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Barbecue Stress!

Dear Ellen, I am so excited about the summertime and the barbecues with friends and family but I am a bit stressed about health since I’ve heard that grilling can be bad for my health. Is it true? What simple changes can I make so that my barbecues are both healthy and happy?

With the long awaited warmer weather, there’s nothing better than gathering family and friends outdoors around the barbecue. However, grilling season can also bring on stress from both health concerns and the natural stress of entertaining. Let’s see some surprising “one simple changes” we can make now to keep the cookout crowd healthy and happy!

Stessor #1 - Calorie Stress – 5 Simple Changes!

With the abundance of food at a BBQ, it is easy to mindlessly pop high calorie finger foods and grilled items into your mouth throughout the course of a cookout.

  1. Counteract the calorie devastation by incorporating more high volume, low density foods like fruits or vegetables into your BBQ. Grilling intensifies the flavour of fruits and vegetables just as it does for meat, especially peppers, zucchini, aubergines, tomatoes, onions, or mushrooms. Try vegetable kebabs or combining lean meat or fish with fruit or veggies on a skewer or even a healthy pizza on the grill!
  2. Keep high calorie sauces such as mayonnaise or tartar sauce, salad dressings and oils on the side where they can more easily be managed.
  3. Try lower calorie versions of sauces and dressings with low-fat yoghurt, crème fresh or fruit or vegetable based salsas.
  4. Provide lower calorie foods like vegetable or fruit salads to serve on the side, so that you know there are healthy options to fill up on.
  5. Eat something healthy before the BBQ (especially if you are invited and have no control over the menu) which might help make it easier to manage portions and the effect of alcohol once at the party.

Stessor #2 - Burn Stress – 5 Simple Changes!

Two compounds found in charred and overcooked meats (heterocyclic amine and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) are known carcinogens. When grilling fatty meats, the fat that drips onto the flames creates smoke which may contain these carcinogens as well.

  1. Clean the grill to rid it of pre-existing charred food bits before beginning to cook. It can help both cut down on the carcinogenic load and is more sanitary.
  2. Marinate your food before grilling since many spices, including red pepper and other marinade ingredients, such as alcohol, have been shown to reduce the presence of hydrocarbons and related carcinogens. Try these man friendly (he’s usually the one at the grill!) healthy marinade suggestions. If you are using bottled marinades, choose those that are lower in salt.
  3. Don’t overcook foods until they’re charred, but prefer longer cooking times at a lower temperature. Have a spray bottle filled with water handy to control fatty flame-ups. Use a meat thermometer to ensure cooking meets both safe minimum and safe maximum cooking temperatures.
  4. Grill leaner meats, poultry, and fish, so that there will be less fat to smoke up, less calories and les unhealthy saturated fat.
  5. Download a Meat Temperature Guide APP to have with you near the grill even if you are away from home!

Stessor #3 - Sausage Stress – 3 Simple Changes!

It is easy stick with tradition, but the average sausage or burger is full of saturated fat and calories which have been associated with high blood pressure and heart attack risk. In addition, processed meats like hot dogs and sausages often contain excess salt preservatives called nitrates that have been linked to cancer.

  1. Try alternative proteins like lean turkey burgers, veggie burgers, fatty fishes like salmon or tuna, or grill-friendly extra firm tofu.
  2. Look for nitrite-free, lower salt and lower fat options of your favourite meats or sausages. Nitrate itself is rather harmless. Only nitrite - as part of curing salt - can react to nitrosamines which are considered to be carcinogenic. That is the reason why cured sausages/meat should not be used for the BBQ.
  3. Practice portion control through balance, variety and moderation and using hunger and fullness scale to determine how much you eat. 

Stessor #4 - Alcohol Stress - 3 Simple Changes!

Barbecues are often characterized by an abundance of both food and alcohol and the warm sun can make it easy to overindulge in terms of calories and dehydration from alcoholic beverages.

  1. Alternate each alcoholic beverage with a glass of sparkling or still water to help stay truly hydrated, prevent drunkenness and keep liquid calories down.
  2. Try various iced teas or flavoured waters served in fancy glasses which may better satisfy your epicurean attitude!
  3. Drink on a full stomach which may allow you to feel less the effect of alcohol which when overconsumed can reduce all good healthy intentions!

Enjoy! Summertime BBQ’s only happen during one season per year and with a little planning you can have the most stress-free barbecue possible. For more safety tips, click here and don’t forget that your goal is not perfection, but to spend quality time with your loved ones. Next week we will continue to explore how to enjoy our summertime with loved ones… did you ever wonder why our friends and family members sometimes sabotage our healthy intentions during the summer? Is it sometimes difficult to keep to your healthy lifestyle with all the BBQ’s, vacations and parties? Read “Summertime Sabotage…ready, steady, go!”