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Grilling: Prioritizing These 5 Healthy Tips
Friday, June 19th, 2009

Here I am.  My wonderful friends gone back to beautiful California.  A sick child at home.  House-hunting. Working.  A funeral to attend.  Kids summer vacation starting.  You name it I had it.  I knew this week would be busy and then life happened on top of that.

I had carefully weighed my priorities and still found myself caught between a rock and hard spot. 

“Quality time with kids or cook a homemade meal? Do I work or go sight-seeing with out-of-town friends? Wake up early and exercise or get my much-needed sleep?”

Quite frankly, prioritizing can be challenging despite knowing what we value and consider important.  As I sat at my desk I thought, “Am I prioritizing in a healthy fashion?”

Julie Morgenstern’s famous 4 D’s (delete, diminish, delegate, and delay) usually help me with my daily priority list but the trick is to master prioritizing.

In my opinion, prioritizing is kind of like grilling.  Depending on how you do it can be healthy or not so healthy.

When you eat grilled foods there is a risk of ingesting carcinogens, heterocyclic amines (HCAs), especially with processed meats like hot dogs, red meat or any type of well-done meats.  Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), a different class of compounds, are formed in the smoke from flare-ups on the grill. These carcinogens get deposited on the outside of meat.

But what if you have a “grill expert” in the family and grilling is a source of enjoyment for you and others?

Have no fear there are several easy, yet important steps to minimize carcinogens when you grill.  In fact, you can decrease carcinogens significantly with one important thing…

Marination baby.

That’s right.  Although scientists are still figuring out which specific ingredients may be best for decreasing HCAs and PAHs we know that a simple marinade can reduce the carcinogen formation by 96%.  In general, meats are best cooked at lower temperatures.  Try methods like stewing, oven roasting or pan fry over low heat.  This can decrease the HCAs by three times.

But you love to grill and it is a priority for you especially with Father’s Day and Fourth of July around the corner and grilling season officially started.  In that case, get out the gas grills but keep the gas low or wait for the embers to fizzle down and be low-burning before you start grilling your meats and enjoy while taking these precautions listed below..

5 Healthy Grilling Tips

1.  Make sure to raise the grill surface as far away from the heat/fire

2.  Marinate your meats prior to grilling and then flip them about every 1-2 minutes (decreases carcinogens formation)

3.  Change what you grill:  go for leaner meats like more for seafood, fish, chicken  which result in less fat drips, flare ups and smoke (hence less PAHs & HCAs formation)

4.  Try grilling vegetables and fruits – (they don’t form HCAs or PAHs when they are grilled)

5.  Minimize how much black char you eat since it is a high in these carcinogens

Remember the more grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits you eat the better for you.  Check out my colleague, Jill Nussinow, MS, RD aka the “Veggie Queen” latest book for great cooking tips for vegetables.  Also try this Grilled Fruit Kebab recipe for this Father’s Day Weekend or other up-coming summer events.

This Quick-Marinated Shrimp Kebabs is another great dish for special events.  If you want something “meaty” consider replacing the usual “steak” with a tuna steak and try this Grilled Ginger Tuna recipe.

Here’s to taking those small but important steps in prioritizing and grilling and making a big difference in your quality of your life.

What Do You Enjoy Grilling?

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