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Decorative image of grilled food.(This articles is part of Virginia Gay Hospital’s bi-annual, “Thrive” Spring/Summer 2019 issue. An online version of the entire publication is available at myvgh.org/thrive)

When it comes to the cooking term grilling, most people think of steaks, burgers, and bratwursts. But adding vegetables and fruit to a searing grill can create a sweet and smoky flavor that will enhance your dish. For healthy, flavorful grilling that adds flavor without the added calories, check out these tips the next time you barbecue.


Get Started

Make sure to always start with a clean grill. That’s easier when you use a wire brush after each grilling session and don’t let the char build up on the grill. For easy clean up put down aluminum foil (small holes poked in foil) or grab some vegetable grates for grilling.
*MARINADES: Make your own. It is an easy way to increase flavor, and you’ll know what ingredients it contains. If using bottled marinades, grab ones that are lower in sodium.
*SPICE & HERB COMBINATIONS: For those watching their salt intake, marinades are a great way to increase the flavor of meats, vegetables, and even fruit by using a variety of flavor combinations.
*GRILLING VEGETABLES AND FRUITS: Using the grill intensifies the taste of fruits and vegetables just as it does for meat. Kabobs are an easy and fun way to eat grilled fruits and vegetables.


What does the term marinade mean? It refers to soaking food in a flavorful liquid. Marinating is a technique that’s been around at least since the Renaissance when acidic mixtures were commonly used to help preserve foods. Here is a list of some marinades that are easy to put together and offer great variety.

*Greek – Olive oil, lemon, and herbs
*Teriyaki – Soy sauce, ginger, and a vinegar (rice or white)
*Coffee – Coffee grounds, mustard, garlic, and a balsamic vinegar
*Jerk – Onions, soy sauce, peppers, and spices such as cinnamon and all-spice

*Asian – Soy sauce, red or white wine vinegar, ginger (fresh or dried), and sesame oil (optional)
*Lemon & Garlic – Olive oil, lemon juice and zest, garlic, salt and pepper
*Mediterranean – Olive oil, thyme, rosemary, lemon, salt and pepper


Adding vegetables to any dish helps to add instant flavor to the meal without having to sacrifice calories. As a bonus, veggies are full of health-impacting vitamins and minerals. For those looking to lower their carbohydrate or starchy vegetable intake, increasing the non-starchy vegetable intake is an easy way to accomplish it. Just brush the vegetables with some olive or avocado oil, some seasoning, and grill!

Herbs & Spices

Spices and herbs offer an easy way to add a lot of flavor to any recipe or food item. Many spices and herbs can complement a dish and each other. There’s an almost endless variety of flavor and food combinations to try. Many of these items may already be in your pantry.

More Suggestions

Did you know personal dietary guidance through one-on-one meetings is available with Sara Wattnem, Virginia Gay’s clinical dietitian? Participation in this service does not require a referral from either your doctor or your insurance company. The first one-hour consultation and planning session is $40. Additional visits can be scheduled as needed. Call Sara at 319-472-6224 to schedule your consultation.

BEEF Basil, bay leaf, caraway, curry, dill, dry mustard, garlic, grape jelly, green pepper, mace, marjoram, mushrooms (fresh), nutmeg, onion or onion powder, parsley, pepper, rosemary, sage
CHICKEN Basil, cloves, cranberries, mushrooms (fresh), nutmeg, oregano, paprika, parsley, pineapple, saffron, sage, savory, tarragon, thyme, tomato, turmeric
EGGS Chervil, curry, dill, dry mustard, garlic or garlic powder, green pepper, jelly, mushrooms (fresh), nutmeg, onion powder, paprika, parsley, rosemary, tarragon, tomato
FISH Basil, bay leaf, chervil, curry, dill, dry mustard, green pepper, lemon juice, marjoram, mushrooms (fresh), paprika, pepper, tarragon, tomato, turmeric
LAMB Cloves, curry, dill, garlic or garlic powder, mace, mint, mint jelly, onion, oregano, parsley, pineapple, rosemary, tarragon, thyme
PORK Applesauce, basil, caraway, chives, cloves, garlic or garlic powder, onion or onion powder, rosemary, thyme
VEAL Apricots, basil, bay leaf, currant jelly, curry, ginger, marjoram, mushrooms (fresh), oregano, paprika
VEGETABLES Basil, dill, garlic or garlic powder, ginger, lemon juice, mace, marjoram, nutmeg, onion or onion powder, tarragon, tomato, sugar or sugar substitute, salt-free salad dressing, vinegar
DESSERTS Allspice, anise, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, mace, nutmeg, vanilla extract, other extracts

Sara Wattnem recently became a Certified Specialist in Obesity and Weight Management (CSOWM). As a CSOWM, she is able to educate, support, and empower patients to understand and manage their weight and risks associated with being overweight or obese through nutritional, physical, psychological, behavioral, medical and/or surgical interventions.