Get Your Local Info

Find out what is happening at your local American Heart area

Healthy Marinating & Grilling

grilled chicken breast with green beans and forkIt doesn’t have to be summertime to enjoy the flavors of a good marinade! A marinade helps to tenderize food before it hits the grill.

If you don’t have an outdoor gas or charcoal grill, a grill pan or indoor, electric grill are less expensive options that still give delicious results.

No matter how you grill, here are some tips on keeping it heart healthy.

  • Go Lean- Grilling foods lower in saturated and trans fat is better for your heart, plus there’s less chance of fat dripping onto the flames causing smoke and burnt results.
    • When selecting beef pork or lamb look for cuts of loin, round or leg.
    • Choose lean or extra-lean ground beef, ground chicken or turkey.
    • Use skinless pieces of chicken. Always trim off all visible fat prior to cooking meat and poultry.
    • Try out different fillets of fish (wrapped in foil.) Or cook up veggie kabobs that have been marinated.
    • Grill portabella mushrooms for a rich, flavorful “burger”.
  • Give It A Soak or Rub –Marinating or rubbing spices on lean meats, chicken or fish not only add flavor but studies suggest that they can also help reduce the level of carcinogens, or unhealthy substances that form from burning foods.1,2 
    • Use about ½ cup marinade or 1 tablespoon of spice rub for each pound of meat.
    • Always discard the marinade or rub after you have finished – never reuse marinade to baste food after raw meat has touched it.

Simple marinade recipe (for meat, chicken, fish or vegetables):

Whisk together 3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce, 2 teaspoons vinegar and 3 minced garlic cloves. Slowly whisk in 1 teaspoon olive oil until combined. Place in zip-top plastic bag with your food and soak in the refrigerator at least 2 hours or overnight. Note: For fish, only soak in the refrigerator for up to 1 hour before cooking.

Simple rub recipe (for chicken or fish):

Mix together 2 tablespoons chili powder, 2 teaspoons garlic powder, 2 teaspoons cumin and 2 teaspoons paprika . Rub thoroughly over your food right before cooking.

  • Keeping It Clean – Get in the habit of scrubbing down the grill rack or grill pan after each use. Removing leftover pieces of food stuck to the grill prevents burning, smoke and your food tasting funny the next time you grill.
  • Avoid the Burn – If you use charcoal, wait at least 20 minutes after lighting to cook and with a gas grill, avoid high temperatures. Food that is cooked on high heat for longer periods of time produces those unwanted carcinogens. Cut off any burnt or black bits before eating.

Article copyright © 2016 American Heart Association. This recipe/article is brought to you by the American Heart Association's Simple Cooking with Heart © Program. For more articles and simple, quick and affordable recipes, visit

Last reviewed 1/2015

*All health/medical information on this website has been reviewed and approved by the American Heart Association, based on scientific research and American Heart Association guidelines. Use this link for more information on our content editorial process.