Memorial Day Weekend is the official kickoff of the grilling season, but July 4th is really party time. As you prepare for fun with family and friends, here are a few tips to feed your hunger in healthy ways, plus a quiz to test your grilling IQ.
- Mix It Up: Make veggies the stars of your spread, along with seafood and leaner, smaller cuts of meat. You’ll reduce calories — and cooking time. Grilled asparagus brushed with olive oil is especially tasty. You can place them directly on the rack or in a grill basket, which works for almost any vegetable.
- Make a Marinade: Spicing up your meat with marinades apparently puts antioxidants to work, reducing the formation of carcinogens known as HCAs by up to 96 percent, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR). HCAs, or heterocyclic amines, can cause DNA changes that increase cancer risk.
- Cut the Chemicals: Try to avoid lighter fluid and standard briquettes to reduce exposure to chemicals. Switch to cleaner charcoal, such as the lumps of charred wood without additives. And Weber makes a small chimney starter for grilling.
- Go for a Good Burn: Cook at the right temperature for the best results and to prevent sticking. Start by preheating your grill for 15 to 25 minutes. You can also check the temperature of food with a thermo-fork.
- Bar the Char: Some of us love our grilled meat extra crispy with a little bit — OK a lot — of char. So don’t tell your grill master to “burn it.” That burn comes with extra PAHs, short for another carcinogen, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.
- Beware the grill brush: A 2016 study found that more than 1600 people a year end up in the emergency room because they have accidently eaten eaten bits from a metal grill brush.
- Protect the Potato Salad: And we don’t mean from your cousin. Keep potato salad refrigerated or on ice so that it’s below 40 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent food poisoning from Salmonella, the Centers for Disease Control advises.
Understanding the Meat of the Matter
Wondering why you should cut back on ribs, steak and other grilled meat? Here’s the alphabet soup answer: AICR warns that “substances in the muscle proteins of red meat, poultry and seafood react under high heat” to form HCAs and PAHs, causing changes in your DNA.
These changes have been associated with stomach and colon cancer. The risk is higher for red meat and processed meat, such as hot dogs and hamburgers. The high heat reacts with amino acids and creatine, a chemical in the muscle of meat.
What you can do to minimize exposure to carcinogens:
- Pre-cook meat in your kitchen before placing it on the grill.
- Cut back on the portion sizes that you eat.
- Cook smaller pieces to shorten grilling time.
- Flip meat frequently.
- Trim fat or use leaner cuts to prevent flare-ups and charring.
About Fierce Fridays — Tips for Weekend Well-Being
We each cherish those precious days off at the end of the week, but increasingly those of us who are charter members of the sisterhood of the stressed and overworked are losing our Saturday and Sunday leisure time to weekend work and domestic duties.
To make sure that you do something every weekend that’s just for you, we’ll be sharing a little advice to make those 48 hours a great time to recharge your batteries, bring a little good news into your life, or discover a quick and easy way to improve your health.