Healthy BBQ Tips

Summer is on its way and that means BBQ season too! Not only is it a nice option to have your cooking done outdoors to keep your house a little cooler, but it also provides a wonderful flavour profile for foods.

While we love to barbeque, we keep in mind that there are certain health risks that accompany firing up the BBQ. When meat (such as beef, pork, fish etc.) is cooked at high temperatures over an open flame, heterocyclic amines (HCA) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are produced. These are chemicals that have been linked to increased cancer risk. However, keep in mind that although this has been identified repeatedly in research, much of this was done in animal models as it is difficult to estimate how many HCAs and PAH’s are present in grilled foods.

Generally, the recommendation is to avoid eating charred food and limit cooking time. With that being said practicing food safety does require reaching certain internal temperatures for different types of meat, so limiting cooking time is not always an option. Remember to use a cooking thermometer at the thickest part of the meat to ensure the proper internal temperature has been reached. Consider partially cooking meat prior to barbecuing to reduce the exposure to the open flame or trial a BBQ grill mat to limit direct contact with the flame. Also, remove charred sections of meat when possible to limit the intake of these compounds.

Trial barbecuing other items that may new to you, which do not carry the same health risks as grilled meats. For example, toss cubes of peppers, asparagus, onions and zucchini in some oil and your favorite seasoning and BBQ for 10-15 minutes on low heat. Fruit can also be barbecued and can make a unique dessert option for those warm summer nights. Keep in mind that alternating cooking techniques for meat is a great place to start to still enjoy the flavours of summer while keeping your health at the forefront.

By Barbara Winzeler – Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist