Grilling can be an easy, fun, and healthy way to prepare a summer meal. Check out the tips below to keep things healthy and safe – and to get some fresh ideas.
A concern when it comes to grilling is the production of cancer-causing compounds, including heterocyclic amines (HCA) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). These compounds are formed when food, primarily meat, is charred. Therefore, take care not to not overcook foods on the grill. Grilling meats slowly at a lower heat so that they are less likely to burn or char will help reduce HCAs and PAHs. And while you probably knew that using lean meats and trimming excess fat is healthy for your heart and your waistline, here’s another good reason to do so: the fat presents a higher risk because it is more likely to char. You can also help reduce the formation of HCAs by marinating meats using seasoned vinegar, olive oil, citrus juices, and fresh herbs. Even just 30 minutes of marinating time is beneficial.
Be sure to cook meat and poultry to a safe temperature in order to destroy harmful bacteria that may be present. Use a food thermometer to make sure meats have reached a safe minimum internal temperature, as color is not a good enough indicator of safety. Once food is cooked, keep it hot (140 °F) until you are ready to serve it.
To cut down on calories and saturated fat, remember that there are other options aside from steak, burgers, and hot dogs. Try grilling chicken breast, fish, and even veggie burgers. If you are having hot dogs, substitute chicken for beef and look for those made without nitrates and nitrites, as they have been linked to cancer and heart disease.
A good method to ensure that you are balancing your intake of nutrients and keeping your calories in check is to fill half your plate with veggies, one-quarter with protein, and the last remaining quarter with starch. This is easier to do once you’ve got some veggies on your grill. Try peppers, zucchini, corn, Portobello mushrooms, onions, eggplant… there’s no shortage of options. Use skewers to make colorful kebabs with cherry tomatoes and cubed veggies, or you can use a metal basket. To add flavor while keeping things healthy, marinade veggies using balsamic vinegar, fresh herbs and a brush of olive oil. Grill veggies until tender and turn halfway through cooking, and keep an eye on them; vegetables grill more quickly than meats and they can burn easily because of their natural sugars.
Speaking of sugars, you can take advantage of the natural sweetness of fruit by grilling some for dessert. The process of grilling makes fruit even tastier by adding texture and intensifying its flavor. As with vegetables, there are plenty of choices; experiment with peaches, plums, pears, cantaloupe, pineapple, nectarines, and even grapefruit. Remove pits and cut fruit into halves or sections, or make fruit kabobs for a pretty presentation. Drizzle with a bit of honey and balsamic vinegar and you’ve got a great dessert. Be creative and enjoy the results!
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