When you drop a piece of meat on your grill at home, the end product actually has fewer calories than the meat you began with. That’s because much of the fat bubbles out and drips down to the coals below. A study in the journal Meat Science found that grilling a pork chop by conventional methods could decrease its fat content by nearly a third.
But restaurants don’t follow the conventions of backyard grilling. Instead of draining fat, they actually add more fat. In many cases, their “grills” are actually “grill plates,” or hot slabs of flat metal that lock fat in instead of cook it out. Plus, restaurants routinely paint their meats with hot oil and clarified butter, effectively adding tons more fat to your dinner.But there’s good news, too.
Chances are you already have everything you need to create lean, flavorful, and inexpensive meals at home. Eighty-two percent of American households own a grill, and Cook This, Not That! research has confirmed that by grilling instead of eating out, you can save from 500 to more than 1,500 calories per meal. With just the four swaps here, you can trim nearly 5,000 calories from your diet, which is enough to blast nearly a pound and a half from your gut.
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What’s the catch? There is none! You’ll also save nearly $40 by staying out of the restaurants! So fire up the grill and call up some friends; it’s time to start grilling your way to a lean belly with these delicious recipes from
COOK THIS, NOT THAT!
On the Border Dos XX Tacos ($9.79)2,150 calories144 g fat (31 g saturated)3,740 mg sodiumCalorie Equivalent: 307 large cocktail shrimp!Cook This Instead!
Grilled Fish Tacos ($2.97/serving)380 calories11 g fat (2 g saturated)240 mg sodiumWho doesn’t love fish tacos? South of the border, the fish is always battered and fried and served with an aggressive dousing of mayo-like sauce. We wanted to ditch the frying oil and mayo but maintain the flavor, so we subbed a spicy blackening seasoning and a nutrient-rich mango-avocado salsa, which cuts the heat and pairs perfectly with the fish. This salsa would make gardening gloves taste good. Along with the calories and fat you save, you’ll also cut a day and a half’s worth of sodium. (Don’t miss our shocking list of the ,which includes a breakfast sandwich that has more sodium that five large fries from McDonald’s!)You Save: 1,770 calories, 133 g fat, $6.39
RECIPE:Ingredients 1 mango, peeled, pitted, and cubed1 avocado, pitted, peeled, and cubed1/2 red onion, finely choppedJuice of 1 lime, plus wedges for garnishChopped fresh cilantroSalt and black pepperCanola Oil2 large mahi-mahi fillets (1 ? lb total)1 Tbsp blackening spice8 corn tortillas2 cups finely shredded red cabbageDirections
- Mix the mango, avocado, onion, and the juice of 1 lime in a bowl. Season with cilantro, salt, and pepper.
- Heat a grill or stovetop grill pan until hot. Drizzle a light coating of oil over the fish and rub on the blackening spice. Cook the fish, undisturbed, for 4 minutes. Carefully flip with a spatula and cook for another 4 minutes. Remove.
- Warm the tortillas on the grill for 1 to 2 minutes or wrap in damp paper towels and microwave for 1 minute until warm and pliable.
- Break the fish into chunks and divide among the warm tortillas. Top with the cabbage and the mango salsa. Serve with the lime wedges.
Makes 4 servingsSTEAK
Ruby Tuesday Rib Eye ($16.99)822 calories63 g fat 1,224 mg sodiumCalorie Equivalent: 5.5 pint glasses (16 fl oz) of Bud Light Cook This Instead! Coffee-Rubbed Steak ($2.41/serving)270 calories 15 g fat (6 g saturated) 600 mg sodium Coffee and steak might seem like an unlikely partnership, but the flavor of beef is actually heightened by the robust notes of java. This dish would be perfect with grilled vegetables and a side of black or pinto beans. Or heat up a few corn tortillas and pass them out so everyone can make their own little tacos. Either way, be sure to let the beef rest (even if it actually makes this 10-minute meal a 12- or 13-minute meal); cut into it too early and all the still-hot juices will bleed onto your cutting board, instead of being reabsorbed by the meat. You Save: 552 calories, 48 g fat, $14.58
RECIPE: Ingredients 1/2 Tbsp finely ground coffee or espresso1/2 Tbsp chili powderSalt and black pepper to taste1 lb skirt or flank steakPico de Gallo1 lime, quarteredDirections
- Preheat a grill, grill pan, or cast-iron skillet. Combine the coffee grounds with the chili powder, plus a few generous pinches of salt and pepper. Rub the spice mixture all over the steak. Cook the beef for 3 to 4 minutes per side, depending on thickness, until slightly firm but still yielding.
