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Grill Your Way To A Healthier Heart

By DuPage Medical Group Cardiology

Warm weather means more time spent outside and the return of grilling season. During the summer, many people fire up the grill for parties or even weeknight meals. When putting together the menu for your next cook-out, take these simple steps to make your meal more heart healthy while keeping the flavors and foods you love.

Choose the Right Meat

Skip the hot dogs and brats! When choosing your main dish, focus on lean and healthier options. Aim to add grilled fish to your menu, as many fish (salmon, trout) are high in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. If you aren’t a fish lover, choose skinless chicken breasts, as dark meat is higher in fat. If choosing red meat or pork, choose a loin or round cut, as these have the least amount of fat. Still craving a burger? Swap out the beef for ground turkey or chicken! And if you have to go with ground beef, make sure it is extra lean.

Say No to Cheese

Adding a nice piece of cheddar or Swiss cheese to your burger might sound like heaven, but cheese just adds additional calories and processed fat to your diet. Skip the cheese and focus on adding additional flavors through condiments and fruit/vegetable toppings. You could also try adding avocado. Avocado is considered a super food for your heart and will add a fun new flavor to your cookout.

Beware of Added Salt

It’s really easy to sprinkle salt on your food to season it. A little here or a little there is ok, but if you are adding salt to all of your food, it quickly adds up to more than the recommended 1500mg a day (this is .75 teaspoons). To add flavor to your food try different seasonings, a splash of citrus or a marinade.  Also, try to avoid processed foods, because most American’s salt intake comes from foods of these varieties.

Choose the Right Serving Size

Encourage eating the right portion size by grilling your meats in smaller portions. Skip the giant 10-16 oz. steaks and focus on filet size portion. Make ¼ lbs. burgers instead of the bigger 1/3 or ½ lb. varieties and alternate between meat and veggies on your kabobs for good balance. By eating more sensibly, you will lower your overall calorie intake.

Just Add Veggies

Instead of potato chips, focus on making side dishes that are nutritionally dense. Most vegetables are loaded with vitamins and minerals and antioxidants that help keep your heart healthy. Try starting with a baby spinach salad, and add strawberries and walnuts with a vinaigrette dressing.  Also consider grilling up your favorite vegetables after tossing in olive oil and minced garlic for added flavor. Be sure to add all the colors of the rainbow to your plate!

Keep The Fizz – Cut the Sugar

You might love the fizzy-ness of a soda, especially on a hot day, but soda is full of sugar which leads to a higher calorie intake. This summer, try infusing sparkling water with some of your favorite fruits like strawberries, blueberries and blackberries. You get to keep your fizz, and when you are done you can eat these super foods for heart health.

Swap Baked Goods for Sweet Fresh Fruits

Skip the cookies, pies and cakes, or anything that is commercially baked. Many of these items are made with egg yolks, butter and shortening which are high in saturated (trans) fat and bad for your heart. Instead, serve fruit (grilled or not) with a dollop of whipped cream or cool-whip. Fruits are full of vitamins, minerals and fiber and much lower in calories than other traditional desserts.


Follow these meal-time tips and you will be on your way to a healthier heart and a full stomach.

Topics and Subtopics: Diet & Nutrition & Heart Health

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