Memorial Day weekend is just around the corner and as the unofficial start of grilling season is gearing up, take this opportunity to look around your grocery store and don’t be so quick to go directly into the meat department. This season, I want to challenge you to rethink what you put on the grill besides your favorite meat. Consider adding a variety of foods, such as fruits and vegetables, to your grilling repertoire, and think beyond the skewer!
Adding fruits and vegetables to your grill is a delicious way to increase the number of servings you consume. According to the USDA, the average American eats about 3 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. What is recommended for American consumption is 9 servings per day. Clearly, we are all falling behind. In my private practice, I see similar numbers when I start working with new clients and asses their nutrition habits. What I find as one of the main reasons people fall short of the recommended servings is that they don’t know what to do with fruits and vegetables, aside from eating them as is. They believe it to be boring and therefore lack enthusiasm in wanting to eat more.
Now we know that eating 9 servings is important, but what is also important is paying attention to the different colors. When picking fruits and vegetables, always change color to benefit from the variety of antioxidants and phytochemicals. Using the full rainbow spectrum of foods can boost your immune system and support the repair processes in your cells. That’s because the phytochemicals that give plants their color — the blue in your blueberries, the orange in your carrots — have antioxidant effects, helping to clear away the free radicals in your body. A free radical is an unstable molecule that latches onto healthy cells making them unstable as well, even to the point of contacting our DNA and mutating the strains. The antioxidants in anti-inflammatory fruits, vegetables, herbs, whole grains, and fats can help reduce the number and effect of free radicals by neutralizing free floating free radical throughout the body. But each phytochemical has different strengths, which is why you need to eat a rainbow of them, not just one.
Now it’s time to beef up your grill by adding vegetables such as zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes and corn to add a dose of nutrition with an array of different health benefits. Throwing in fruits like mango, avocado, and peaches add a different layer of flavor because you allow the natural sugars to caramelize. The easiest way to incorporate them is by making a grilled salad.
Here, I created my Grilled Mango Salad with Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette. This salad is packed with superfood goodness and it is easy to make. The best part is that I use a variety of different foods to get different colors and health benefits.
Mango: I love adding mango for a sweet twist on a salad. A tropical superfruit, mangos are bursting with over 20 vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. In just one cup serving, mango provide you with 35% of vitamin A and 100% of your daily requirement of vitamin C. Research surrounding the health benefits of mangos is ongoing, and although more research is needed, especially in humans, preliminary studies have found mango consumption linked to blood glucose control, cancer protection, and digestive health.
Avocado: Avocados are a good source of fiber, with 11% daily value of fiber per 1/3 serving. It is also a heart healthy superfood with good fats and contributes nearly 20 vitamins, mineral and phytonutrients. Avocados contain the highest concentration of beneficial carotenoids in the dark green part of the fruit. To get the nutrient rich fruit directly under the peel, you should nick and peel the skin to make sure you keep the fruit intact.
Red Onions: Are known to provide prebiotic fiber, which can help with the flora of your gastrointestinal track, which can lead to better health. It also contains quercetin, an antioxidant phytonutrient that may protect against cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Heirloom Tomatoes: These tomatoes have become popular in the past couple of years, and for good reason. Heirloom tomatoes are open pollinated varieties of tomatoes that have their own distinct flavor and unique characteristics. They differ from commercial tomatoes and are favored by chefs and home cooks alike. They are a nutritional powerhouse as they are a good source of vitamin C, A and K.
- 1 large red onion sliced
- 4 large heirloom tomatoes cut into quarters
- 2 avocados cut into quarters and peeled
- 2 mangos peeled and cut into wedges
- Canola oil spray
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 4 cups Arugula
- 1 bunch cilantro destemmed
- 2 jalapenos sliced
- 4 tablespoons lime juice
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- Place all of the ingredients in a food processor. Use the chop setting and get it to a smooth consistency. Place in the refrigerator for up to one week.
- Preheat your grill to 400 degrees.
- Prepare all the vegetables and place in a large bowl. Spray with canola oil spray, making sure you coat all the vegetables evenly. Sprinkle with salt.
- Spray the grill with oil and started placing the vegetables down. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until grill marks begin to show. Turn over the vegetables and cook for another 2-3 minutes. For items such as the mango, avocado and tomato, you may need to turn it on to its third side, depending on your preference.
- In a large bowl, place the arugula in the base. Start collecting the vegetables into the bowl. The heat will wilt the arugula a bit.
- Drizzle the dressing on top.
Manuel Villacorta, M.S., R.D., is currently or has worked as a spokesperson/ambassador for the Mango Board and is paid for services which include, but not limited to, photography, videography, recipe development, social media promotion and online contributions.
-“I only represent companies that I truly believe in their mission and love their products deeply in my heart. I use them often myself as they are the best, nutritional foods available” – Manuel Villacorta.