Grilling season is coming up, but to be honest grilling is always in season right? and you’ll be breaking out the smoker and having everyone over. But should you grill the veggies too ?
Are grilled vegetable healthy ? There’s reason to believe that they are, and that they aren’t. So let’s settle this right now.
So are grilled vegetables healthy ?
Yes, grilled vegetable are healthy. They’re the next best thing after eating the veggies raw, since many of the nutrients are still present in grilled vegetables.
The main reason some would assume that grilled vegetables aren’t as healthy is because they’re subjected to heat. Which does reduce some of the nutritional value, but not by very much.
Even vitamin C stays within the vegetable, as it only dissolves in water.
The only vitamin that may disappear from your food in some amount if vitamin B, which is mostly found in meats. Which isn’t the topic today, but still something to keep in mind.
As mentioned by TipsandShare.com, grilling retains most of the vitamins and nutrients present in vegetables. And it’s also one of the best ways to reduce fat and carb intake when preparing food.
No added batter, fats, or unnecessary items.
Now let’s see, in more detail exactly why grilled vegetables are healthy, so you know what you’re eating and serving to your family and friends.
1. Grilled vegetables contain no carcinogens
As mentioned by WebMD, when you grill vegetables there are no polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heterocyclic amines (HCAs).
Which is a big problem, because they’ve pointed out as being potentially carcinogenic, and no one wants that on their food.
These guys form when the fat on meat is rendered out, and drips onto the fire, which then brings everything back up through smoke and flares.
This does not happen with grilled vegetables, which is a blessing since some many of us love a nice grilled corn or bell pepper, onion and bacon kabob.
So this all means that if you’re planning on grilling your vegetables without any oils or fats, you’re keeping them completely PAH/HCA free.
If you were to use some sort of animal fat (like bacon fat for example) to lightly coat your vegetables, this entire point would become moot. It’s the burning animal fat that makes these compounds.
If you really need to add something to your grilled veggies, go for a drop of canola oil or even peanut oil for a nice aroma.
Grilling meat and veggies on the same grill isn’t recommended, simply because your veggies might get contaminated by the dripping fat from the meat.
So if you did just grill some burger patties on the grill, make sure you scrub the grill a bit before adding your vegetables.
2. Grilling your vegetables requires minimal fat
Alright, what if you’re out and about, and decide to stop somewhere to eat ? Is ordering a side of grilled veggies still healthy ?
Well, yes, because you’re getting the least amount of fat in your food.
I don’t know what you’re getting alongside grilled veggies, but if it’s something like a grilled steak or chicken breast, then the overall fat content of your meal will be fairly low.
Usually restaurants do add the tiniest amount of oil when grilling on a stove grill. Like those grill pans, for places that have no outdoor grill.
If they do have an outdoor grill, there’s no reason to add oil at all to meat. And the food gets a much nicer smoky aroma.
For this reason, knowing how your restaurant grills the food is useful.
If you’re grilling at home and are wondering if you should add any oil to grilling veggies, listen here.
There’s 2 kinds of vitamins in your veggies. Ones that dissolve in water, like vitamin C.
And those that dissolve in fat, which takes much longer. But this also means that you need a hint of vegetable oil on your grill to properly enjoy those veggies and release all the nutrients.
What I recommend is to only add a very small amount of cooking oil. Please refrain from using olive oil in high-heat situations, such as grilling. It has a very low smoking point and will not hold up well.
Better to use something like canola, peanut, palm even. If you use rice oil, it gives everything a nice subtly sweet aroma, kind of like pancakes, which might go well with some vegetables.
3. Grilling keeps more of the nutritional value of veggies
Ah, the wonderful nutrients in veggies that everyone keeps talking about. Including me, right now.
The thing is, cooking does reduce nutritional value. However there are many ways to cook, and grilling is just one of them.
It also happens to be one of the least damaging ways to cook vegetables, since it preserves almost every vitamin and mineral in your food.
For example boiling, or simply exposing vegetables to water and heat reduces the vitamin C content by about 50%, for example with broccoli or spinach, WebMD says.
They also mention that grilling is a less damaging way to cook, along with microwaving and steaming vegetables. This is because during grilling almost no water content is lost, and your vitamins and minerals do end up on your plate (source).
If you grill your veggies in aluminium foil, they become steamed, and their juices should be consumed alongside the vegetables themselves.
4. Using grilled veggies as a side dish reduces bloating
Another reason grilled vegetables are healthy is because using them as a side dish greatly reduces bloating.
Why ? To understand, we need to look at what causes bloating.
High carb content food, like burger buns, hotdog buns, even grilled bread, often contain a very low amount of fiber. The high carbohydrate levels slow down digestion, and give your stomach a lot of work to do.
