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Grilling Season!

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meat_grill.jpgEven if you’re lucky enough and can grill outdoors all year, the month of May is the kick-off for the rest of us. For the registered dietitian, especially one practicing in a supermarket setting, this is the time of year when we look around for ways to make outdoor cooking more nutritious. We’ll start playing up locally grown produce and some great seasonal foods. Healthy and good eating abounds!

This is also a time when our seafood and produce specialists are willing to team up and host taste tests, recipe demos and special displays that bring healthy eating to the top of the menu. So where do we start?

• Think safe grilling. Customers might be a little rusty from winter, so remind them of the basics. Equip them with meat thermometers. Explain the need to keep fat from dripping onto hot coals. Discuss the merits of grilling and keeping food from burning. There’s a lot of cross merchandising opportunities to promote safety while selling them the food they’ll be cooking.

• Look to produce for some great grilling foods. Right now, there’s fresh asparagus, Vidalia or other sweet onions, and some old favorites like tomatoes, zucchini, and green and red bell peppers. Emphasize organic and locally grown whenever possible.

• The salmon are running, and there are other fish that taste great on the grill. Wood planks are still a popular seafood grilling method, so be sure to highlight such items. Cooking demos using planks provide theater and yet another chance to guide shoppers into making the right, healthy food choices. For the landlubber, there are lean cuts of chicken, pork and beef to serve up. Try these meats on skewers… great with veggies!

• Head for the fruit section to combine fresh strawberries and chunks of pineapple on skewers to grill. A brown sugar glaze or a dash of balsamic vinegar are tasty additions — and they’re just as good with or without the grill.

Of course if it’s still too early to man the outdoor grill, or if it’s raining and your customers are still yearning for that grilled taste, remind them that a broiler or indoor grill pan works just as well (in most cases, anyway). For us dietitians, these are all ways to put a healthy spin on the bounty of the season.

(Photo credit: Paul Swansen)

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