Summer is in full swing and it’s time for fun with family and friends at backyard barbecues! What’s better than enjoying nice weather, time with loved ones, and delicious summertime eats and drinks?
But beware – all that deliciousness can have significant health impacts. It’s not only about the extra calories, but also the cancer-causing substances that form when meat is grilled at high temperatures.
One study, published in the Journal of Cancer Research, found that people who ate well-done meat on a regular basis were 60 percent more likely to get pancreatic cancer!
But backyard cooking doesn’t have to be hazardous to your health or your weight. Follow our tips to minimize your risk and enjoy grilled foods and side dishes that are flavorful, safe and nutritious!
1. Use herbs in rubs or marinades
Antioxidant-packed herbs such as thyme, sage, rosemary and garlic will not only boost flavor, but they’ll cut down on carcinogen formation as well.
2. Protect meat from smoke
When fat drips onto flames, the smoke that flares up can increase carcinogen formation. To protect the meat:
● Choose leaner cuts of meat and/or trim all visible fat.
● Don’t place meat directly over coals. (Once coals are hot, push them to the side.)
● Wrap meat in foil or place a metal pan between the meat and the coals to catch the dripping fat.
3. Cut down on grill time
The faster foods are cooked, the less likely they'll develop dangerous charring. To reduce grilling time:
● Cube or slice meat into smaller portions.
● Choose quicker-cooking options, like shrimp or fish.
● Oven-roast or pan-sear before placing it on the grill.
4. Scrape charred parts off the cooked meat before eating.
5. Grill veggies & fruit!
Grilled produce offers that same hot-off-the-grill taste without the carcinogens.
● To cut back on meat consumption, make kebabs with half veggies & half meat.
● Try grilled corn on the cob, eggplant, zucchini or Portobello mushrooms.
Keep the meal healthy!
6. Fill up on healthy side dishes.
● Raw veggies provide the same satisfying crunch as chips, but without all the fat, calories, and preservatives.
● Go for green salad and fruit salad rather than the coleslaw, potato salad & macaroni salad.
7. Use whole grain buns.
Instead of your standard hamburger or hot dog bun, try a whole grain version.
8. Choose condiments wisely.
Mustard, salsa & ketchup all add flavor without the extra calories and fat in mayonnaise-heavy sauces.
9. Be aware of your beverage choices.
It’s ok to enjoy a beer or glass of wine, but the calories add up quickly if you have more than one. Quench your thirst with plenty of water or mineral water and keep consumption of alcohol, sodas and juice to a minimum.
For a truly memorable occasion: spend more time enjoying conversations, games and activities and less time focusing on food & drinks.