August has arrived in the PNW, and with it warm evenings and golden orange sunsets. Now’s the time of year to be outside as much as possible. That means spending time in the kitchen cooking (and sweating, because who has AC here?) is not high on the priority list. Not to worry. We’ve got all the tips you’ll need to create a delicious feast on your favorite outdoor grill—without sacrificing your health.
There are often concerns regarding food safety and health risks related to grilled foods. However, there are many ways to make grilling a healthy, safe, and delicious way to eat. It’s all about the foods you choose, preparation, and cooking methods.
Does grilling food increase cancer risk?
Studies of have shown that there is an increased risk of developing cancer with consumption of charred grilled foods. This is due to the formation of two main substances: Heterocyclic Amines (HCA) and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH). When the fats and proteins of a meat or poultry product are heated at high temperatures to the point of being browned or blackened, carcinogens form. This can happen with all forms of cooking, not just grilling.
HOWEVER, this risk can be greatly reduced with a few simple steps. First, cook at lower temperatures by using charcoal briquettes or hardwood chips from hickory and maple. Second, the use of marinades that contain olive oil and citrus juices (such as lemon or lime) can minimize the formation of these cancer-causing substances by as much as 99%. Marinate foods for at least one hour before cooking. Marinades also add a lot of flavor and juiciness to any grilled item—whether it’s eggplant or chicken. Thirdly, reduce the formation of HCAs by cooking with herbs from the lamiaceae family. These herbs include basil, mint, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and sage. Fresh herbs can easily be chopped and added to any marinade.
Grill Prep & Cooking Tips!
General Safety Guidelines for Choosing, Storing, and Cooking
When shopping, pick your meat products right before checkout. Make sure the packages feel cold to the touch and are not torn. To protect against contamination, put raw goods into individual plastic bags and store in the cart away from produce.
When transferring, use an insulated cooler to keep meat below 40F. Use ground meats and poultry within 1-2 days, and other products within 5 days. Store on the bottom shelf of your fridge. If storing for a longer period of time, wrap in freezer paper or plastic and store at 0F. Raw meat, poultry, or any other perishable food should not be left out at room temperature for longer than two hours.
It is important to use a thermometer to check temperatures of meat and poultry. Cooking to the proper temperature destroys harmful bacteria that may be present. Once the food has reached temperature keep it hot until serving at 140F or warmer. If storing for later consumption, put in refrigerator right after cooking for up to 3-4 days, or freezer up to four months.
Internal Cooking Temperatures
Finally, remember to cook meats separate from produce and always wash hands before and after handling raw foods. Now go and enjoy the outdoors with some grilled foods!
Prawns with Garlic & Smoked Paprika
Nutrition per 4 ounces: 117 Calories; 2g Fat; 20g Protein; 3.5g Carbohydrates; 0g Fiber; 426mg Sodium
Grilled Soy-Ginger Glazed Tofu
Nutrition per 4 ounces tofu: 172 Calories; 10g Fat; 12g Protein; 11g Carbohydrates; 0.5g Fiber; 288mg Sodium
Grilled Watermelon Salad
Nutrition per serving: 156 Calories; 6g Fat; 3.5g Protein; 25g Carbohydrates; 1g Fiber; 405mg Sodium
Jamaican Jerk Grilled Eggplant
Nutrition per serving: 74 Calories; 3.5g Fat; 2g Protein; 10g Carbohydrates; 3g Fiber; 270mg Sodium
~Kelsy, Dietetic intern
1. Take Advantage of Coupons and Specials
Check out your local newspaper or grocery store mailings to find out which stores are having sales and when. Explore company websites and apps for coupons. Using store coupons can be a great way to save money! Also, look for in-store deals like "manager's specials" or day-old baked goods that are close to their expiration date.
2. Buy in bulk
Foods tend to be quite a bit cheaper when bought in bulk. You can increase savings by buying bulk items when they are on sale. Non-perishable foods like grains, pastas, nuts and seeds, canned goods and spices can all be bought in bulk and kept in your pantry for an extended period of time. Try freezing grains, flours, and nuts and seeds to make them last even longer. You can also buy larger quantities of meat when it is on sale to keep in your freezer. Fruits, vegetables and other frozen items can also be bought in bulk and kept in your freezer.
3. Pick foods that are in season
Fruits and vegetables change price throughout the year according to seasonality. Fruits and vegetables are typically much cheaper when they are in season. Melons, peaches, tomatoes and berries tend to be cheaper during the summer months whereas squash and potatoes are usually cheaper in the fall and winter months. Your food dollars will stretch farther when you buy fruits and vegetables in season. In addition to being cheaper, fresh fruits and vegetables are usually more flavorful when they are in season.
4. Use store loyalty cards and choose store brand items
Most major grocery stores have loyalty cards that give the user special offers and discounts in addition to other coupons. Along with signing up for grocery store loyal programs, consider choosing store-brand food items instead of name-brand food items. Most grocery stores sell store-brand food items that are comparable (and sometimes better than) name-brand food items. The store brands use the exact same ingredients but cost significantly less. Grocery stores have frequent sales on their store brand items.
5. Consider canned or frozen vegetables
Not only can frozen and canned foods be less expensive than fresh but sometimes canned and frozen foods are easier to prepare. They can also be more nutritious than fruits and vegetables that are not in season because the canned and frozen foods are packaged when they are perfectly ripe. Canned and frozen fruits and vegetables also last much longer in your pantry or freezer than fresh fruits and vegetables. It is common for canned or frozen vegetables to have added sodium so be sure to check the nutrition label. The only ingredients should be the actual fruit or vegetable and sometimes water. Look for products that say "no salt added" or "reduced sodium."
6. Make recipes with less expensive proteins
Plan recipes that use less expensive proteins like chicken thighs, bone-in chicken, canned tuna, pork shoulder or chuck steak. Meat that tends to me more expensive like fresh fish, chicken breast, pork loin or strip steak will go on sale so be sure to watch newspapers and mailings for coupons or sales.
Farmer's Market Summer Soup
Makes 4 servings
Nutrition per serving: 200 Calories; 14g Fat; 3g Protein; 17g Carbohydrates; 4g Fiber; 197mg Sodium
~Sara, Dietetic intern
A place for our consultant Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) to share nutrition science, yummy and healthy recipes, tips on seasonal ingredients, and other nutritional musings. Enjoy!