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Healthy Grilling

You can have your barbecue and eat it too. The American Cancer Society believes a varied diet – important for lowering cancer risks – can include occasional cookouts. These tips will help you minimize the risk and maximize the benefits from barbecued or grilled foods.

  • Leave meats on the grill for as little time as possible to cook through and as far away from the heat sources as you can. Charring can create carcinogens (cancer-causing substances).
  • Use foil or a drip pan. When fat from the meat falls onto coals, chips, heating element, or flames, the smoke causes carcinogens, which can land on food.
  • Choose low-fat cuts of meat for your cookout. Trim away as much of the fat and skin as possible.
  • Buy charcoal made from hardwood. Soft woods burn at higher temperatures.
  • Think of barbecuing/grilling as a way to finish the cooking and add special flavor, but not as a complete cooking method. Baking, boiling, or microwaving the meat first will mean less time on the grill while eliminating some of the fat.
  • Pre-cook chicken or other meats in a Louisiana-style crab pot to add flavor and reduce time on the grill. If you don’t pre-cook meats, make sure they’re completely thawed first to reduce cooking time and prevent charring.
  • Marinate your meats in mixtures without oil or fat, or reduce fat and oil in your recipes. This prevents fat from dripping into the heat source and lowers your total calories. Tomatoes, vinegar, and lemon or lime juice make good marinade bases.
  • Try fresh garlic or ginger on meats and fresh dill on fish. Fresh or fried herbs and spices add lots of flavor without adding fat.
  • Skewer your meat – you’ll use smaller pieces to reduce cooking time and fat intake. Alternate vegetable chunks (tomatoes, bell peppers, summer squash, onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn) with the meat.
  • Serve grilled vegetables as the main dish. Toss them with pasta, herbs, and a sprinkle of lemon juice.
  • Try grilling a pizza.
  • Turn your cookout into a salad bar. Put out as many salad ingredients as possible and cut up grilled meats to serve on top of your salad.
With proper cooking techniques, careful menu choices, and a variety of foods, your friends and family can enjoy the delicious tradition of the summer cookout.