Grilling food outdoors is one of the great pleasures of summer. Here are some tips for making healthy meals on the grill.
Cooking over an open flame is such a relaxing way to prepare foods – everything looks, tastes and smells great, and cleanup is usually a breeze. And, generally speaking, grilling is a pretty healthy way to prepare meat, fish and poultry. Grilling also seems to bring people together – ever notice how everyone seems to gather around the barbecue when foods are cooking?
For all it has going for it, though, there are a few downsides to typical barbecue-type meals that you may want to consider. First, many people choose fattier cuts of meat for grilling, but those can add significantly more calories, fat and saturated fat to your meal than leaner cuts. And many of the traditional side dishes that are often served at a barbecue – like potato salad, coleslaw and baked beans – can drive up the calorie count of the meal, too.
The last thing to consider is that cooking meat, fish or poultry over extremely high heat increases your exposure to certain chemical compounds that may be damaging to your health. Compounds called HCAs are formed when meat, fish or poultry is exposed to high heat cooking. Other compounds (known as PAHs) form when fat and juices from meat fall into the open flame, creating smoke. The smoke rises, brings the PAHs with it, and clings to the meat’s surface.
The good news is that you can make meals healthier by starting with the right cuts of meat and paying a bit more attention to preparation. You can also make some healthy swaps for traditional side dishes, and even dessert. Here are some tips for healthier meals from the grill: