Barbecuing is a summertime favorite for many. It’s a great way to socialize with friends, enjoy the sunshine and, of course, eat delicious food. Unfortunately, grilling can often be pretty unhealthy. Many Americans turn to meats that are high in fat when grilling, according to Web MD. The other issue with grilling involves a couple of potential cancer-causing compounds (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and heterocyclic amines.) PAHs form when fat from the meat drips on the coals or grill, and are then deposited on the food thanks to rising smoke and flame ups. Further, the delicious charred taste many grillers love also contains PAHs. HCAs, on the other hand, are produced when red meat, poultry, and fish are cooked using high heat (read: grilling.)
But there’s no need to put an end to your summer barbecues. Instead, follow these six tips to ensure your grilled food isn’t harming your health.
1. Use a marinade
Health writes that a 2008 study found spicy marinades can help decrease the formation of HCAs, thanks to the many antioxidants found in spices. One study found that adding go-to spices, such as thyme, sage, and garlic helped reduce the amount of total HCAs by 60 percent.
Looking for the spice that will fight the most HCAs? Rosemary. Health writes that high concentrations of the spice may reduce HCAs by up to 90 percent. If you’re looking for a delicious recipe that uses a healthy sauce, try making spicy southern barbecued chicken, per American Kidney Fund. This recipe makes six servings (one-half of a chicken breast or two small drumsticks) and has 176 calories per serving.
- 5 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon ketchup
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 1 teaspoon molasses
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 4 teaspoons white vinegar
- 3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/8 teaspoon ginger, grated
Directions: Combine all of the ingredients, except the chicken, in a saucepan. Let it simmer for 15 minutes.
2. Go lean
When you’re grilling, always pick lean cuts of meat that are trimmed of visible fat and skin, per Web MD. By limiting the amount of fat that drips on the coals, you’re drastically cutting back on carcinogens. Opt for a very lean cut of beef, pork, or skinless chicken. The American Kidney Fund recommends the following meats:
- Chicken: Use skinless chicken breasts.
- Fish: Lean toward tuna, salmon, or sea bass.
- Ground turkey: Instead of beef, use ground turkey for a delicious, grilled turkey burger.
3. Go green
Rather than loading up on fatty meats, why not grill delicious veggies instead? The Huffington Post suggests grilling bell peppers, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, onions, bok choy, and radicchio. Looking for an easy way to incorporate more vegetables? Try making a produce-packed kebab.
Web MD says you can replace skewers with branches of rosemary, too, ensuring your already healthy veggies are loaded with even more antioxidants. If you’re looking for something a little bit different, try grilling fruit. PAHs and HCAs don’t form on grilled fruits and veggies, per Web MD. Looking for some fruit suggestions? Try pineapple, mango, apple, and pear; they’re all guaranteed to be delicious!
4. Be careful of sides
Barbecue side dishes are often the cause of a lot of unwanted fat and calories. Rather than opt for sides loaded with fat, sugar, salt, and calories, the American Kidney Fund recommends making these healthy swaps.
- Have a green salad on the side. It’s low in calories and provides a great serving of veggies.
- Swap out mayonnaise. Instead of using mayonnaise in pasta or potato salad, try incorporating a low-fat yogurt or vinaigrette instead. Your taste buds and waistline will thank you!
- Use whole wheat pasta instead of white pasta.
- Add lemon juice and vinegar to coleslaw for a healthy, delicious flavor.
5. Add alcohol
If you’re looking for an alternative to a marinade, use beer or wine. Red wine, which is chalk full of antioxidants, can decrease the amount of carcinogens produced when grilling. Health writes that marinating beef in red wine for six hours can decrease carcinogens by 40 percent. Additionally, a study done by the University of Porto in Portugal discovered that beef marinated for two hours in red wine before it was grilled contained up to 88 percent fewer carcinogens than beef that wasn’t marinated.
Try using this wine marinade, as shown in Health. Combine one cup of red wine, two tablespoons of red wine vinegar, three tablespoons sliced shallots, one-fourth teaspoon of crushed peppercorns, and one-half teaspoon of salt. Add one pound of meat and marinade for two hours in the fridge.
6. Eat healthy sweets
Every barbecue has a table loaded with treats. Instead of serving guests cake, cookies, and brownies, why not incorporate fresh fruit into the dessert plan? It’s juicy, low in calories and loaded with antioxidants and nutrients, rather than processed sugar and extra fat. It’s hard to beat mouthwatering pineapple and juicy watermelon in the summertime.
However, if you feel like you need to have some baked goodies, try this Prevention recipe for brownies. Your dessert will taste delicious without packing on the pounds. It makes eight servings, and one bar has 305 calories.
- 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted if lumpy
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 1 large egg and 1 large egg white
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
Directions: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Coat an eight- or nine-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Combine the brown sugar, oil, egg, and egg white, and vanilla extract in a small bowl. Whisk until smooth. Pour into the flour mixture and stir until blended. Stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts (the batter will be stiff.) Spread the batter in a thin layer in the prepared pan. Bake for 20 to 22 minutes or until firm at the edges. Place the pan on a rack and let cool completely. Cut into eight bars.