Summer Safety: Healthy Grilling and Food Safety

Summertime is the perfect time to start incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your diet or to try out new, healthy recipes on the grill. Grilling protein and vegetables is an excellent way to make your meals leaner and healthier and, if you want to get adventurous, you can even grill some fruit. When it comes to grilling vegetables and fruit, corn is a staple, but there are plenty of other options to try, including:

• Squash.
• Peppers.
• Eggplant.
• Cauliflower.
• Mushrooms.
• Watermelon.
• Pineapple.
• Peaches.
• Avocado.

If you’re planning a cookout with friends, it’s also important to practice safe food handling. Any time you’ll be handling raw meat, you need to make sure that you use different plates, utensils and cutting boards after cooking, and that you wash your hands after handling it. If you plan to set up the food outside, pay attention to how long it is out in the heat. The danger zone for foodborne illness, when bacteria is most likely to grow, is between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Food should be left out no more than two hours between those temperatures. Older adults, children, those who are pregnant and anyone with a compromised immune system are at higher risk of foodborne illness and should be extra cautious. To minimize the risk, keep cold food refrigerated and warm foods hot until they are served, then store all the leftovers in the fridge. You can also try to keep foods cool outside by placing a bowl of ice under the bowl the food is in, or by freezing the bowl beforehand to help keep it cool longer.

Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) are chemicals that are formed when meat is cooked at a high temperature or over an open flame. There are no current federal guidelines that address the consumption of foods that contain HCAs, but some studies have suggested that a high consumption of them may increase a person’s cancer risk. To help minimize the number of HCAs in meat:
• Avoid direct exposure to flame.
• Pre-boil meat so it cooks for a shorter time on the grill.
• Use a marinade.
• Continuously turn meat while it cooks.
• Remove any charred portions of meat before eating.

Cone Health has an exceptional network of registered dietitians dedicated to helping patients develop and maintain healthy, balanced diets that work for them and fit into their lifestyles.