Today’s post is brought to you by Camille, intern with dailyServing and Katie Goldberg, RD.
Summer is the perfect time to fire up the barbie and invite your family and friends over for a cookout. What better way to enjoy the beautiful weather than with good company and good food? This summer, I’ve seen more friends using their grill regularly – not just on special occasions. Grilling is a tasty way to cook just about anything, and throwing your favorite foods on the grill is much healthier than many fried alternatives that are offered at parties. But it is important to be mindful of a few health implications that go along with that delicious smoky flavor and smell.
Meats such as beef, fish, pork, and poultry – especially those with a substantial amount of visible fat – produce potentially carcinogenic components when exposed to high cooking temperatures. These components, which reside in the charred material you see on grilled meats, are called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heterocyclic amines (HCAs). PAHs form when animal fat drips into the grill, creating flames and smoke, which are then absorbed back into the meat. HCAs are produced when the amino acids in the proteins react to temperatures above 300°F.
In trace amounts, these compounds likely won’t hurt you, but researchers at the National Cancer Institute have found a relationship between regular consumption of meats cooked at high temperatures and presence of colorectal, pancreatic, and prostatic cancers. Bottom line: grilling on special occasions is fun, but if you’re going to make it a weeknight habit, try following these few tips to get the most health benefits out of your grilled meal.
Reduce the meat
Let produce be the star of the meal! Fruits and veggies, which rarely contain fat, are delicious when marinated and grilled. Eggplant slices, tofu, or portabella mushrooms make great burger substitutes on a toasted bun.
Ever had a Grilled Romaine Salad? This fresh summer dish can be paired with a baked chicken breast or topped with a hardboiled egg for protein.
Grilled Cajun-spiced pineapple, watermelon, or plantains can be versatile sides. Produce cooked on the grill actually retains more vitamins and minerals than other cooking methods such as boiling.
Reduce the fat
Choose cuts of meat with little visible fat. Look for cuts with less marbling, and then trim off excess fat before hitting the grill.
By wrapping your meat in foil, you can help lock in flavor without the risk of the fat dropping into the flames.
Reduce grill time
Consider indirect heat by using a grill pan or foil to reduce the exposure of your meat to those high cooking temperatures.
Cut your meat into smaller pieces to reduce the time needed to cook. Shish kabobs are a fun and colorful way to cook meats and veggies in smaller portions. Alternate chicken with cherry tomatoes, onion and zucchini slices to get a colorful and healthy main dish that cooks in half the time.
Try two different cooking methods. Pre-cook meats in the microwave or oven to reduce grill-time. Or, give a quick sear on the grill and then finish up inside. This will reduce the time it is exposed to high heat will also reduce the formation of PAHs and HCAs.
Trying new grilling recipes brings fun to your outdoor cooking! This grilled salad is a quick new twist on an old favorite.
Grilled Romaine Salad
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- ½ tsp crushed fresh garlic
- 2 tsp Dijon or whole grain mustard
- 1 tsp sugar
- ½ tsp black pepper
- ¼ tsp salt
- 3 romaine hearts, trimmed and halved lengthwise
- 3 Tbs olive oil
- salt & pepper, to taste
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, skewered
- ½ cup blue cheese
- 6 eggs, hard boiled and sliced
- Prepare salad dressing by whisking all ingredients together. Set aside.
- Preheat the grill to medium high heat.
- Toss romaine hearts in olive oil and lightly season with salt & pepper. Brush skewered cherry tomatoes with remaining olive oil and lightly season with salt & pepper.
- Place romaine hearts and skewered cherry tomatoes directly on the grill, in one layer. Cook for about 3 minutes on each side. Remove from heat.
- Divide romaine and tomatoes among 6 plates.
- Top each salad with 4 tsp cheese, 1 egg, and 4 tsp of dressing.*
*This recipe is great because it allows you to incorporate whatever salad toppings you choose! Feel free to get creative, and use up what you have in the fridge. For instance, if you’d rather have meat on the salad, try adding poached chicken on top instead of the egg. You can substitute the cherry tomatoes for zucchini or peppers, or the blue cheese with feta or cheddar. Nutrition info below is for the recipe as noted above.
Camille is a Dietetic intern working with dailyServing, LLC and Katie Goldberg, RD as part of her supervised practice hours. She is also earning her MBA from Dominican University’s Brennan School of Business and one day hopes to change consumer nutrition choices through affective and informative marketing and education. Camille is an alumna of Ohio University in Athens, Ohio and is passionate about cooking, running, traveling, and supporting animal welfare.