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Healthy Grilling Guide: 5 Philly-Restaurant-Inspired Swaps to Make This Summer

Summers aren’t complete without barbecue. There are few things more quintessential to an American summer than cooking outside, on your home’s patio or your apartment’s complex courtyard. It returns cooking to something of its primal, community action: charring your food as you’re surrounded by friends, smoke stinging your eyes as it billows from a roaring fire.

But Americana aside, our best-loved BBQ dishes tend to contain an ample amount of fat (that sizzle you hear from your wings probably isn’t coming from its reserves of Vitamin A). Plus, the sauces we drench them in often contain plenty of sugar—the molasses that has your guests fawning over your chicken is, after all, essentially another word for sugar syrup.

The key to a happy, healthy summer, then, is making the barbecue work for you: getting that smoky, rich flavor without the excess sugar and fat. Fortunately, Philly knows good barbecue, and often our best barbecue is coming from restaurants that pull from global culinary traditions to create dishes that offer all the pleasures of the grill, without the health cost. Here, we’ve collected five recipes inspired by local Philly restaurants that could make your summer meal plan.

Chicken shishlik for Barbecue Chicken

Barbecue sauce can contain an excess amount of sugar, but chicken shishlik, an Israeli take on chicken kebabs, trades the sweet for zest by marinading for a few hours in a lemony concoction. Not only will it cut down on the unhealthy sweeteners—lemon contains a ton of Vitamin C, which can be great for your heart health.

Or try them at Laser Wolf.

Seitan Wings for Chicken Wings

It’s hard to make chicken wings healthy. A single serving, thanks to their fatty skin, can contain 4 grams of saturated fat, the worst type for your cholesterol. But if you’re grilling instead of deep frying, that’s a great start, and you can cut at least some of that fat by swapping out the fatty chicken for some relatively healthy seitan. Seitan is high in protein, while limiting unhealthy fat. (Important to note: it’s not gluten-free.)

or try them at Khyber Pass Pub.

Quinoa Black Bean Burgers for Cheeseburgers

The science is in, and red meat, at least in abundance, is just not good for you. Regular burger consumers can have an increased risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even cancer. And while those frozen veggie patties from the grocery store may have given you a bad substitute experience before, you might find that a freshly made vegan burger can beat out most store-bought chuck in the flavor department.

For your first time, go with a quinoa and bean-based option. It’s not just delicious – both quinoa and black beans have been referred to as “superfoods,” with high amounts of protein and fiber that fill you up without the fat.

Or try one at Fuel.

Grilled Sea Bass for Pulled Pork

Yes, pulled pork is ridiculously tender. And pork is actually a relatively healthy red (yes, red) meat when it comes from a lean cut.

But pulled pork’s tenderness comes at a cost. It’s usually taken from pork shoulder, a fatty cut, and steeped in either animal-fat based broth, oil or sugary sauce to get that prized softness.

There’s a healthier way to get a soft bite. Sea bass is an incredibly healthy white fish just asking to be grilled. Take the Italian approach and it’s known as the trendy Branzino. Go for the Greek approach with light amounts of antioxidant rich olive oil and you’ll be on your way to a healthy Mediterranean-diet night. Toss it on a whole grain roll for a pulled pork sandwich substitute, but it really doesn’t need it.

Or try it at Estia.

Grilled King Oyster Mushrooms for a T-Bone Steak

Steak is usually the piece de resistance of the cookout, the point by which home grillers’ reputation lives or dies by. But plenty of diners won’t eat a steak that’s cooked past medium-rare, because eating undercooked meat carries significant health risks.

Try putting those risks aside with a grilled mushroom steak. It’s tender enough to replace even a rare filet mignon, but it’s also low in calories and strong in fiber and protein—and of course makes the whole rare vs. medium rare vs. medium conversation a whole lot easier.

Or try one at Vedge.