Grilling- Add Flavor without the Calories

The key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle revolves around the foods we eat day in and day out. I’ve met too many people over the years who fall victim to the lazy philosophy of eating out 1-2 times a day simply from the fact that they aren’t confident in their grilling ability at home or because they feel the food they cook at home doesn’t taste as good. I’m going to squash that notion by introducing you to some techniques that will add flavor to your meals without having to add those pesky extra calories as well.

When it comes to the cooking term “grilling”, most people think of the holidays and or special occasions as the only time that the grill is used but in reality the grill provides quick and easy solutions when it comes to adding flavor to our meals. In general, grilling using a gas or charcoal setup will enhance the flavor of your meat simply by the technique involved in the cooking process (high heat). Grilling vegetables, fruit, and or meat on a very hot (450°F) grill will create a sweet and smoky flavor that will enhance your dish. Here is a list of the top techniques used in grilling to add flavor without the added calories.

  • Marinades
  • Spice and herb combinations
  • Incorporating vegetables
  • Smoking chips or briskets.



What does the term marinade mean? Let’s answer that question first. It refers to soaking food in a flavorful liquid called a marinade. 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. This is just a small glance of what marinades can do for your food, I’ll have an in depth look at marinades and specific recipes that will be posted on the blog in the next couple of weeks.


  • 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 wine vinegar, ginger, and sesame oil
  • Lemon & Garlic – olive oil, lemon juice and zest, garlic, salt and pepper
  • Mediterranean – olive oil, thyme, rosemary, lemon, and salt and pepper



Adding vegetables to any dish helps to add instant flavor to the meal without having to sacrifice calories. An added bonus is that the vegetables are full of health impacting vitamins and minerals that your body needs in order to stay healthy! My advice would be to brush or spray the vegetables with oil before tossing them on the grill so they don’t dry out during the cooking process.

I love to caramelize sliced onions to bring out their natural sugar flavor by cooking them slowly over low heat in a small amount of oil. You can also use them to make a rich, dark sauce for meat or poultry. A great way to add vegetables to your meal is to use a skewer and create your own kabobs. Try dicing chicken up into 2 x 2 inch cubes and then placing them on a skewer followed by your favorite 2 pieces of vegetables, rinse and repeat. For an added bonus you could add a piece of fruit such as a pineapple for a touch of sweetness and added flavor.



What does the term smoking meat mean? To keep things simple, smoking, in terms of barbecue and or grilling is a method of slow roasting with the addition of smoke used as a flavor enhancer to the food item that is cooked in an enclosed environment such as a grill or smoker. Here is a list of some smoking chips or briskets that are easy to use and great for adding flavor to your grilling dish. I’ll have an in depth look at smoking options and specific recipes that will be posted on the blog in the next couple of weeks.

  • Hickory
  • Pecan
  • Mesquite
  • Alder
  • Oak
  • Maple
  • Cherry
  • Apple
  • Wine barrel


Spices & Herbs

Spices and herbs offer an easy way to add tons of flavor to any recipe or food item. Many spices and herbs can complement a dish and each other, but we need to be selective in their combinations and avoid using too many at one time. Here are a couple recipes that you can use for any food item that you are going to put on the grill. I’ll have more recipes and food combinations in my next blog article.


No #1 Spice Blend

4 Tablespoons Mustard Powder

1 Tablespoon Garlic Powder

4 Tablespoons Onion Powder

2 Tablespoons White Pepper

1 Tablespoon Thyme

1 Tablespoon Basil

4 Tablespoons Paprika


Combine spices together and blend well. Put a small amount of uncooked rice in the bottom

of each shaker to allow spice to blend and flow easily. Use funnel and fill shakers with spice

blend. For longer storage, cover shaker holes with tape and label. Makes about one cup.


Garden Blend

1 Tablespoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon ground basil

1 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

dash of cayenne

1 1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon ground parsley

1 teaspoon dried sage

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg


This has been an introduction to my grilling series, please check back often as I will have articles on marinades, spice rub combinations, and smoking tips over the next couple of weeks. If you would like more information about how to organize a meal plan during the summer months or looking to adopt a healthier lifestyle overall through nutrition and fitness schedule a FREE NO OBLIGATION CONSULTATION with one of our registered dietitians at Elite Nutrition and performance.

Sean Vander Veer Elite Nutrition and Performance RD

Sean Vander Veer RD, LD, CPT



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