July, or National Grilling Month, may be nearing the end, but you’ll find my family grilling all summer long. With events like picnics, camping, beach bonfires, and backyard gatherings, summer is the perfect season for outdoor cooking. So, it’s time to grab your tongs and fire up the grill! But instead of preparing the usual hotdogs and other processed meats, which are loaded with nitrates, sodium, and saturated fat, try reaching for vibrant, seasonal produce and plant-inspired mains that are filled with flavor and nutrients. Not sure what in-season fruits and veggies taste good hot off the grill? I’ve got you covered. Below are seven surprising nourishing foods you can grill and enjoy all summer long.
If you think peaches are delicious fresh, just wait until you try them grilled! Tossing these succulent stone fruits over open flames allows their natural sugars to caramelize—amplifying their sweetness, softening their flesh, and enhancing their irresistible aroma. The sweet yet smokey flavor of a charr-marked peach is the perfect addition to any summer salad—especially this tasty Peach & Beet Salad with Pink Grapefruit Vinaigrette. Not only are grilled peaches the perfect side for your summer meals but they are also jam-packed with antioxidants that ward off oxidative damage and help protect your body from chronic disease.
Nothing is quite as refreshing or rehydrating as sinking your teeth into a juicy piece of watermelon on a hot summer day. But have you heard of grilled watermelon? Yep, you read that right—grilled watermelon! It may sound odd at first, but the flavor and texture will surprise you (in a good way). A quick sear of this mouthwatering fruit allows the natural sugars to become more concentrated and transforms the texture to resemble that of seared ahi tuna. Impressive, right? But that’s not the only fascinating thing about watermelon. Ironically, research has shown that this red fruit has heart-protective properties that can help reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. So, go ahead—grill up a plate of watermelon and enjoy as much as your heart desires.
The humble cabbage may not be the first vegetable you think of when you pull out the grill, but with the right herbs and spices—even those who aren’t keen on cabbage will be asking for more. You can elevate this otherwise overlooked vegetable by simply cutting a green or purple cabbage into wedges and brushing each piece with an herby sauce made from olive oil, your favorite herbs, citrus juice and zest of choice, garlic, and nuts for added crunch. Then, voila! You have created a show-stopping side dish that can be prepared for any summer occasion. In addition to being absolutely scrumptious when grilled, cabbage imparts many incredible health benefits. Cruciferous vegetables like cabbage contain a compound called sulforaphane that has been shown to prevent DNA damage, boost your livers detoxification abilities, defend against pathogens and pollutants, and even lower your risk of cancer.
Looking for a high protein plant-based alternative to throw on the grill? Well, look no further. With 15 grams of protein in a three-ounce serving, tempeh (pronounced tem-pay) is a traditional Indonesian food made from whole, fermented soybeans. The fermentation process helps to unlock many important micronutrients such as calcium, manganese, copper, magnesium, iron, and zinc—making them easy to absorb. Tempeh is also rich in probiotics that can improve your gut health. Toss your tempeh in my delicious homemade teriyaki sauce for a flavorful summertime main to serve over a bed of quinoa or brown rice!
Grab a few tomatoes and fire up the grill—trust me, your tastebuds will thank you. Drizzle a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and basil over Roma or beefsteak tomatoes, and you will have a sensational summer side that you can serve on top of bruschetta, pasta, or your favorite protein. As your tomatoes are cooking, the heat from the grill increases a powerful antioxidant known as lycopene, found in the red pigment. Interestingly, studies have shown that the lycopene in tomatoes can protect your skin from ultraviolet (UV) sun damage. So, what better time to consume tomatoes than the summertime?
Typically, when an avocado shows signs of browning, it is no longer palatable. But when the green flesh is brown from grill marks, the flavor reaches a whole different level! Grilling an avocado not only makes it more creamy and tender, but it adds a slightly smokey flavor that pairs perfectly with tacos and salsa! Just add a little olive oil, lime juice, and salt over the top, and they are ready to be tossed on the grill. Beyond their smooth texture and enticing flavor, avocados boast a fair share of fiber that increases the beneficial bacteria in your gut and helps to reduce your risk of heart disease.
What cauliflower lacks in color, it makes up for in disease-fighting nutrients. As a member of the cruciferous vegetable crew (like cabbage and broccoli), cauliflower also contains the potent compound sulforaphane. In addition to detoxifying the body and combating cancer, sulforaphane also protects your brain and eyesight! To reap these amazing benefits, try grilling cauliflower steaks or placing several cauliflower florets on a skewer to make a kabob. Drizzle your grilled cauliflower with a zesty chimichurri or cilantro sauce to add an herbaceous touch to the dish.
Although meat is traditionally the center of the grilling season, nutrient-dense fruits, veggies, and plant-based proteins can also shine as the main star of your grilled summer meals. These seven healthy foods, in particular, impart unique flavors and tantalizing aromas that will keep you coming back for more. If you are interested in additional ways to incorporate plants into your diet, consider signing up for my 7-Day RESET cleanse!