In case the hot weather and your beach-filled timeline didn’t tip you off, summer is officially here. And if you’re lucky enough to have a grill in your backyard, it deserves to be used for way more than the occasional steak dinner and Sunday chicken meal prep. These fruits, veggies, and sides are the best place to start. They work just as well for an afternoon snack as they do at a BBQ. Bonus: Grilling adds big taste to fruits and veggies without piling on extra calories. You’ll be impressed by what a few grill marks can do!
Everyone’s favorite healthy fat is already great in guac form or on toast, but during the summer, try a grilled avocado out for size. Slice one in half, lay each side face down, and grill for about two minutes. Once you’re done, you can throw cubes in a salad, put slices on a sandwich, or drizzle some lemon juice and sea salt on top to eat with a spoon.
2. Portobello Mushrooms
Vegetarians have probably experimented with portobello ‘steaks’ before, but they’re worth a try even for the meat-inclined. Don’t worry about over-cooking them—five or six minutes should do the trick.
A little honey and some olive oil go a long way with this summer dessert. Cut a pineapple into rings or wedges (or cut into “pops” and add wooden skewers), toss with a drizzle of each, and grill away. If you’re feeling fancy, you can add some ice cream or yogurt on top.
4. Homemade Pizza
If you haven’t tried grilled pizza yet, you’re missing out. Grill the dough first, then add toppings and add back to the grill to let it all melt. It’s a fun summer activity, and since you’re making the pizza yourself, you have more control over what goes on top—and how much cheese gets added on.
If you’re trying to hold back on grabbing a slice of summer pie, a sprinkle of cinnamon on grilled peaches is a solid replacement. The in-season fruit tastes amazing (and still juicy) after about four minutes. Make sure to rub a little olive oil on each half to keep it from sticking.
6. Sweet Potatoes
By now, you probably know all about the health benefits of sweet potatoes. If you’re starting to get bored of baking ‘em, try adding grilled SP’s to your summer routine. They get nice and crisp, and taste more exciting than a regular spud.
Putting fruit on the grill really is the way to go, especially when it comes to watermelon. The heat dries up most of the water content, giving wedges a tender, thicker texture. Try it for yourself to see.
Grilled edamame makes for a solid healthy snack or unexpected appetizer at summer cookouts. After steaming or boiling, toss a few green soybeans on the grill with olive oil and sea salt for a few minutes, or until grill marks start to show. It packs a healthy punch with both protein and fiber, and contains about 150 calories per half cup.