Healthy Barbecue: Do’s and Don’ts at Barbecues

Healthy Barbecue: Do’s and Don’ts at Barbecues

With Memorial Day approaching, it’s time to get ready for the upcoming season: summer and the favorite American pastime that accompanies it: cooking on the grill. Grilling is a common way to cook meat and vegetables, but many people may not realize that there are healthy and unhealthy ways to light up the grill and the foods we eat with it. Carolyn Lammersfeld, MBA, MSc, RD, CSO, LD, vice president of integrative medicine at Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA), answers some key questions about how to make barbecue a healthy choice.

Q: First things first: Is grilling safe?

a. Grilling can sometimes be a healthy cooking method, but you need to be careful. Anytime you cook food at high temperatures, especially red and processed meat, carcinogens can form. Processed meat contains compounds known to be carcinogenic. When red meat is cooked at high temperatures, it can form compounds linked to the development of cancer. Especially when grilling on charcoal, not only can carcinogens develop in the meat, but the fat can splatter from the meat, causing smoke and smoke to erupt, which can lead to the spread of carcinogens in the food. As a safer first step, I recommend using a charcoal gas grill. If you choose to use charcoal, use lean meat.

Q: How can we prevent meat juices and fat from dripping onto a flame or heat?

A- Start by thawing frozen meat before cooking. Pre-cook meat in the microwave for up to 90 seconds to reduce juices, or saute or oven-cook meat before grilling. Avoid flattening the pancakes while they are cooking and instead turn them over often. Cook all meat on tin foil, in aluminum foil packets, or raise the cooking surface on the grill as far away from the heat as possible.

I also recommend grilling at the lowest temperature possible to prevent burning, which can also increase the risk of exposure to carcinogenic compounds. But if it gets burned, you can eat around those parts, too. Marinating meat can also reduce the formation of carcinogens when grilling.

Q: Should we avoid roasting meat altogether?

a. There is no need. However, your best options are grilled fruit or vegetable kabobs with tofu, or lean meats, such as chicken and fish, on the grill. When it comes to meat in general, eat processed meat in moderation. As a general rule, don’t eat meat more than four times a week and make sure the meat is no larger than the size of a deck of cards or the palm of your hand.

If you’re grilling meat, use a marinade to reduce carcinogens and eliminate fat. Lentils, beans, and soy products are also a great source of protein. If you’re not familiar with these foods, try incorporating one vegetarian meal into your diet each week, and then increase the amount from there. For comparison, a cup of cooked beans contains an average of 15 grams of protein, which is roughly equivalent to 2 ounces of animal protein.

Q: Are there any additional tips you can provide?

A: I encourage cancer patients, and people in general, to focus on a vegan diet and exercise so that they can maintain a healthy weight and quality of life. A cancer diagnosis shouldn’t change your focus on healthy eating. However, just as every person is different, every cancer process and every cancer treatment process is different. If patients have an appetite due to their treatments, we encourage them to eat more meat, but also to add more fruits and vegetables to help protect their system. We would prefer the patient to eat red and processed meat than to have his muscles broken due to lack of nutrition. Muscle breakdown can also affect the immune system, so patients should eat enough calories and protein to maintain muscle mass and stay strong during treatment.

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