BJC and Saint Luke’s Officially Combine as BJC Health System

Your guide to healthy grilling for the Memorial Day holiday

You can feel it in the air. The days are longer, it’s getting warmer outside and Memorial Day weekend is upon us — which means the start of barbecue season.

Grilling is a summertime tradition enjoyed by many, and it can be one of the healthiest ways to cook food. Not only does the grill’s heat enhance the natural flavors of food, it also helps to minimize fat, which drips away during grilling.

With a few tweaks, you can cut the fat even further — and fire up the flavor — for your Memorial Day menu. 

Jump to Healthy Grilling Tips

Jump to Safety Tips

Jump to Grilling Recipes

“One of the great things about grilling is that you can grill so many different healthy foods,” says Sherri Hoyt, RDN, LD, Missouri Baptist Medical Center outpatient dietitian. “Chicken, seafood, turkey burgers, vegetables and even fruit — they’re all delicious when cooked on the grill.

“Fill the grill like you would fill your plate, with lots of color,” Hoyt adds. “Choose lean proteins, like chicken or fish, trade pork steaks for a pork chop and go easy on processed meats like hot dogs and bratwurst. If you want to grill hamburgers, use lean ground beef or, for a vegetarian option, try a black bean burger or use a portobello mushroom as your ‘burger.’”

Hoyt also recommends grilling corn on the cob or sweet potatoes as your starch, and she’s a big fan of grilled vegetables. “There are so many vegetables that are wonderful on the grill,” she says, “including zucchini, squash, bell peppers, mushrooms, green beans, okra, onions, tomatoes, eggplant and asparagus, to name a few.”

Becca Hill, MS, RD, LD, Barnes-Jewish St. Peters Hospital and Progress West Hospital lead clinical dietitian, agrees that vegetables are perfect for the grill. “Veggies are one of the easiest and most flavorful things to grill,” she says. “And they are rich in antioxidants, naturally low in fat and low in cholesterol.”

Hill offers a few pro tips for grilling vegetables. “You don’t want to let them slip through the grilling grates, so you’ll want to secure them with skewers or use a grilling basket,” she says. “And prep your vegetables by giving them a light brushing with a healthy oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper before throwing them on the grill.

Hill says marinating vegetables is a great way to infuse flavor and moisture into the veggies before cooking them on the grill — but she offers one caveat. “Never use leftover marinade that has been used for raw meat, poultry or seafood items, because it can contain harmful bacteria and cause food-borne illness.”

Hill also recommends swapping out store-bought traditional sides like canned baked beans, coleslaw and potato salad for homemade, healthier sides like fruit salad, cucumber salad or a leafy green salad.

If you’d like to end your meal with something sweet but want to avoid high-sugar desserts, Hoyt suggests grilled fruit. “Grilled fruit is an absolute treat and requires no added sugar,” she says. “Stone fruits — including peaches, apricots, nectarines and plums — are great on the grill.

“Choose ripe but firm fruit for grilling. You can place the halved fruit on skewers or put them in a basket to prevent them from falling through the grates,” Hoyt says. “And make sure you clean your grill grates before you grill any fruit.”

Grilling is the quintessential summertime method of cooking, and with some precautions, it can be a healthy and safe way to cook, too.

How can you make grilling healthier?

Becca Hill, MS, RD, LD, Barnes-Jewish St. Peters Hospital and Progress West Hospital lead clinical dietitian, offers the following tips:

  • Eat more lean chicken and fish. Fish contains omega-3 fatty acids and is a good source of protein.

  • Go lean — choose lean cuts of meat, trim excess fat and remove skin before grilling to keep grilling lean and healthy.

  • Reduce processed meats like hotdogs, sausage or pre-packaged hamburgers, which can be high in sodium, saturated fat and cholesterol.

  • Use low-sodium marinade before grilling to add flavor and not salt. Make a simple rub of your favorite spices, such as allspice, chili powder, cinnamon, cumin, garlic powder, paprika or rosemary and black pepper. Never reuse marinade or a rub after raw meat has touched it.

  • Watch your portions — a healthy portion of any type of meat is about 3 ounces, or the size of a deck of cards, and no more than 6 ounces. If you are still hungry, load up on veggies. The key is moderation and recognizing when you’re full.

  • Once you’ve finished your plate, get moving and play with kids or join in a yard game. This will keep you active and reduce the temptation to keep eating.

  • Don’t forget to hydrate. To hydrate without extra calories, be sure to choose zero-calorie and low-calorie beverages such as fruit-infused or plain water.

Grilling safety tips

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), before you add those delicious chicken breasts or other healthy meats and food to the grill, give it a good cleaning. It is best to use a grill brush on your grates to remove any debris that can end up on your food. If you have time, you can remove the grates and give them a thorough wash with soap and water first. Other safety tips include:

  • No matter what you’re grilling, always start with clean hands. You should especially wash your hands before and after touching raw meat, poultry and seafood items to prevent the spread of foodborne illness bacteria.

