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Prairie Fare: Fire Up Your Grill Menu With More Fruits and Vegetables

Adding some fruits and vegetables to your grill is a good idea on many levels.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

“Mom, this fruit tastes extra sweet!” my 11-year-old daughter remarked as she tasted a slice of grilled pineapple along with a bite of grilled ham.

I tasted mine and nodded in agreement.

“Why does the pineapple taste so sweet?” she asked.

“Fruit naturally contains sugar and when you combine sugar with the heat of the grill, it caramelizes. Grilling adds a smoky flavor to fruits and vegetables and also gives them a sweeter flavor,” I explained.

“I think you should write a column about grilling fruits and vegetables,” she suggested as she reached for another slice of pineapple.

“That’s a good idea,” I said.

Adding some fruits and vegetables to your grill is a good idea on many levels. Fruits and vegetables add color, texture, flavor and nutrition without adding many calories.

Most people shortchange themselves on fruits and vegetables. Eating more fruits and vegetables can lower your risk for cancer and heart disease.

Fruits and vegetables also add fiber to your diet, a lacking component for many adults and children. Most women need about 20 grams of fiber per day, while men need about 30 grams per day.

The usual recommendation for children (in grams) is their age plus five. A 7-year-old, therefore, would need 12 grams (g) of fiber per day.

Try these ideas to add flavor, color and fiber to your menu with grilled fruit:

  • Sprinkle wedges of apple or pear with cinnamon and a touch of brown sugar. Grill for about five minutes per side.
  • Brush peeled, whole bananas with canola or sunflower oil and add to the grill just until the fruit turns golden and has grill marks, or about five minutes per side.
  • For a fun alternative to the summer classic s’mores, cut a 3/4-inch-deep slit down the length of an unpeeled banana. Pry the slit open and stuff with 2 tablespoons of chopped dark chocolate or your favorite candy bar. Wrap the banana in foil and grill for about five minutes on each side.
  • Grill peaches and nectarines for a side dish to go with steak or pork tenderloin. After cooking, the fruit can be diced and made into a salsa or relish by adding fresh herbs, chili peppers and lime juice or vinegar.

Add some vegetables to your grilling menu with these tips:

  • Cut vegetables into large, flat pieces of even thickness throughout each slice. You can cut them into smaller pieces after cooking.
  • Prepare bell peppers by cutting off the top and bottom of the pepper. Remove the core and then cut the pepper in half from top to bottom. (This way you end up with two flat rectangles that are grilled skin side down.)
  • Add flavor to vegetables with olive oil (or another type of oil) and seasonings. Lay them in a single layer on a cookie sheet, brush with oil and season. Turn them over and repeat on the other side.
  • Use marinades to add flavor. Be aware that sugar-based marinades cause the exterior of the vegetables to blacken.
  • Use both moist and dry heat to cook your vegetables. Grill the vegetables until they have nice grill markings on both sides. Remove them from the grill and place into a bowl or pot. Cover tightly with plastic wrap to prevent the steam from escaping for five to 10 minutes. This will finish the cooking process of the vegetables without drying them out.

Try this recipe from http://www.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov. For more information about nutrition, visit the NDSU Extension Service Web site at http://www.ndsu.edu/eatsmart.

Fresh Grilled Vegetables

2 Tbsp. canola oil

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

3 sweet potatoes cut into 1-inch slices

3 cobs of corn cut into 2-inch sections

1 eggplant cut into 1/2-inch slices

12 green onions, trimmed

Mix oil and garlic in a large bowl. Add vegetables and toss. Place vegetables in a vegetable basket made for the grill or a perforated vegetable grilling pan (available in many stores). Cook 10 minutes, turning twice, until vegetables are tender. Place vegetables on a platter. Serve.

Makes six servings. Each serving has 190 calories, 34 g of carbohydrate, 6 g of fat and 8 g of fiber.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187, julie.garden-robinson@ndsu.edu
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136, richard.mattern@ndsu.edu
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