The diet and fitness industries are cashing in on Americans’ desire to trim down, raking in billions with snake oil remedies and unused gym memberships. The statistics don’t lie – we’re fatter than ever, and it all boils down to a combination of the Standard American Diet (how’s SAD for an acronym?) and a lack of physical activity.
One key consideration is the quantity of calories we consume. This is especially apparent during barbecue season, when many backyard cooks favor huge steaks, cheeseburgers and hot dogs on nutritionally worthless rolls, sauce-laden ribs, and the like. Tasty and familiar though these options may be, they’re best enjoyed infrequently. Instead, choose leaner proteins like chicken and turkey breast.
There’s a perception that healthier options are expensive, time-consuming, and bland, but this is not necessarily so. Food has two costs – the price you pay out of your wallet, and the price you pay with your health. If you’re making poor food decisions based on cost, know that you’re probably subsidizing it with precious years of your life.
Here are some flavorful, time-saving methods for getting your grill fix while minding your waistline.
Brining is the process of soaking something in a salt solution. Brining changes meat’s structure, allowing it to retain more moisture and flavor. To prepare a brine, dissolve 3/4 cup of kosher salt, 3/4 cup of granulated sugar, and a tablespoon of black pepper in a gallon of boiling water. Once dissolved, add a gallon of cold water, and chill. Once cool, add your meat, and allow to brine for up to 1 1/2 hours for chicken parts, 8 hours for a turkey breast, or 12 hours for a whole chicken.
This recipe can be scaled to fit your needs, so long as the meat is complete covered by the brine. Once complete, rinse twice, pat dry, discard the brine, and grill as you normally would. Use a meat thermometer, as brined meat will typically cook somewhat faster than usual.
There is no shortage of marinade recipes on the internet, but many of them are just as calorie-laden as the store-bought versions. For chicken or turkey breast, try a simple marinade of olive oil, garlic, salt, plenty of citrus juice (lemon, lime, orange), and herbs (parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme). Let marinate a few hours or overnight, then grill as you normally would.
A favorite in my household. Rub meat with a little olive oil, then coat in granulated garlic, onion, cayenne, chili powder, or whatever else you like, then grill and serve with a little sauce.
Mind the Sauce
Barbeque sauces are loaded with sugars, and can quickly scale up the calorie count of your otherwise-healthy meal.