  • Keep your grill clean and remove any bits of charred food from the grate to prevent burning, smoking and bitter flavors the next time you use it.

  • Always wash fruits and vegetables before preparing. Run fruits and vegetables under clean, running water and gently rub to remove any debris. Dry fruits and vegetables with a clean cloth or paper towel to further reduce bacteria that may be present.

  • Never wash or rinse meat, poultry or seafood items. Doing so greatly increases your risk of cross-contamination because bacteria can be spread to other foods, utensils and surfaces. Be sure to thoroughly clean and then sanitize all surfaces touched by the raw meat, including the inner sink, to eliminate the risk of cross-contamination.

  • Always keep your raw meat, poultry and seafood separate from ready-to-eat foods, such as salads, dips and any fruits and vegetables you plan to grill. As soon as you put raw items on the grill, wash or discard the plate they were on and get a clean plate or serving dish ready for when the items are done.

  • You should also pay attention to the utensils used while grilling — those tongs you used to place the raw meat on the grill could be contaminated with harmful bacteria, which could spread to the fully cooked meat being pulled off the grill. Wash the tongs or use a pair that hasn’t touched raw meat. Use tongs instead of a fork to turn meat. Piercing the meat with a fork can release juices and fat that can cause flame flare-ups.

  • Grilling uses direct high heat to cook foods — it’s what gives them the classic grill marks that everyone loves to see. However, those marks can make items look done before they are. This can be a major safety issue. When grilling meat, poultry and fish, it’s important to use a food thermometer to make sure your items are truly being cooked through to a safe minimum internal temperature.

  • Keep flames from touching the meat directly. Create a barrier to prevent juices from spilling and producing harmful smoke. Try lining the grill with aluminum foil and poking holes, and cooking on cedar planks.

“It is very important to cook your food to the right temperature to avoid any food-borne illnesses,” says Brittney Lamm, RDN, Alton Memorial Hospital registered dietitian, “and to not overcook it.”

The recommended safe internal temperature varies depending on the product you’re cooking, so use this list from the USDA to know what temperature you should cook your food:

  • Beef, pork, lamb and veal (steaks, roasts and chops): 145°F (with a 3-minute rest time)

  • Ground meats (including burgers and hot dogs): 160°F

  • Whole poultry, poultry breasts and ground poultry: 165°F

  • Fish: 145°F.

Once the correct temperature is reached, it’s time to make your plate. Hill offers one more suggestion for a healthy meal. “Remember to make your plate healthy by balancing it with fruit, vegetables, lean protein and whole grains,” Hill adds. “Fill half your plate with fruits and veggies, and fill the other half with lean protein and whole grains.”

By using these tips, you can enjoy delicious and safely grilled food all summer long.

9 Healthy Recipes for the Grill

Grilled Asparagus with Sesame and Garlic

Marinating asparagus in Asian-inspired ingredients makes a tasty grilled side to kick off grill season!   


  • 1 ½ pounds asparagus, ends trimmed

  • 1 ½ tablespoons sesame oil

  • 3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 tablespoon honey

  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds

In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients (except asparagus) and mix well. Place asparagus on a rimmed sheet pan; pour marinade over. Cover and refrigerator for 1-2 hours; turning periodically for equal marinating.   

Soak 12 wood skewers in water. Once ready, remove asparagus from marinade. Skewer 5-6 pieces of asparagus with 2 skewers, one at the end of the stalk and the other just below the tip.   

Preheat grill; place asparagus on grill and cook until browned on both sides, about 2-4 minutes per side. Serve immediately. Makes 6 servings.   

Per serving: 29 Calories, 1 g Total Fat, <1 g Saturated Fat, 0 mg Cholesterol, 35 mg Sodium, 5 g Carbohydrate, 2 g Fiber, <1 g Added Sugar, 3 g Protein   

Courtesy of Morrison HealthCare

Mediterranean Grilled Chicken

A rich tomato-balsamic sauce makes for a flavorful marinade before grilling — save extra sauce for serving! This chicken is a delicious al fresco entrée or tuck into a whole-grain bun for a simple sandwich.   


  • 1-pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts

  • 4 Roma tomatoes, diced

  • 1 ½ cups diced onion (about 1 large)

  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar

  • 2 teaspoons dried rosemary

  • ¼ teaspoon coarse salt

  • Fresh ground pepper


Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and sauté 1 minute; add remaining ingredients (except chicken) and cook until vegetables soften and a thickened “sauce” forms, 3-5 minutes.   

Remove from heat and cool. Using blender or immersion blender, puree sauce until smooth.   

Press chicken breasts with heel of hand to flatten and make of similar thickness.   

