The weather’s getting warmer, the sun’s shining brighter and everyone’s starting to heat things up for grilling season. Using the grill makes cooking fun. It also delivers big, intense flavor that’s hard to match using your indoor stove. Heart-healthy grilling means keeping a few special grilling tips in mind. This quick guide can help you make the best choices so you get the most benefits.
Pros and cons of the grill
Unless you’re new to grilling, you probably have heard about the gas vs. charcoal grill debate. People on both sides of the argument have valid points. Take a closer look at the pros and cons of each.
Charcoal grill pros and cons:
- Infuses lots of flavor into food
- Grills get hotter than gas
- Lower cost to buy, and usually smaller
- Messier clean up
- Higher risk of fire
- Takes longer to heat up
Gas grill pros and cons:
- Easier cleanup
- Better temperature control for even cooking
- Push-button ignition for easier preheating
- Pricier than most charcoal models
- Doesn’t infuse smoky flavor into food
- Larger units take up more space on decks
Con: the char you love might not love you back
Who doesn’t love the texture and flavor of charred grilled meat? Unfortunately, as you’re cooking meat on the grill, fat drips down and creates chemical-filled smoke. The char itself contains another chemical called heterocyclic amines, as Bon Appetit points out. Both substances have been linked to higher risks of cancer.
Research shows that the more well done you grill your meats, the higher the risk of cancer is. However, experts tend to agree that everything in moderation should be okay. Plus, there are steps you can take to lower your risk.
Pro: grilling reduces fat and gives you a nutrient boost
No matter if you use a charcoal or gas grill to do your cooking, the healthiness of your meal is up to you. Grilling naturally lets you eat less fat. As you cook, the extra fat from whatever you’re grilling drips down through the grates. Foods like vegetables and meat hold onto their vitamins, minerals and nutrients better when you grill. You also have the power to reduce some of the potentially harmful chemicals that form during grilling.
Con: you might be eating more fat than you think
What does your perfect backyard barbecue look like? For many people, grilling means cooking high-fat meats like burgers, hot dogs and sausages. This means eating more saturated fat, calories and cholesterol than you might realize. Like with everything else, moderation is key. Save the burgers and sausages for special occasions. Focus your regular menu on lots of veggies, chicken and fish for heart-healthy grilling.
Healthy grilling tips
Now that you know a little more about the pros and cons of grilling, explore some tips for making every meal as healthy as possible. Some ideas to consider include:
- Watch portion size; healthy servings of meat are about the same size as a deck of cards.
- Flip often; studies show that frequent flipping could prevent meats from forming harmful chemicals.
- Keep it low-fat; rely on lean proteins like fish, pork, chicken breasts and leaner beef cuts like London broil.
- Get more flavor; marinating meat tenderizes it and reduces potentially harmful chemicals.
- Grill veggies and fruits; grilling produce doesn’t produce the same chemicals as grilling meat.
There’s a lot you can do to protect your heart and health. Follow healthy grilling tips. Get plenty of exercise. Make sure you get regular checkups. Visit Mercy.com to make an appointment with a primary care doctor today.
Interested in more stories like this? Our Summer Survival Guide is full of healthy living tips to start your summer right. Learn more here.