Tips for Healthy (and Safe) Grilling

May 24, 2018
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This blog was brought to you by Harmons nutrition intern, Rebecca Boger.

Summer is a warm and social time and grilling is the cornerstone of social activities. Memorial Day has arrived and the grills are fired up and ready to go. Or are they? Some grilling methods produce black charred meats, which are known to be carcinogenic, or cancer-causing agents. To keep the grilling season fun without the unwanted byproducts, here are some safe and healthy grilling tips to get your summer BBQ season started out right.

Ways to reduce the formation of cancer-causing compounds:

Keep the grill clean before and after use
Cook for longer periods at a lower temperature to reduce the harmful black char on foods
Flip meats often to reduce charring and for an even cook
Lean out the meat a bit more by cutting out visible fat
Marinating your food can help decrease carcinogen formation. Choose low-sugar marinades made with vinegar or citrus juice.
Use fresh and dried herbs in your marinade for their antioxidant activity
Choose vegetables, seafood, and tofu over meat. Half the plate should be filled with vegetables, and tofu and seafood are great alternatives to red meats.

Other helpful tips:

Keep raw meats separate from all other foods to avoid contamination and food borne illness
Use a meat thermometer to avoid undercooking and therefore foodborne illness
Stick to 3-5 ounces of meat per meal. This is about the size of the palm of your hand.
Choose a variety of colors for grilling fruits and vegetables. Delicious vegetables include yellow squash, orange yams, purple eggplant, red, yellow and green bell peppers, or asparagus with purple and green tips. For fruits, try pineapple, apples, watermelon, peaches, nectarines, cherries, pears, mangos, or cantaloupe.
Choose skinless chicken, since it is lower in fat and marinates just as well
Choose whole grain buns for burgers and brats
Choose grilled fruits or fruit salads for dessert. Fruit salad can be made with just about any combination of fruits. My favorite combination is grapes, bananas, oranges, and strawberries mixed with a Greek yogurt and topped with walnuts, it tastes just like dessert.