Reserve 1/3 to 1/2 cup of sauce and set aside.   

Place chicken and remaining sauce in a heavy-weight zip top bag and marinate in refrigerator for 30 minutes.   

Prepare grill. Remove chicken from marinade and place on grill; top each with a dollop of marinade then discard used marinade. Grill and turn chicken until cooked (internal temperature of 165 degrees F with food thermometer). Serve grilled chicken with reserved sauce, dolloping each portion.   

Makes 4 servings.   
Per serving: 168 Calories, 4 g Total Fat, 1 g Saturated Fat, 83 mg Cholesterol, 109 mg Sodium, 5 g Carbohydrate, 1 g Fiber, 0 g Added Sugar, 26 g Protein   

Courtesy of Sherri Hoyt, RDN, LD, Missouri Baptist Medical Center outpatient dietitian

Grilled Watermelon, Feta and Basil Salad

Yields 4 servings   


  • 6 cups cubed watermelon

  • 4 ounces feta cheese, cut into cubes

  • 1-2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt

  • Black pepper to taste

  • Balsamic glaze for drizzling on top of the salad


Cut the watermelon into 1-inch-thick slabs and lightly brush them with olive oil. Place the slabs of watermelon cut side down onto a heated grill and grill for about 2-3 minutes per side or until marked and warm.   

Remove from the grill and cut off the rind, then cut into 1-inch cubes. Toss the grilled watermelon with the basil, salt, pepper and lime juice. Stir in the cubed feta, being careful not to break it up.   

Drizzle the salad with the balsamic reduction before serving. Salad is best made and eaten the day it is served.   

Per serving: 146 Calories, 19 g Carbohydrate, 6 g Protein, 6 g Fat, 4 g Saturated fat, 25 mg Cholesterol, 395 mg Sodium, 22 8mg Potassium, 1 g Fiber   
Source: www.delish.com

Chipotle Pineapple and Tofu Skewers

Yields 4 servings   


  • 1 pound firm or extra-firm tofu, drained and cut into 1-inch cubes

  • 3 guajillo chiles, stems and seeds removed and torn into small pieces

  • 1 cup boiling water

  • 1/2 medium white onion, chopped

  • 1/4 cup white vinegar

  • 4 garlic cloves

  • 1 tablespoon annatto paste (also called achiote paste)

  • 1 chopped chipotle chili en adobo (2 ½ tsp. from 1 can)

  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano

  • 1.5 teaspoons granulated sugar

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

  • 3 cups pineapple chunks (cut into 1-inch cubes)

  • Lime wedges, for serving


Arrange tofu cubes in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet lined with several sheets of paper towels. Place more paper towels on top of tofu and another rimmed baking sheet. Weight top baking sheet with a few cookbooks or cans of food. Let drain, changing paper towels when saturated with water, at least 30 minutes or up to overnight in refrigerator. Or you can purchase pre-pressed tofu that does not require draining.   

Meanwhile, in a medium heatproof bowl, cover guajillo chiles with boiling water and soak 15 minutes until chiles are softened. Drain, reserving a few tablespoons of soaking liquid.   

Place drained chiles into a blender and add onion, vinegar, garlic, annatto paste, chipotle, oregano and sugar. Pulse until pureed.   

Heat a large skillet over medium and add olive oil. Pour in chile puree and cook, stirring constantly, until puree thickens and darkens slightly in color, about 5 minutes. Pour marinade into a heatproof medium shallow bowl or baking dish. Add drained tofu to bowl with marinade and toss to coat. Let marinate, turning tofu a few times, for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours refrigerated.   

Alternate marinated tofu with pineapple chunks on 10-inch skewers. Reserve extra marinade for serving.   

Preheat grill or grill pan to medium heat. Arrange skewers evenly on grill and cook, turning every few minutes, until tofu is golden, and pineapple is lightly charred, about 10 minutes total. Remove from grill and serve with lime wedges and extra marinade as a salsa.   

Source: www.delish.com

Mediterranean Grilled Chicken Wings


For the marinade:

  • 1 large red onion, quartered

  • 8 garlic cloves

  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil

  • 2 lemons, juiced

  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika

  • 1 teaspoon coriander

  • 1 teaspoon cumin

  • 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (or ½ tsp red pepper flakes)

  • ½ teaspoon turmeric

  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg

For the wings:

  • 2.5 pounds chicken wings

  • Kosher salt

  • 2 lemons, halved


In the bowl of a large food processor fitted with a blade, combine the onion, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice and spices. Pulse until well combined into a thick marinade.   

Season the chicken wings well with Kosher salt and put them in a zip top bag. Pour the marinade over and zip the bag shut. Massage the bag a bit to distribute the marinade.   

Lay the bag of wings flat on a large plate or tray. Refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours, turning the bag over once midway through.   

Heat a gas grill to 425 degrees F and lightly oil the grates.   

