Meat has traditionally been the star of barbecue season, but who’s to say it has to stay that way? By taking advantage of in-season summer fruits and vegetables, you can brighten your plate, reduce fat intake, and infuse meals with essential vitamins and minerals.
Not to mention, the average American consumes more than the recommended amount of meat but not enough fruits and vegetables, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which recommends eating at least 1.5 cups of fruit and 2 cups of veggies per day.
A study published in May 2019 in the Lancet noted that one out of every five deaths worldwide was associated with diets that lacked fresh fruits and vegetables, seeds, and nuts. The majority of these deaths were due to cardiovascular disease, the researchers found. Other research, published in June 2019 in the journal Current Developments in Nutrition, estimated that roughly 1 in 7 cardiovascular deaths could be attributed to inadequate fruit intake, and 1 in 12 cardiovascular deaths could be attributed to a diet lacking in vegetables.
Grilled fruits and vegetables often make an appearance as a side dish, but making them the main event is particularly easy during grilling season. “I always tell people to make meat a part, not the heart, of a meal — and skewers work well for that,” says Marisa Moore, RDN, an Atlanta-based dietitian who specializes in culinary nutrition. Moore recommends filling the majority of a skewer with chunks of zucchini, peppers, onions, and mushrooms before adding meat.
Ultimately, the goal is to add more produce to your plate in some way. Whether it’s a tasty side or a healthy entrée, here are 13 fruits and veggies that dietitians say you should be grilling this summer, and why they’re good for you.