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Think Outside the Bun: Fresh Ideas for Your Next Cook-Out

July is National Grilling Month!

Summer is the season for cooking outdoors—in the yard or at the campground, grilling is fast, fun and delicious. But burgers and dogs are not always the healthiest options. Not only are they high in fat, they are often served on a bun, which adds carbohydrates.

Luckily, the experts in the Nutrition Clinic at Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital have some fresh ideas!

“Lean protein like chicken is always easy and popular on the grill,” says Senior Nutritionist and Nutrition Clinic Coordinator Nancy Oliveira, MS, RDN, LDN, CDCES. “But oftentimes my patients tell me they get bored with chicken. They want something more flavorful. I tell them to get creative!”

First of all, lean protein comes in many forms. Beyond chicken, try grilling shrimp, salmon, tuna steaks, tempeh or veggie burgers. “I also suggest experimenting with marinades and rubs. You can easily add a burst of flavor with herbs and spices,” says Oliveira.

Then, instead of pairing these grilled proteins with the usual potato salad or corn, try something new by adding them to a delicious base of a garden salad, grain bowl or pasta salad. In the summer, fresh and flavorful produce abounds. Berries, local greens, native corn, heirloom tomatoes, crispy sugar snap peas, radishes and more can all be used to keep things interesting. “The possibilities are really endless. You can try a new combination every week,” says Oliveira.

Need some inspiration? Try these recipes below, courtesy of our nutrition intern Brittany West.

Lemon Pepper Marinade


2 garlic cloves

1 tsp lemon zest

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

1/3 cup olive oil

1 tbsp cracked black pepper

Pinch salt

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp dried basil


  1. Smash garlic cloves and rough chop.
  2. Combine all ingredients and mix well.
  3. Add protein of choice and let marinate for 1 hour in refrigerator before grilling (the marinade is enough for about 4 chicken breasts).


Grilled Shrimp and Mango Salsa Salad


For salsa:

1/2 cup strawberries, diced

1/2 cup ripe mango, diced

1/2 avocado, diced

1/2 jalapeno, seeds removed, diced

2 tbsp red onion, finely diced

1/2 lime, juiced

1/2 tsp salt

For salad:

Spring mix

4 oz. grilled shrimp

1/2 cucumber, diced

1 tbsp toasted slivered almonds


For salsa:

  1. Combine all ingredients and mix until combined. Refrigerate until ready to use.

For salad:

  1. Preheat grill.
  2. Grill shrimp until internal temperature reaches 145°
  3. Assemble salad with salsa, shrimp, cucumbers and almonds.


Mediterranean Quinoa Salad


3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

1/4 tsp dried oregano

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1/4 cup olive oil

1 cup quinoa*

2 cups red and yellow grape tomatoes, halved

1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped

2 scallions, chopped

1 large red pepper, small diced

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

1 English cucumber, small diced

2 tbsp feta, crumbled

Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Whisk together lemon juice, vinegar, oregano, garlic and salt and pepper to taste. Let sit at room temperature while preparing the salad.
  2. Combine quinoa and 2 cups water in a small sauce pot. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook uncovered until tender, about 15 minutes.
  3. Transfer quinoa to a bowl and fluff with a fork. Lightly season with salt and pepper if desired.
  4. Add tomato, olives, green onion, red pepper, onion, cucumber and dressing. Toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

*You can substitute any pasta for the quinoa. Cook pasta according to package directions, drain, and mix with the dressing.

Want to learn more about healthy eating? Contact Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital’s Nutrition Clinic at 617-983-4455 to set up an appointment with a registered dietitian.

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