Healthy Grilling

Nontraditional barbecue ideas, including recipes for grilled vegetables and grilled fish on cold tomato vinaigrette.

  • grilling
    Substitute fish or poultry for more fatty meats.
    Photo by Adobestock/mishadp
  • grilling
    Grilling vegetables is a tasty and healthy way to enjoy cooking outdoors in the summer.

  • grilling
  • grilling

Willling as many of us are to make some changes in our eating habits in order to improve our health, along comes summer grilling, and all bets are off: In this country, cooking out means hot dogs, hamburgers and steaks.

But the people who worry about the amount of fat in our diets would prefer that we choose something else to cook outdoors. To tell the truth, they'd just as soon we cut back on charcoal grilling, period.

As the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says in its brochure Diet, Nutrition and Cancer Prevention, "You don't have to give up any of the foods you like to protect against cancer risks. The idea is to choose more often the foods that may reduce your risk of cancer. Changing the way you prepare your favorite foods also may help."

In the less-often category are fatty foods and charcoal broiling—especially charcoal-broiled meats, which, on the grill, create compounds thought to be carcinogenic. According to the American Institute of Cancer Research, however, "there is no evidence that the occasional summer cookout will increase cancer risk, particularly when done in accordance with other tips in this brochure." Those include the following:

  • Eat less meat. Since high levels of fat and protein found in meat may be associated with increased risk of cancer, the amount of meat you eat can be as important as how you cook it.
  • Select meats low in fat. The more fat in charcoal-broiled meat, the greater the production of carcinogens. Trim off excess fat.
  • Substitute fish or poultry (with skin and fat removed) for more fatty meats.
  • Cook the meat until done, without charring it.
  • Remove any charred material that does form on the food.
  • Don't overcook.
  • Discourage flare-ups. Burning juice or fat adds nothing to the charcoal flavor of food but can produce harmful smoke.

Fortunately, it's no hardship to follow these recommendations. Ask any fisherman about freshly caught fish, its sweetness enhanced by a light smoking over charcoal. Charcoal grilling performs the same magic on vegetables.

Not counting the time it takes for the fire to reach the proper temperature—usually 30 minutes—preparation and cooking take 20 minutes or less. The vegetables are cut so that they cook quickly. And the shorter the time they are exposed to the fire and smoke, the less smoke they absorb.

Alvin Schlangen
7/30/2012 5:38:56 PM

Why on earth would mother earth news be sourcing food info from the DOH and other government propaganda? Healthy fats are an absolute necessity as are healthy meats. It's a sad day when mainstream B.S. is reprinted by alternative news!

Que Areste
7/30/2012 5:24:12 PM

Be careful if you want to add a smoked flavor to your grilled veggies. Some, like mushrooms do not taste good when smoked. My nephew, a chef, gave us a tip at a family bar-b-que. Grill apple slices first, then the veggies. The apple slices will give the veggies a subtle sweetness.

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