Which becomes even harder, as the stomach needs the fiber found in foods in order to process it properly, and be able to pass it through the intestines.
Which, in short, means a form of constipation and bloated stomach.
This becomes even worse if to said buns you add high-fat-and-sugar sauces, like mayo, ketchup, or various dips.
By using grilled vegetables to completely replace bread and carbs at your grill party, you reduce bloating and will feel better and well fed.
This is because vegetables, like fruits, are high in dietary fiber and are recommended for daily consumption.
Now, if replacing bread with grilled corn and mushrooms sounds too daunting, rest assured that even splitting your plate into thirds will help a lot.
As in 1/3 carbs, 1/3 grilled veggies, and 1/3 grilled meat.
How to cook your vegetables on a grill (short guide)
Alright, you know veggies are very healthy when grilled, but how do you grill them the healthiest way ? Well, there’s 3 main methods of grilling vegetables that are going to benefit you.
Which you use depends on how much prep you’re willing to do, and what you like most.
For starters, you’ll need a very good grill. I recommend the grill I’ve used before, which you can find the grill on my Recommended Gear page, under Gas Grills.
It’s a Char-Griller 3001 Grillin’ Pro 40,800-BTU Gas Grill, and it lasted me 4 seasons before I gave it away to a friend and had much more in it to go. I gave it away because I got a new one as a present form a family member.
Back to grilling, whichever grill you use, all of them will be great with the methods I’m going to describe below.
1. In aluminium foil
Grilling in aluminium foil might not really sound like grilling, but it all depends on how tightly you wrap the foil.
The pros of using aluminium foil are:
- Tender vegetables, and you can be sure they’re very well cooked through
- Less mess when serving, all juices and bits are kept in the foil
- Heat retention, which makes it a nice addition when serving for several people at once
However there are some disadvantages, to using aluminium foil when grilling veggies, like:
- Longer prep time, including cutting, peeling or shucking
- More nutrient loss if left for long, compared to regular grilling
- Less smoke touches the veggies
One thing you can try when grilling with aluminium foil is to not wrap it very tightly, so you get more smoke coming through.
Or, use some very heavy duty foil (or use 2-3 sheets) and once your veggies are halfway done, you can open the aluminium foil more, so they get all the smoke flavor possible. If necessary, use tongs to flip the vegetables.
Some moisture will evaporate, but you’re getting a nice mix between grilled and steamed this way.
2. On bamboo skewers (kabob)
Another option, and I think this is easier to handle for many people, is to use bamboo skewers.
Simply cut your veggies to size, and line them up on the skewers. This allows some advantages:
- Much easier to handle, since you can just turn the skewer
- Cooks faster, since the veggies are cut in smaller sizes
- Plenty of grill and smoke flavor
- Easier to serve and plate up
As for disadvantages, there aren’t very many. It’s kind of an improvement on the basic grilled veggies. Though since they’re smaller, they will burn easier if you’re not careful. And they need some prep time as well.
3. Plain, cut veggies
This is the most basic, and what we all know as grilled vegetables. Whether it’s grilled corn on the cob, grilled zucchini, grilled mushrooms, we’ve all tried this version of the veggies.
The simplest, but also the most reliable way of grilling vegetables. There’s a reason for that.
Cut up your vegetables into even slices, allowing that some of them will need less time to cook through, like zucchini and eggplant. Drizzle with a bit of cooking oil and spices if you want. Flip. Done.
I think I even saw grilled lettuce in a Kitchen Nightmares episode. Really, there’s nothing you can’t throw on a grill and have it come out at least decent.
Some advantages of plain, simple grilling would be:
- Maximum grill flavor, all the char and smoke you want
- Minimum prep time, just wash and cut and place on the grill
- Accumulated juices make for a nice sauce alongside the grilled meat
As a disadvantage, you have the fact that it’s easy to dry the veggies out too much when they lay flat on the grill.
However you can always use a grill basket to grill veggies. The whole thing is made to keep small vegetables and cuts of meat from falling into the grill, but also allow juices to drain so nothing is left soggy.
I’ve explained more on my Best Grill Basket page, feel free to check it out. It doesn’t take up too much space on the grill’s grates, meaning you’ll be able to grill the main dish right next to the basket.
Grilling is a great way to enjoy a side of vegetables, since often they can be a bit plain if you serve them in just a salad. But add the smoky flavor of a grill, and the crispy edges of some grilled veggies and you’ve got yourself a crowd pleaser.
I hope you’ll try at least one of the grilling methods I mentioned above, and I’m sure you’re going to love them. Keep trying new things, you might discover a whole new technique.