Healthy Grilling: Steak and grilled watermelon

Written by  Facing Cancer Together
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Grilling has received a bit of a bad reputation due to recent studies that show that grilling can expose the food to two separate carcinogens, or cancer-causing agents.  So, does this mean we should ban grilled food forever? No! The good news is that there are healthy ways to grill that can help you minimize your risk and enjoy grilled foods that are both flavorful and nutritious!

marykayePinnacleHealth’s Dietitian Marykaye Flatley, RD, LDN and Harrisburg Hospital/Sodexo’s Executive Chef Paul Gusst to show us the way!

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are found in the smoke created when fat drips from meat. And, the second carcinogen, heterocyclic amines (HCAs), develops in meats that are cooked over extreme high heat. One study shows that people who consume well-done meat on a regular basis are 60% more likely to get pancreatic cancer. And, longer cooking times may increase risk for stomach, lung, and breast cancer.  

On the menu: Grilled steak with Montreal seasoning over grilled red onion, mixed veggies, corn, grilled watermelon on a feta cheese & spinach salad

Watch the video below to learn how you can make this delicious menu at home! And, you don’t have to be a chef to make it!

grillBelow are some of Marykaye and Paul’s top grilling secrets for flavorful, nutritious, and safe meals:

  1. Keep your grill clean. A clean grill not only cooks better but it also reduces the amount of carcinogens that will form on your food. 
  2. Trim the fat for a heart-healthy portion of meat. Also, excess fat on meat can drip down and cause flare-ups. Flare-ups must be avoided as they increase 2 dangerous carcinogens: HCAs and PAHs are formed either by fat being heated to extreme temperatures or by the smoke created by fat burning.
  3. Another way to reduce the amount of HCAs and PAHs that end up in, and on, the meat, slow down the cooking time with a low flame and keep burning and charring to a minimum.
  4. Choose lean cuts of meats like loin, choice or round cuts and avoid prime cuts that are high in fat. Chicken, fish and shrimp make for great low-fat grilling options. Marykaye adds that 99% fat-free ground turkey makes a great burger.
  5. Don't overcook foods. The charred bits on foods are the largest sources of PAHs and HCAs so if you have charred sections of meat cut them off.
  6. But, be certain your food reaches a safe internal temperature. Scroll down for a safe grilling temperature guide for your food.
  7. Use a marinade made of olive oil, vinegar and/or citrus juices. Studies show that using a marinade can decrease carcinogens forming on your food by a significant amount- 30-100 percent.
  8. recipe-mintAvoid sugary marinades and sauces and try adding herbs for flavor! And, new studies show that specific herbs like basil, mint, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and sage can reduce HCA formation in foods. Thai spices like chili, ginger and turmeric also reduce carcinogens. (Check out chef Paul’s rosemary “brush” in the video)
  9. Antioxidents help to prevent and fight cancer. So, choose brightly-colored veggies like peppers, corn and red onion, even fruits to grill. These are nutritious and they’re delicious! Marykaye says “Don’t be afraid to throw some root vegetables like sweet potatoes on the grill. Just pre-cook them first.”
  10. The USDA recommends making ½ of your plate fruits and veggies- so keep that in mind when building your plate. Fill up that half with tasty grilled veggies and fruit, and the other with a whole grain side, like Quinoa, and your grilled meat. 
  11. Using foil is a great way to reduce flare-ups. And, it makes for quick and easy cleanup as well!

What are your favorite things to grill? What tips can you share? Would you try this menu and healthy grilling tips at home? Please leave a comment!

FCT SafeGrilling Guide

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