Grilling demo offers healthy alternatives

By Erica Ervin | Emory Report | March 21, 2013

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Jimmy Powell, director of engineering and exterior services, and Abraham Bravo, automotive mechanic, help grill salmon, peaches and pineapples at the grilling demo. Photo by Erica Ervin.

On a recent Friday, a group of staff members gathered to witness the preparation of meats, fruit and vegetables to be cooked on a nearby grill.

As part of National Nutrition Month and its many health initiatives, the Faculty Staff Assistance Program (FSAP) sponsored Healthy Grilling 101, a health demo on incorporating fruits and vegetables when grilling.

This particular event was targeted to Campus Services employees. Due to the nature of many Campus Services jobs, FSAP Wellness Specialist Dawn McMillian observed that many employees were unable to attend some of the health workshops sponsored throughout the year. Realizing this, FSAP carves out special opportunities to reach individual units or departments whenever possible.

"Doing these types of workshops is another way to get out and reach this population who may not be able to come in for one-on-one nutrition coaching," McMillian said.

Nearly three dozen Campus Services staff members attended the demonstration where the FSAP team offered samples of featured dishes like grilled salmon with honey-soy marinade, chipotle marinated pork tenderloin, stewed potatoes and green beans with tomatoes, and packet-grilled balsamic mushrooms and peppers. Other menu items included grilled peaches and pineapples.

When planning the menu McMillian and other FSAP employees made sure to include lean meats and commonly used vegetables as well as fruit, something she said gets overlooked.

Attendees learned tips for grilling fruit, steaming vegetables by way of homemade foil packets and the use of different marinades for additional flavor.

Rudi Chanouha, a dietetic intern, showed the audience step-by-step instructions on creating the foil packet used to steam the balsamic-flavored mushrooms and peppers and explained alternatives ways to steam vegetables on the grill. She also went over the nutritional benefits of the stewed potatoes dish being served.

The grilled peaches proved to be a success, piquing the interest of many attendees.

"I've never seen peaches grilled before," said Todd Kerzie, associate vice-president of facilities management. "I'm going to try using more fruit on the grill," he said, adding that he'll try using the foil packets as well.

In addition to grilling tips, wellness specialists and other FSAP staffers were on hand to offer tips on portion control, the inclusion of fruits, vegetables and lean proteins, and lean cooking methods for healthy eating. They also encouraged attendees to participate in the upcoming National Walking Day on April 3.

The workshop also featured an appearance from the FSAP Fast Food Cart, a pilot service providing fresh fruits and vegetables for sale throughout this month at various campus locations.

"It's always great to get together as an organization and share advice on becoming more healthy," said Kerzie.

For detailed individual recommendations, FSAP offers free nutrition coaching sessions as well as fitness coaching sessions for Emory employees.

Fruit grilling tips:

  • Use hard fruits like apples, pears or pineapples that retain shape and texture during grilling.
  • Wash and slice fruit into big chunks for easy grilling and place smaller pieces on skewers.
  • Soak sliced fruit in a bowl of water and ice for 20 to 30 minutes, adding a teaspoon of lemon juice for every cup of water to preserve the fruit’s color.
  • Spray the grill with cooking spray or brush the grates with melted butter, making sure the grill is clean prior to use to prevent odors and tastes of previously cooked items from overpowering the taste of the fruit.
  • Cook fruit on medium heat until soft and lightly browned.

Vegetable grilling tips:

  • Always trim and wash vegetables before marinating or cooking.
  • Cut vegetables in half or into thick slices.
  • Use canola or olive oil with lemon and your favorite non-salt herbs/spices or light salad dressing for marinating vegetables. Marinate in the refrigerator, not at room temperature.
  • If skipping marinade, soak vegetables in cold water for 30 minutes to prevent them from drying out. Right before grilling, pat vegetables dry and lightly brush with oil to prevent sticking.
  • For smaller pieces use metal or bamboo skewers of a vegetable basket and place larger pieces directly on grill. If using bamboo skewers, soak them in water for 20 minutes before use to prevent burning and splitting.
  • For vegetables that require steam while cooking, try creating foil packets.
  • While grilling, keep a close eye to prevent over-charring, flipping vegetables frequently to ensure they are cooked evenly. You may need to brush with oil or marinade to prevent drying.
  • Cooking times vary from 5 to 20 minutes. Vegetables are done when the skin begins to blister and they become soft to the touch.