By Kimberly A. Tessmer RD LD

With summer in full swing, firing up the grill is an easy and enjoyable way to cook during these warm weather months.  By choosing healthier foods that are low in fat, yet high in nutrients and flavor, as well as following some simple tips, you can make grilling a safe, tasty and healthy choice.

· Use marinades for meats and veggies before grilling is a great low-cal way to add extra flavor and to help tenderize meats.  Some great options include olive oil, vinegars, spices, herbs, sauces such as teriyaki sauce, dressings and citrus juices.  Be creative, but also be careful as using sauces while grilling can sometimes cause more harmful burning or charring of foods.

· Choose leaner cuts of meats and poultry. Additionally, fish and seafood are amazing on the grill.  Trim excess fat and remove skin from meats before grilling to reduce the amount of fat plus decrease flare-ups that can burn the food you are grilling.

· Be careful of burning your foods or over cooking them on the grill.  A bit of char while grilling is unavoidable but too much will contain more carcinogens.

· The grill isn’t just for meats.  Try grilling veggies and even some fruits on the grill as well.  Produce that does well on the grill can include asparagus, potatoes, eggplant, peppers, zucchini, tomatoes, squash, sweet corn, peaches and pineapple.  Try your favorites!  Anything goes when you are grilling!

· Always separate raw foods from prepared foods to prevent cross-contamination and possible foodborne illness.  Marinate foods in the refrigerator and do not reuse marinade on raw meats, fish or poultry unless it is boiled first.  Cook all meats to the proper internal temperature by using a meat thermometer.

· Always keep your outdoor grill clean and well maintained to ensure safe grilling.

· Preheat your grill for a good 15 to 25 minutes before you begin cooking to ensure it reaches the correct temperature and to help kill any bacteria before you begin grilling.  Properly heating the grill will help to keep the insides of foods moist and can prevent sticking.

· Give your meats a rest once they are finished cooking.  Cover them with foil and let them sit for about 10 minutes to let juices redistribute evenly.

Now for a few quick and healthy grill ideas:

· Use your favorite La Tortilla Factory tortilla to wrap grilled veggies and/or grilled meats.  Add your favorite sauce for a tasty lunch or dinner.

· Use your favorite La Tortilla Factory tortilla and top with your favorite veggies, cooked meats and sauce, grill it for a crispy thin crust pizza.

· Stuff your favorite La Tortilla Factory tortilla with your favorite veggies, beans, meats, and/or cheese, roll it up or make a quesadilla and grill it.

· Grill portabella mushroom caps.  Brush them with a little extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle on a little garlic powder or your favorite herbs and spices and grill them until they are lightly browned.  You can use them in place of a burger or eat them on their own with some grilled veggies.

· Make up your own shish kabobs for the grill.   You can use veggies, seafood, poultry, lean beef or pork or any combination you enjoy.  Marinate them in teriyaki sauce and a little Italian dressing and sprinkle in a little garlic powder.  Throw them on the grill and you have a meal in itself!

· Try a veggie sandwich by cutting eggplant, zucchini and summer squash in lengthwise slices.  Brush them with extra virgin olive oil and season with garlic powder or any herbs and spices you enjoy.  Grill them until lightly brown.  You can place them in a whole-wheat pita or wrap them in your favorite La Tortilla Factory tortilla.  Try topping them with fresh tomato and a little mozzarella cheese.

* Photo by woodleywonderworks