10 Tips for Healthy Grilling

by | Jun 21, 2022 | Wellness

Hello summer, and hello BBQ season!  Who doesn’t love a great barbecue on a beautiful summer day?  But did you know that there are health risks to grilling? And could you eating too much?

We know that consuming excess red meat, particularly meat that is high in saturated fats or of a processed nature, can increase risk of chronic disease. Not to mention that grilling increases our exposure Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) and Heterocyclic Amines (HCAs) – chemical compounds formed when fat and meat are grilled at high temperatures.  These compounds increase free radical activity in your body and are potentially carcinogenic.

But grilling is a quintessential part of an enjoyable summer. So, I am keeping it real and offering up a delicious compromise. With a dash of moderation, you can savour your BBQ AND reduce your risk.

#1 All about the protein – choose lean, plant based and include fish!

Choose lean skinless cuts of meat and poultry. Trim visible fats and let it drip away while cooking. Homemade burgers made with quality lean meat have fewer additives and less salt.  You can go lean with a turkey burger or chicken breast.  Also be sure to Include fish like salmon and halibut or a skewer of shrimp.  You may not think of these as a go-to for your grill but they are delicious, healthy and full of health supporting protein and fats.

Amazing plant-based proteins for the grill include grilled marinated tofu (trust me, its yummy!), portabella mushrooms and lentil or black bean burgers.

If you are choosing to treat yourself with red meat or sausage, choose sustainably raised and grass-fed if available.  Check out a local butcher or meat shop who may have some interesting options.  You may pay a little more for better quality but a slightly smaller cut can offset the price (and leave a little extra room for veggies!).

#2 Grill on skewers. Reduce toxic HCAs and PAHs by choosing smaller cuts of meat that cook more quickly or cut your meat in cubes and grill on a skewer with some veggies.

#3 Marinate your meat before cooking which will reduces the formation of harmful chemicals and add nutrients, antioxidants and flavor! This will also reduce the amount salt needed to season your meal, just be sure to use healthy oils, such as olive oil, in your marinades and dressings.

#4 Portion Control.  Stick to a 4 – 6 ounce portion of animal protein. This leaves room for healthy sides to balance your meal and maintain your summer glow.

#5 Choose healthy sides with lots of color.   Avoid store-made salads like coleslaw or macaroni in favor of healthier home-made versions.  Antioxidants give veggies their beautiful colour so adding red, yellow and green to your meal is your best defense against all things free-radical. Choose a leafy salad, grilled veggies or upgrade your potato to a sweet potato.  With a grilling basket, anything is possible!  My favorite vegetables to grill are tomatoes, asparagus, carrot, cauliflower, onions, peppers, purple cabbage, mushroom and zucchini.

#6 Keep your grill clean & control flare ups.   Use a water bottle to spray down the flare ups. This will reduce the formation of these potentially carcinogenic compounds.

# 7 Choose healthy carbs.   Swap the typical hamburger bun for a sourdough bun or lettuce wrap.  Upgrade the white potato for more nutrient dense options like sweet potato, or grilled veggies. If you have digestive issues like heartburn or bloating, pairing your meat with a non-starchy vegetable is always a good idea.

#8 Skip processed condiments like barbeque sauce and opt for sauerkraut, a fresh chimichurri or pesto to top your meat.  This will help cut down on salt, sugar and all the unwanted additives and unhealthy oils found in bottled dressings and sauces.   Plus, the herbs add fresh contrast and plenty of antioxidants to help your body deal with any inflammation that comes with that juicy steak!

#9 Cheers to good gut health!  If a cold beverage is in order enjoy kombucha or even an unpasteurized craft beer. Fermented beverages provide probiotics that support gut health. Red wine is also a fermented food that is high in antioxidants and polyphenols which will nourish both you and your gut bacteria.

#10 Grill with your health goals in mind. 

Whether you are eating to support your hormones, increase energy or improve mental health go for the same diversity on your deck as you would in your kitchen.  A great BBQ can add flare to your menu and support your health.  Just remember to select a healthy protein, keep the spirit of plant-based eating in mind and follow the 80 / 20 rule.  This means 4 out of 5 BBQs should be lean, green and follow these 10 tips.

And for the 1 out of 5 barbecues that serve sticky lip-smacking ribs or juicy jumbo sausage – don’t over think it…Just enjoy!



Amanda Janes, Natural Nutrition Clinical Practitioner is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist practising in Conception Bay South, NL. As a cancer survivor and busy Mom of 4 she knows how vital (and challenging!) good nutrition can be. Her passion is helping her clients overcome obstacles to healthy eating in ways that are practical and delicious. Contact her today: amanda@conceptnutrition.ca


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