthy food as well this summer. So get grilling!
Magee, Elaine. “A Healthier Way to Grill.” Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/a-healthier-way-of-grilling#1
Steintrager, Megan. “Doable Challenge #5: Get Into Healthy Grilling.” Retrieved from https://www.epicurious.com/archive/healthy/news/grilling-mediterranean-diet-doable-challenge