Your Grill Guide for Healthy Summer Eating

Keep your barbecue healthy and zesty by making easy substitutions, tweaking your grilling technique and combining fresh ingredients in surprising ways. And always follow these food safety tips.

Turn Down the Heat

Grilled meat is a source of the carcinogen (cancer-causing compound) heterocyclic amine (HCA), which forms when proteins in meats (including pork, poultry and fish) are exposed to high heat.

When fats and juices drip onto the hot fire, flare-ups can deposit the chemical onto meat surfaces. The good news: You can easily avoid the risk by reducing the heat. Grill meat on glowing embers instead of high flames or lower gas heat from high to medium.

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Don't overcook your dish. Use a meat thermometer to monitor the temperature and remove beef, pork or lamb when it reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit; chicken breasts and hotdogs at 165 to 170 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cooked meats should be kept hot (at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit) until served. You can set it to the side of the grill, or in a warm oven (set to 200 degrees Fahrenheit). When you're ready to serve, use a new platter and utensils; the juices from raw meat can contain the bacteria salmonella, a common cause of food poisoning.

Marinate it First

A study from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory showed that marinating chicken before grilling it for just 40 minutes with brown sugar, olive oil, cider vinegar, garlic, lemon juice, mustard and salt cut HCA production by 92 percent.

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Plus, marinades make lean cuts of meat much tastier and they're easy to whip up. All you need is an acid-based liquid—wine, vinegar, citrus juice, tomatoes—a little bit of healthy fat (like olive oil) and some seasonings.

Toss in freshly chopped oregano, parsley, thyme and rosemary in place of salt to keep the sodium count low. Chopped onion and garlic will also add flavor. To prevent contamination, marinate meat in a container in the fridge instead of on the countertop.

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