Just because I'm a dietitian doesn't mean I can't host as delicious a barbecue as anyone else. Here are four of my favorites gadgets that do the work for you—and help make backyard picnic food less of a diet wrecker.

June 04, 2009

By Julie Upton, RD
Some 60 million Americans will be grilling this summer—and I'm one of them. Just because I'm a dietitian who watches my weight and makes healthy choices (most of the time) doesn't mean I can't host as delicious a barbecue as anyone else.

In fact, many Americans are trying to make grilling a healthier habit: According to a 2008 Weber GrillWatch survey, 39% of Americans said they were grilling leaner meats than they had the previous year, and that's not all: 38% said they were grilling more vegetables, 34% more poultry, and 22% more fish.

I've got a large deck and an excellent grill, and I recently tried out some great new gadgets that basically do the work for you and help make backyard picnic food less of a diet wrecker. Here are four of my favorites.

Mesh grill-top chef's pan and Weber Style vegetable basket
It may be hard to swallow your veggies raw or steamed, but everyone (well, almost everyone) likes vegetables when they are coated with a nice olive oil, lightly seasoned, and grilled to perfection. If you hate having to grill large slices of veggies that take forever to cook, try a mesh chef’s pan or veggie basket to ensure that your produce doesn’t fall through the grill. Bonus: These work great for small pieces of seafood too!

Seasoned skewers
Using these skewers is one of my favorite ways to make kebabs even tastier. I use them for scallops, shrimp, onions, tomatoes, squash, and peppers. The skewers are made of natural hardwood that's been treated with herbs and spices. When they are soaked and then put on the grill, they infuse those herbs and spices right into the center of your food. They add tons of flavor, without fat or extra calories.

(Getty Images)

Grilling grates
We now know that high-heat grilling (more than 325°) and charring meats creates cancer-promoting compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs). Luckily, there are several new options for grates to put on top of your grill to help minimize flare-ups and reduce charring. Using marinades and a meat thermometer (here's a cool talking one!) to avoid overcooking will help reduce these unhealthy compounds from forming as well.

The only problem? These tools make grilling so easy—and so delicious—that it's easy to overeat! Check out Feel Great Weight blogger Tina's strategies for smarter splurging at summer barbecues. And if you're looking for new, healthier recipes, flip through this slideshow of lean meat and veggie options. I can't wait to try some this weekend!

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