By Diane Henderiks
That first spring morning when it's warm enough to sit on the deck for a few minutes with my morning cup of coffee fills me with the excitement of the season. Although our family uses the grill throughout the year, spring and summer are the most fun.
Eating healthy is especially easy this time of year. There is an abundance of fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs available to help you strategize lighter meals. Grilling is an awesome way to prepare foods without added fat or calories. It's perfect for quick and easy weekday dinners, casual gatherings for family and friends and a wonderful excuse to have dinner at home on weekends instead of going out.
Fun and flavorful alfresco dining experiences will motivate you and everyone at your dining table to eat healthier. Even the most apprehensive cook will be inspired to "turn up the heat." Grilling is not just for protein. You can grill just about any fresh fruit or vegetable to intensify flavor. Experiment with light marinades, dressings, rubs and sauces to enhance the flavors of grilled items. Be daring and try new herbs and spices.
One of my favorite spring grilling accompaniments is salsa. Think of salsa as a cold mixture of your favorite fresh fruits, veggies and herbs that create an awesome bed on which to rest savory grilled protein. Salsa is so versatile, and you can change the ingredients to your liking. So if you don't like mango, use peaches; if cilantro is not your herb of choice, use basil. Just about every fruit and herb will make a great salsa.
Rubs are a great way to add flavor to foods and can be used on any protein: chicken, center-cut pork chops, lean red meat and tofu. Vinaigrette dressings easily double as a marinade and are quick and simple to use. Be sure to use a marinade or rub before placing protein on the grill; they are a must for grilling to infuse fantastic flavor.
So get out there, fire up the grill and add this tasty salsa to your next dinner:
Diane Henderiks' Pineapple-Mango Salsa
1/2 medium pineapple, peeled, cored, and diced (1½ cups) 1 firm, ripe mango, diced 1 small jicama bulb, peeled and diced 1/4 cup diced red onion 2 medium tomatoes, cored and diced 2 teaspoons olive oil 2 minced garlic cloves 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice 2 teaspoons jalapeno pepper, chopped (optional) pinch of Kosher salt Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1) Combine all ingredients. 2) Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes to meld flavors. 3) Add pepper to taste. 4) Chill until ready to serve.
Serves 4 to 6.
Henderiks is a registered dietician, the founder of Dianehenderiks.com and a "Good Morning America" health contributor.