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Healthy Grilling Tips

I love spring and summer. Warm weather, especially after a grueling winter, makes things like flip-flops, maxi dresses, long power walks, sun-bronzed skin and all the other little summer joys a reason to celebrate. The smell of charcoal burning on a Weber grill brings me back to decades of good times at BBQs and beach parties. In my effort to eat clean, however, I investigated whether grilling can be a safe way to eat. The information below guides me to make better informed decisions for my family, while also participating in this spring-through-summer ritual.

Healthy Grilling Tips

1. Grill – Don’t Char Meat
When meat is grilled at high temps for a long duration, a reaction in the food creates a carcinogen, HCA (heterocyclic amines). So the recommendation is to use a gas grill to control the temperature as well as reducing the grill time to prevent high exposure to HCA’s. Remove any charbroiled surfaces before eating helps, too.

2. Choose Low Fat Meat
PAH’s (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) are chemicals created from the smoke of meat fat drippings. When food is on the grill, these carcinogenic PAH chemicals transmit into the meat. Choosing lower fat meat means there is less fat to drip, so less potent PAH’s.

3. Avoid Direct Exposure (or Lessen the Time) on the Flames
Less direct exposure for meat on the metal cooking surfaces can reduce HCA and PAH formation. If possible, insert meat on a grill wrapped in aluminum foil. It also helps to continuously flip the meat, though true grillers may not like that.

4. Choose Veggies
Well-sealed vegetables in foil can provide a strong grill-like taste without the cross contamination or chemical emissions found with the meat. Simply put, brush olive oil on the foil, insert vegetables, wrap the foil around veggies tightly and *grill for 8-10 minutes. (*Note, soft vegetables take no more than 8-minutes each side, squash/hard veggies can take more than 15 minutes each side.) If no meat has been on the surface, vegetables do not emit the same HCA or PAH chemicals when grilled.

5. Create New Grilled Recipes for Veggies, Fruit or Rice
To spice up the produce grilling menu, create wholesome marinades including basil, thyme, garlic or rosemary with olive oil. (Marinate then grill in aluminum foil as noted above.) Ginger, lemon or apple fresh squeezed juices as marinades also give the food a truly naturally sweet and tangy taste. Try exotic fruits, vegetables or even sticky rice on the grill, too. My favorite to date is grilled pineapple. This summer, I’m going to try these grilled creative concoctions such as sweet potatoes and blackened mangos or even watermelon pizza topped with arugula and pine nuts.

What are your favorite tips to make a BBQ tasty and healthy?

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My favorite grilling tools

Sources include: Nutritiouslife.com, Cancer.gov, Vegetarian.lovetoknow.com

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12 Comments

  1. We love eating grilled veggies too! I didn’t know the char though was harmful. We usually use foil for fish but I’ll try for meat too! Thanks for this post, so helpful as usual!!
    Kristen recently posted…My Advice to Young Professional Women on Social Media

    • Foil is my new best friend. I use it a lot. Even in school lunches, I try and put the veggies or fruit in foil instead of baggies. My favorite on the grill is a portobello mushroom. Add a little nutritional yeast and it’s my DIY healthy (meatless) hamburger.

  2. I think it was Dr. Oz that educated me on the carcinogen, which then effected our own BBQ intake here at my home. Being a Texas gal me lessening the BBQ is huge, especially for my BBQ-loving hubby. However, we still que, we’re just smarter about it. We love veggies and pineapple on the grill too.
    Another thing we are vigilant about when it comes to grilling is the grill brush. Those bristles have sent people to the hospital! You have to check your grill for bristles before putting your meat or veggies on.
    Also: CHECK YOUR BULK MEAT. I’m not into buying ground meat in bulk, especially if it’s not organic. Sometimes the meat manufactures will have meat packed from different states or COUNTRIES! That doesn’t seem right to me.
    Great post, Caryn!
    XOXO
    Mrs. AOK recently posted…Bring In May With the Mommy Monday Blog Hop {198}

    • Thanks for the thoughtful conversation. I had NO idea about the grill brushes. It totally makes sense and now I’m thinking about how we can change ours. We don’t eat a lot of meat. I’m vegan, so clearly I don’t…but even my family keeps it minimal. They eat salmon, turkey burgers (organic) on the grill. Good for you for giving Texas BBQ a make-over.

  3. I read this and thought, “Wow, my husband must have learned from her!” He says the same things. He’s great at grilling. I’m so glad he’s doing things the healthier way, especially with vegetables and grill brushes.
    Tamara recently posted…Spring Cleaning With Bioré.

    • That’s awesome that he grills healthy. It’s so easy to do and takes the same amount of time, really. I’m so excited for summer to grill every night. We try to do it in the winter, because it’s easy. But it’s so much more relaxing when it’s actually warm out.

  4. I like this! My husband is king of the grill. The dude has so many awesome sauce veggie and meat grilling tricks up his sleeve and truthfully I am so very happy when he cooks this way. Less clean up and it is so delish. :)
    Jen recently posted…Seventeen Thoughts I Have While Shopping For Swimsuits

  5. I really really want to grill dinner tonight! Hoping the fiance is in the mood to do the same! :D

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