- Let the steak rest for at least 5 minutes, then slice thinly against the grain of the meat. Serve with a big scoop of pico de gallo and a wedge of lime.
Makes 4 servings
Outback Steakhouse Alice Springs Chicken ($13.99)1,328 calories 92 g fat (41 g saturated) 2,116 mg sodiumCalorie Equivalent: 5 large slices of Domino’s Brooklyn-Style Cheese Pizza Cook This Instead!
Chicken under a Brick ($2.40/serving)280 calories 8 g fat (2 g saturated)780 mg sodium Drop the bottled barbecue sauce! The Italians figured out a magical way to grill chicken that involves no special sauces or condiments; in fact, all you really need is a brick or two and some aluminum foil. Whoever first placed brick to backbone was smart enough to recognize that the extra weight helped press the bird evenly—and forcefully—against the grill, which translates into a juicier bird with a crisper skin—a win-win in our book. (As Outback proves, not all chicken dishes are healthy. See this eye-popping list of for more outrageous examples.)You Save: 1,048 calories, 84 g fat, $11.59
RECIPE: Ingredients 1/4 cup olive oilGrated zest and juice of 1 lemon1 tsp red pepper flakes1 tsp salt1/2 tsp black pepper1 whole chicken, back removed, split in half2 lemons, halved2 bricks, covered in aluminum foilDirections
- Combine the olive oil, lemon zest and juice, pepper flakes, salt, and pepper in a large bowl, baking dish, or sealable plastic bag. Add the chicken and turn to coat. Cover the bowl or seal the bag and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours.
- Preheat a grill (you want a nice medium-low heat). Remove the chicken from the marinade and place on the grate, skin side up. Cover the grill and cook for 10 minutes, until the chicken is lightly charred. Flip the chicken over, then place a brick on top of each half so that it presses the chicken firmly and evenly against the grate. Cook for another 15 to 20 minutes, until the skin is thoroughly browned and crisp and the meat pulls away easily from the bone. (If the grill flares up, move the chicken to a collar part of the grill.) While the chicken cooks, toss on the lemon halves, cut side down, and grill until charred and juicy.
- Separate each breast from the chicken leg by making a cut right at the thigh bone. Serve each of the four pieces of chicken with a grilled lemon half.
Makes 4 servings
Chili's Southern Smokehouse Burger with Ancho Chile BBQ ($9.39)1,910 calories126 g fat (43 g saturated)5,290 mg sodiumCalorie Equivalent: 30 deviled eggs!Cook This Instead!
Green Chili Cheeseburger ($2.62/serving)320 calories11 g fat (4.5 g saturated)420 mg sodiumAs bad as fast-food burgers can be, they look like nutritional superstars when stacked next to sit-down restaurant burgers. The bulk of the burgers at Applebee’s, Chili’s, Ruby Tuesday, Outback, and T.G.I. Friday’s weigh in at 1,000 calories or more—before the massive mound of French fries that invariably accompanies them. The key to keeping the calories down is finding a lean but tasty cut of beef (we love sirloin); using healthy, flavor-packed condiments (e.g., roasted chiles, not fried onion rings); and finding a small, fiber-rich bun to house the creation.You Save: 1,590 calories, 115 g fat, $6.77
RECIPE: Ingredients 1 lb ground sirloin or brisketSalt and black pepper to taste1 can (4 oz) roasted green chiles, drained and chopped4 slices Swiss cheese4 potato buns (preferably Martin’s Potato Rolls)4 thick slices tomato4 medium slices red onion
- Heat a grill, stovetop grill pan, or cast-iron skillet. Season the beef with salt and pepper. Form 4 patties, being careful not to overwork the meat.
- When the pan is hot, add the burgers. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes on the first side (until nicely charred), then flip and immediately top each with a tablespoon of chiles and a slice of Swiss. For medium-rare burgers, continue cooking for another 3 to 4 minutes, until the patties are just firm.
- Remove the burgers and toast the buns on the hot grill or pan. Dress the bottom of the buns with the tomato and onion slices, then top each with a burger.
Makes 4 serving
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