Grill Up & Fill Up with Veggies & Fruit

No doubt you’ve heard about MyPlate, the graphic that replaces the USDA’s old Food Pyramid. While it’s still far from perfect – here’s Dr. Mercola’s take on its shortcomings – one improvement is its downplaying grains a bit while emphasizing foods that most of us need more of: vegetables and fruit.

Although the new shorthand is “fill half your plate with produce,” you could just as well fill the whole of it with plant-based foods. While we may associate protein with meat, fish and eggs, there are many sources of vegetarian protein. Of course, there are the “usual suspects”: beans and other legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds. But there’s also protein in foods you might not suspect – apricots, asparagus, avocado, bananas, blackberries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kiwi, onions, oranges, peppers, sweet corn, watermelon and many, many others. While most plant-based proteins are incomplete – that is, lacking some of the 9 amino acids your body needs – the combination of foods in a well balanced meal fairly well assures that you’ll get them all. (Have you ever noticed how many traditional meals include some combination of grains and legumes – for instance, beans and rice? The combo creates complete protein.)

Even those who choose to eat meat may enjoy mixing things up every once in a while by choosing protein-rich vegetarian main courses – even just once a week. (For ideas, check out these recipes for high protein vegetarian meals.)

Of course, now that it’s summertime, you might not want to stay in the kitchen and cook but get out and grill. This doesn’t mean forgoing produce, though, for grilling isn’t just for meat. There’s plenty of veg and even fruit that becomes even more delicious when cooked on a barbecue.

Fruits & Veggies – More Matters offers some tips for getting started:

The easiest way to grill vegetables is to simply brush them with olive oil to prevent them from sticking, and then grill, turning until tender. For best results, your grill should be warm, but not hot as it would be for meat.

Fruit naturally contains sugar and, when combined with the heat of the grill, it caramelizes, making the fruit taste even sweeter. Almost any fruit can be cooked on the grill. Hard fruits such as apples, pineapples and pears are easier to grill than softer fruits such as peaches, nectarines, plums, and papaya. Softer fruits can be grilled; they just require more attention to prevent overcooking, which will cause the fruit to become mushy. Softer fruit only needs to be heated, not thoroughly cooked. Once you grill fruits and vegetables, their wonderful flavor will have you doing it again and again.

“Fruits and vegetables are delicious when grilled and there are hundreds of different grilling ideas that come to mind for them,” said Elizabeth Pivonka, Ph.D., R.D., president and CEO of Produce for Better Health Foundation…. “Grill peaches and nectarines then dice them and make a salsa by adding fresh herbs, chili peppers and lime juice. Grill corn on the cob by husking it, sprinkling on a mix of seasonings such as oregano, pepper, chili powder and salt with a touch of butter, then wrap in aluminum foil and grill until tender. Or grill your dessert! Slice pealed bananas in half lengthwise and sprinkle with cinnamon and brown sugar, place on aluminum foil flat side down, and let it sizzle. Delicious and unexpected.”

You can find many more tips and recipes for grilling at the More Matters website.

Also, from now to July 4 only, you can download a free copy of Jolinda Hackett’s Cookouts Veggie Style!, which contains 225 vegetarian (some vegan) recipes for the grill. The publisher says that the free download will be available through Amazon, Sony’s Reader Store and iTunes, but when I last checked, only Amazon displayed the $0 price.

Find Cookouts Veggie Style! for

And for more tips on getting more produce into your diet, see my previous post.

Happy eating – and to our American readers, a happy and safe Independence Day!

Grill image by Another Pint Please…, via Flickr

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