Barbecue season is in full swing! Grilling can be a tasty and lean way to cook food, but before you fire up the grill, check out our top tips for a BBQ that’s tasty and good for you.
Dial down the heat: Before you slap some meat on the barbie, dial down the heat. When proteins in meat, chicken and fish are cooked at searing temperatures, carcinogenic compounds called heterocyclic amines, or HCAs, form. That delicious crunchy char can up your risk for colon, breast, prostate and other types of cancer. To reduce your risk, grill meat at lower temperatures and flip frequently to prevent excessive charring.
Marinade: Not only will marinating meat add a ton of flavor, it also greatly reduces the formation of another cancer causing compound, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or PAHs. Acidic marinades with vinegar or lemon juice help tenderize meat and reduce PAHs or try basting your pork shoulder with a dark brew. One study found that marinating with dark beer reduced these cancer-causing-compounds by 53 percent! Adding spices to hamburgers or rubbing meats with garlic, rosemary, black pepper, and turmeric is another flavorful way to reduce PAHs. Trimming fat to avoid flare ups and smoke also lowers levels of this carcinogen. If you love sweet BBQ sauce, add it after cooking as grilling with it can actually triple the amount of HCAs formed.
Keep it safe: We’ve all been there. You get to a BBQ, put your potato salad down on the table and it sits there - for hours. Unfortunately bacteria in food love hot summer temperatures, so it’s best to follow the “when in doubt, throw it out” rule after a plate has sat out for 2 hours. While cooking, use a instant thermometer to make sure food gets to the right internal temperatures. (Cheat sheet - Hamburgers: 160. Chicken: 165. Beef, pork and fish: 145. Any leftovers need to be reheated to 165.) Try to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold by using insulated dishes or resting dishes in a tray of ice and refilling when necessary, or put fresh bowls of perishable foods like salads and meats out in batches.
Eat your veggies: Grilling veggies doesn’t make PAHs or HCAs, so grill a portabella instead of a burger, make your own shish kebabs or grill up some peaches or nectarines for dessert. Vegetables retain more vitamins when they’re grilled versus fried or boiled, and eating foods rich in antioxidants add cancer-fighting phytochemicals to a meal. BBQ salads don’t have to be laden with mayo. Try mixing up a fresh cucumber and tomato salad or blend chickpeas with lemon and basil for some homemade hummus.
Choose your cut: Choosing 90% lean ground meat over 80% ground beef can save nearly a 100 calories per burger and nearly halves the amount of artery clogging saturated fat. To keep burgers moist, try adding egg whites, bread crumbs, or veggies like diced onions, tomatoes or mushrooms. Avoid processed meats like hot dogs and bacon, which have been found to drastically raise the risk of cancer.