If you're anything like me, when summer finally arrives, the first thing I do is "fire up" the grill. And like most, I always start with traditional favorites that, let's face it, aren't always the most heart-healthy! When we think BBQ, the first thought is the meat...hamburgers, ribs, steaks, brats, etc....

Progress...Not Perfection!

If you have had an opportunity to spend time at the Pritikin Longevity Center or you've participated in a Pritikin Intensive Cardiac Rehab program, you've heard the saying, "Progress...Not Perfection." To me, this is a very important principle which separates a diet from an ongoing lifestyle change. Life happens, we're human, and nobody's perfect. The key is to make small, meaningful changes that lead to positive and sustainable change over time.

Enter Summer BBQ Season

Ok, so after I fall victim to the cravings of the past, I start thinking about what I can do to combine the tenets of the Pritikin Eating Plan with the fun of summer grilling. Turns out, fruits and vegetables can also benefit from the flavor of your favorite charcoal or hardwood pellet...who knew?

When it comes to animal protein, the Pritikin Eating Plan recommends fish or shellfish over lean white meat poultry, and to choose lean poultry over lean red meat. A serving is about 3-1/2 to 4 ounces cooked, which is about the size and thickness of a deck of cards. Optimally, limit poultry to no more than one serving per week and red meat to no more than one serving per month. If you prefer red meat weekly, substitute free-range, grass-fed bison in place of poultry.

Instead of mindlessly pushing the shopping cart to the butcher at your local grocery, consider swinging by the seafood counter first. How does grilled or smoked salmon sound? Don't be intimidated! You'll find out just how easy fish is to grill.

If you're fortunate enough to have lean game meat like venison in your freezer, there's a lot of great recipes! Experiment with your favorite natural herbs and salt-free spices.

Fruits & Veggies!!!

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There's more to BBQ sides than the baked potato (which is a great source of nutrition and Pritikin-"friendly"... just avoid the butter and high-fat sour cream!). This is where you can have fun and add some flair to your meal! Grill baskets are a great accessory when cooking vegetables, like broccoli, cauliflower, and asparagus.

If you've never thought to grill fruit before, think again! For example, Pritikin has a great recipe for Cinnamon-Spiced Grilled Pineapple... VERY GOOD!

Just remember: now that you're on board with expanding your grilling repertoire, it's important not to sabotage your healthy intentions by adding high-sodium seasonings or marinades! Instead, you can blend together your favorite herbs and spices, (such as paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, dried oregano, and dried basil) to make a flavor-packed salt-free alternative. And instead of marinating in an oil-based mixture, use red wine vinegar.

I recently grilled a venison tenderloin that I had soaked in nothing more than red wine vinegar and Pritikin's All-Purpose Seasoning. Apple juice concentrate (no-sugar-added) is also a great option, which I used to enhance the flavor of the grilled pineapple referenced earlier!

Happy Grilling!