6.2 min readPublished On: July 9, 2024

Healthy Summer Grilling Guide

Grill This, Not That!

Summer, summer, summertime! Let’s get back into our bikinis or swim trunks, it’s time for backyard parties and BBQs. 

You can hit the sand running by following our quick summertime grilling guide that details different protein choices and some of their benefits. 

As a bonus, we’ve included some favorite side dishes and marinades that create flavor and texture without salt and sugar.

Top Sirloin vs. Ribeye

Sirloin is lower in calories and fat because of the natural composition of the cut of beef. It has less natural marbling as well, which makes it a leaner cut higher in protein content by volume. Sirloin also has a beefier flavor but is less juicy. Grilling is the most popular way to prepare sirloin, but you can also broil or pan-sear. Sirloin takes to most marinades. Usually, bold flavors pair well with sirloin because of the cut’s hearty flavor profile. Ribeye is rich due to its high marbling and fat content. Grilling is the best method for preparing ribeyes since it helps render all the intermuscular fats and leave behind a juicy texture and tons of flavor. Coarse salt and fresh ground black pepper are the best seasonings for ribeyes.

Mahi Mahi vs. Salmon

Salmon has a naturally richer taste and is higher in oil content, which leads to its softer texture. Salmon can be grilled, baked, broiled, pan-seared and poached. Mahi Mahi is firmer, lower in fat content and lower in calories. Mahi can be prepared using high heat because of its leaner profile. So grilling, high heat broiling, fat frying or deep frying are executable methods. You can season delicately with salt, pepper and citrus or use other seasonings since Mahi, because of its neutral taste, takes on different flavors. 

White vs. Dark Meat Chicken

Dark meat, which comes from the legs and thighs of the chicken, is richer due to a higher concentration of fat. That means a juicier and more flavorful cut and a higher fat percentage compared to the meat’s weight. The white meat comes from the breast and wings. Firmer in texture by nature, it is a leaner protein source than dark meat. White meat has good flavor and adapts well to most marinades and seasonings. 

Potato Salad vs. Grilled Sweet Potato Salad 

(with chickpeas, roasted peppers and maple ancho chile dressing) 

Chef’s Sweet Potato Recipe


  • Spritz of olive oil for sweet potatoes and red pepper
  • 2 large or 3 medium sweet potatoes peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 1 large red pepper
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained
  • ¼ cup scallions sliced thin
  • 2 Tbsp. maple syrup
  • ¼ tsp. dry oregano
  • ¼ tsp. ancho chile powder
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • ½ juice of half a fresh lime
  • Salt to taste
  • Toasted sunflower seeds or pepitas to garnish


  1. Preheat a gas grill to medium.
  2. In a bowl, toss sweet potatoes and red bell pepper with a few spritzes of olive oil to coat gently.
  3. Place on grill on the hot spots to create grill marks necessary to blister the pepper and create caramelization on the sweet potatoes.
  4. Remove the pepper and place in a bowl covered with plastic wrap until it cools (this allows the skin to be easier to remove).
  5. Move sweet potatoes to a cooler spot on the grill.
  6. Turn heat to low and let them cook through for approximately 12 to 15 more minutes.
  7. Remove from grill and let cool as well.
  8. In a separate bowl, mix together maple syrup, scallions, oregano, Ancho Chile powder, lime, olive oil and salt. Remove skin from pepper and dice approximately 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch.
  9. Drain and rinse chickpeas.
  10. Add all ingredients to the bowl.
  11. Toss with dressing and garnish with toasted sunflower seeds or pepitas.

What is an Ancho Chile?

Ancho chile is a smoked and dried poblano chile pepper that adds a mild heat, smokiness and earthiness to dishes.

Whole Wheat Orzo and Quinoa Pasta Salad

(with cherry tomatoes, roasted rainbow carrots, Feta, broccoli and sweet basil dressing)

vs. Macaroni Salad 

Chef’s Whole Wheat Orzo Pasta Salad Recipe


  • ½ cup dry whole wheat orzo (cooked to manufacturers specifications and chilled)
  • ¼ cup quinoa
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes cut in half
  • ¼ cup small diced red onion & rinsed under cold water
  • ½ cup baby rainbow or regular carrots sliced thin
  • 1 ½ cups trimmed broccoli florets blanched for 2 minutes in boiling water and put in an ice bath to chill
  • ¼ cup Feta cheese
  • 2.25 oz. sliced olives drained well

Spice Blend Ingredients:

  • ½ tsp. dry basil
  • ½ tsp. dry oregano
  • ¼ tsp. onion powder
  • ¼ tsp. garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp. dry thyme
  • ¼ tsp. ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard


  1. Cook the quinoa in a 1-quart pot with cups of boiling water or broth.
  2. Cook the quinoa until tender about 15 minutes and strain off excess liquid and chill in fridge.
  3. Put the ingredients for the spice blend into a bowl with olive oil, Dijon mustard and balsamic vinegar to make the dressing.
  4. Mix vegetables and pasta in a bowl with the dressing until coated well.
  5. Garnish with Feta cheese and let chill in fridge at least one hour to marry the flavors.

What about marinades?

Try different marinades with sweeteners such as honey, maple and agave. Adding these sweeteners to the marinade will be healthier than using normal white and brown sugar. Grilling at high heat and oven roasting creates a Maillard reaction (Brown pigments are created by rearranging amino acids and certain simple sugars). The browned crust often creates flavor, aroma and color.

Honey Teriyaki Marinade recipe

  • 2 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 tsp. fresh minced garlic
  • 1 ½ tsp. fresh minced ginger
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • ¼ tsp. molasses
  • 2 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil 
  • Sesame seeds (optional)

Strawberry, basil, balsamic marinade

  • ½ cup fresh or frozen strawberries
  • ½ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • ¼ tsp. dry basil
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp. minced scallions
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Steak House Sauce

  • ¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp. spicy mustard
  • ½ tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 minced whole garlic clove
  • 1 Tbsp. raisins
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp. onion powder
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil

About the Author: Louis Santiago

Louis Santiago is the chef and owner of Chef’s Concept Kitchen, located at Ageless Beauty Med Spa in Leesburg. He has been in the culinary field since 1997 and in the community since 2000. He worked for the Morse family of The Villages®, opening numerous country clubs for them, most notably Cane Garden Country Club, where he was chef for more than 14 years.

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