Fire Up the Grills for Memorial Day Picnics

Smith Rita
Rita Smith

Written by Rita P. Smith, MS, RD, CDE, Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator with Martha Jefferson Hospital, in Charlottesville,VA. Rita has over 35 years experience in the field of nutrition and disease prevention.

 Grills across the country are getting revved up as meals move to the outdoors.  Grilling is one of the healthiest ways to prepare food. A variety of healthy foods can easily be cooked on the grill.

  • Vegetables can simply be washed and cut in half for grilling:  sweet and white potatoes, onions, bell peppers, eggplants, zucchini, and yellow squash. Carrots, corn, and mushrooms can be grilled whole. Brush the vegetables lightly with olive oil. The vegetables should be at room temperature before cooking.153003886
  • Fruits grill nicely. Cut pineapples, bananas, mangoes and peaches in half. Remove pits and grill pulp side down.
  • Meats (beef, pork and poultry) can be tenderized with marinades prior to grilling. This is especially helpful with very lean cuts of meat. Combine marinade ingredients in a zip-lock bag. Add meat to the bag and seal. Marinate in the refrigerator before cooking on the grill.
  • Citrus flavored marinade: ¼ cup lemon juice, ½ cup orange juice, 1 teaspoon reduced-sodium chicken flavor bouillon granules, 1 tablespoon minced garlic, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, and 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper.
  • BBQ marinade: ¼ cup lemon juice, 2 tablespoons barbecue sauce, ¼ cup tomato sauce, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, 1 teaspoon chili powder, ½ teaspoon garlic powder, and ½ teaspoon cumin.
  • Fish on the grill is flavorful and nutritious. Choose firm fish such as halibut or salmon. Brush with olive oil and fresh lemon juice. 153154383
  • Burgers such as turkey, black bean or other veggie burgers are low in saturated fat! Serve on toasted whole grain buns.

Other healthy sides:

  • Potato salad: make with red skin potatoes. Lighten the dressing with reduced-fat mayonnaise whisked with nonfat buttermilk and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
  • Multi-grain or whole wheat pasta salad gets a nutritional boost with sliced green onions, diced red and yellow peppers, and halved cherry tomatoes. Toss with a light olive oil and vinegar dressing 160537115
  • Coleslaw made with red and green cabbage, as well as red onions and bell peppers is terrific when tossed with a cooked oil and vinegar dressing.

Check out Rita’s blog Healthy Bites,  for other health tips and recipes.



I’ve worked in Corporate Communications at Sentara Healthcare for the past 25 years. I am the editor of the Sentara Today blog, working behind the scenes to capture inspiring stories about our employees and patients. Currently, I am also working on Sentara Nurse, a new blog we just launched. I’ve had the opportunity to be closely involved in helping preserve our organization’s historical archives. In my spare time, when I am not blogging, I enjoy spending time with my husband and three children, reading, cooking, and practicing yoga as often as I can.

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