Most meat lovers already know the ugly truth: Eating red meat can increase your risk of heart disease. Study after study shows the link.
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But what’s a cookout without burgers and brats? Turns out it can still be a blazing success. Dietitian Kate Patton and intern Sara Saliba within Cleveland Clinic’s Section of Preventive Cardiology & Rehabilitation recommend five heart-healthy grilling alternatives.
1. Chicken breasts or turkey burgers
Who says you need a beef patty to make a burger? You may be surprised how leaner white meats — which don’t include high levels of carnitine, an amino acid linked to heart attack and stroke — can be substantial stand-ins between the bun. Just remember to peel off the fatty skin before grilling chicken breasts.
2. Veggie burgers
“While you can use a microwave to heat up veggie burgers, grilling them produces a more authentic ‘burger’ texture and flavor,” says Saliba. Don’t forget the whole-grain bun.
Salmon, trout and herring are great on the grill, plus they’re high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for your blood pressure. Tuna steaks are another great option, especially since they develop a meatier texture when grilled.
Grilled vegetable dishes open up a whole new menu of low-fat cookout options, says Saliba. Stick chunks of onion, bell pepper and grape tomatoes on skewers for veggie kabobs. Wrap slices of grilled bell pepper, zucchini, squash, onions and mushrooms in whole-wheat tortillas for quesadillas. Or just grill a variety of your favorite vegetables — asparagus, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, corn and more — for a colorful, char-grilled veggie salad.
Taste pineapple, plums, nectarines and peaches like you’ve never eaten before. “Grilling fruits caramelizes their natural sugars, giving them a rich flavor,” says Patton. “Unlike cupcakes, cookies and other baked desserts, which can be high in saturated or trans fats, fruits are full of vitamins, minerals and fiber.”