Fire Up the Grill and Make Summer Sizzle With Healthy Tips and Plant-Forward Menus
With the official start of summer last Friday, Aramark, the largest U.S. based food services provider, is inspiring people to make healthier meal choices part of their summer, by sharing simple tips and techniques to make menus sizzle with plant-forward power.
Motivated by its mission to enrich and nourish lives, Aramark launched a major plant-forward initiative last year, to boost nutrition across its menus in colleges and universities, hospital cafes and workplace locations. The initiative has resulted in a 15 percent average reduction in calories, saturated fat and sodium, and 9 percent increase in fruits, vegetables and whole grains across those dining location menus, where 30 percent of the main dishes are also vegan or vegetarian.
“The plant-forward movement is inspiring our kitchens across the country to move fruits, vegetables and whole grains to the center of the plate. The abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables during the summer makes it even easier to incorporate more plant-forward foods into grilling menus,” said Jason Lewis, culinary development chef at Aramark.
Aramark tapped into its network of more than 1,000 chefs, who are responsible for serving nearly two billion meals each year, to create a list of proven summer tips that pack a plant-forward punch and will have guests craving more.
Creating flavor on the grill
Impress your family and your friends this year with top techniques for adding healthier flavors on the grill. Everyone can grill better with these chef-approved methods for grilling a main course.
Rub on the spices: Spice rubs add flavor to meats, fish and chicken. Made from common pantry ingredients like paprika, chili powder and cayenne pepper, spice rubs have fewer calories and usually barbecue sauces or marinades.
Spice combinations can be made from garlic, onion powder, dried basil and oregano. Try a spicy Jamaican jerk chicken rub made from allspice, cayenne pepper, nutmeg, ground cloves and cinnamon.
Add bursts of lemon: It’s easy to cut the amount of salt used on grilled meats or seafood by 50 percent. Just replace it with lemony goodness. Replace each 1/2 teaspoon of salt with 5 teaspoons of juice and 1 teaspoon of zest. Drizzle the flavor directly over foods as they cook.
Baste on the flavor: Use a basting brush and pack on additional flavor over the flame. Baste green veggies with a healthy oil and herb mix. Baste steak, chicken or fish with a mix of ingredients. Try chopped cloves and onions mixed with Dijon mustard, olive oil and red wine vinegar.
Bring on the smoke: Another option for adding a delicious and unique flavor is adding a smoky flavor and aroma. Achieve this, even on a gas grill, by adding flavored smoke wood chips like mesquite, apple, cherry, maple or hickory. Smaller chips typically work best on grills because they’re quicker and easier to smoke.
Blend them together: For burgers with a healthy twist, chop mushrooms finely and mix with lean ground beef or turkey to create a unique blend for grilling. For best results, replace about 25 to 30 percent of the meat with mushrooms. The blend is a tasty way to add veggies and flavor to your meal.
Sizzling Summer Sides
The grill isn’t only for the main course. Whip up summer’s best flavors as side dishes to have a more colorful diet. Summer sides of fruits and veggies add flavor and give meals a nutrition boost using the power of plants.
Grilled pineapple: lightly grilled pineapple gives a subtly sweet flavor on this version of salsa.
Grilled eggplant:ìsmoky eggplant slices are the perfect substitution for your next burger.
Stone fruit: peaches, plums and nectarines burst with flavor when lightly grilled.
Peppers: toss them with some balsamic vinegar and olive oil for a tasty side dish or sandwich topping.
Carrots: simply toss with cumin and green onions to balance the natural sweetness of carrots.
Avoid falling victim to grilling mishaps by brushing up on these safety tips.
Food refrigeration safety: The summer months can reach scorching temperatures, which means careful refrigeration is a priority with raw meats, fish and poultry before they reach the grill. Always refrigerate meats even when thawing and marinating. Place the food in a tray or container deep enough to collect any draining fluids to prevent contamination of other foods in your refrigerator. If you are grilling on-the-go this summer, be sure to pack meats in a cooler over ice to keep them chilled and fresh.
Personal safety: Exercise caution while wearing long or loose-fitting clothing or aprons around the grill. Use flame-retardant mitts and grilling utensils with long handles. More importantly, never leave a hot grill unattended.
Food handling: Keep it clean. Always wash your hands before preparing your food and in between other tasks. Keep kitchen counters, cutting boards and utensils clean at all times to prevent cross-contamination among food and hard surfaces.
Food preparation: Cook your raw meat products to the minimum internal temperatures as stated on the product packaging. Poultry browns quickly on the grill but may not be fully cooked inside. You should use a food thermometer to make sure that the internal temperature reaches at least 165 F for poultry, 160 F for ground beef and 145 F for steaks and chops.
Leftovers: Savor those cookout creations the next day with leftovers. Remember to keep leftovers cooled to below 70 F within two hours, and then to 41 F or below within four hours.