Shake off excess marinade then arrange the wings over direct heat. Cover the grill and cook the wings for 15 to 20 minutes, turning every 5 minutes, until they are fully cooked through. Grill the lemons, flesh side down.   

Serve the wings immediately with the grilled lemons Squeeze the lemons all over to your liking. Add your favorite sauce for dipping — try a Tzatziki yogurt cucumber sauce.   

Per serving: 404 Calories, 3.7 g Carbohydrates, 19 g Protein, 35 g Fat, 7.1 g Saturated fat, 0.2 g Trans fat, 78.6 mg Cholesterol, 82.7 mg Sodium, 228 mg Potassium, 0.7 Fiber   

Source: www.delish.com

Universal Marinade for Grilled Meat and Vegetables

To save time, consider doubling the recipe and keep some on hand in the refrigerator.   



  • 3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

  • 2 tablespoons white or apple cider vinegar

  • 3 cloves fresh garlic (minced)


  • 2 teaspoon jarred, minced garlic

  • 1 tablespoon fresh, grated ginger

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Roasted Meat

  • 4 (4-ounce) flank or sirloin steaks, all visible fat discarded


  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (all visible fat discarded)

Roasted Vegetables

  • yellow squash cut into 1/4-inch-wide strips

  • portabella mushroom

  • 1 bunch green onions

  • bell pepper (any color), cut into 1/2-inch wedges

  • asparagus

  • eggplant (sliced into 1/8-inch discs)

Directions (Grilling Meat or Vegetables)   

Prepare grill to high heat. Grill meat to desired doneness (5-10 minutes per side). Let meat rest for 10 minutes to let juices redistribute before serving.   

Grill vegetables, turning frequently until browned and crisp-tender (5-8 minutes).   

Serve meat with vegetables.   

Source: American Heart Association

Rosemary-Peach Chicken Kebabs with Orange Glaze



  • Cooking spray

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 16 1 1/2-inch pieces, all visible fat discarded

  • 2 large ripe but firm peaches, cut into 16 1-inch wedges

  • 1 large green bell pepper, cut into 16 1 1/2-inch squares

  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

  • 1/8 teaspoon salt


  • 3/4 teaspoon grated orange zest

  • 3 tablespoons fresh orange juice

  • 3 tablespoons chopped, fresh rosemary

  • 1 1/2 teaspoon honey

  • 1 1/2 teaspoon canola oil or 1 1/2 teaspoon corn oil


Lightly spray the grill rack with cooking spray. Preheat the grill on medium.   

Meanwhile, thread the chicken, peaches and bell pepper alternately onto four 14- to 16-inch metal skewers. Sprinkle the pepper and salt over the kebabs.   

In a small bowl, whisk together the glaze ingredients. Set aside half the glaze (about 2 tablespoons). Brush both sides of the kebabs with the remaining glaze.   

Grill the kebabs for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the chicken is no longer pink in the center and the vegetables are almost tender, turning once halfway through and brushing with the reserved 2 tablespoons of glaze, using a clean basting brush. Reduce the heat or move the kebabs to a cooler area of the grill if they are cooking too fast.   

Per serving: 202 Calories, 25 g Protein, 73 mg Cholesterol   

Source: American Heart Association

Grilled Vegetable Medley


  • zucchini

  • summer squash

  • eggplant

  • olive oil

  • minced garlic

  • lemon juice

  • fresh mint


Slice zucchini, summer squash and eggplant. Mix olive oil, minced garlic, lemon juice and fresh mint. Brush vegetables with mixture. Place vegetables on medium heat grill. Cook until tender. Enjoy!   

Courtesy of Brittney Lamm, RDN, Alton Memorial Hospital registered dietitian

Grilled Stuffed Avocados


  • 2 avocados

  • 1 tomato

  • 1 small onion, diced

  • 1 bunch cilantro

  • 1 lime

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil or non-stick spray


To make the pico de gallo: Dice up onion, tomato and cilantro and toss together.   

Squeeze lime over onion, tomato, cilantro mix and add salt.   

Cut the avocados in half and take out the pit.   

Drizzle with olive oil or spray with non-stick spray.   

Season heavily with garlic salt.   

Place directly on a preheated grill with the cut side down.   

Cook for about 5 minutes or until you start to see grill lines.   

Pull off and spoon in the pico de gallo. Serve with a fork or chips.   

Nutrition: 354 Calories, 20 g Carbohydrates, 4 g Protein, 31 g Fat, 4 g Saturated fat, 707 mg Sodium, 1,098 mg Potassium, 14 g Fiber, 21 mg Vitamin C, 1.3 mg Iron   

Source: www.delish.com

Sign up for our newsletter and take charge of your whole health.

Stay ahead of the curve with exclusive content from BJC's health care professionals, delivered right to your inbox.