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Summer and grilling season go hand-in-hand, and both have arrived. As you fire up your grill over the next few months for a simple dinner or robust special event, be sure to keep good health and safety in mind.
Grilling is fun, delicious and can actually be a very healthy way to cook. You’re effectively using one of the best cooking methods around when you grill nutritious foods in a safe manner.
Here are a few tips to enhance your well-being by the act of grilling:
- Grill fruits and vegetables. Meat is a traditional staple of any grilling menu, but don’t bypass fruits and vegetables. These foods go great on the grill, giving standard produce an interesting style and flavor. My particular favorite is to cut zucchini into strips, lightly spray the strips with olive oil, and sprinkle with oregano and fresh-ground black pepper. You can buy a grill basket to simplify the process of grilling fruits and vegetables. Looking for a creative idea? Try fruit puree as a healthy marinade.
- Avoid cross-contamination. Keep raw meats separated from ready-to-eat foods. Use different utensils and cutting boards for raw and ready-to-eat foods as well. And always remember to wash your hands and sanitize your prep and cooking tools.
- Watch out for char. Flame-ups and high heat cause charring, and charred meats may contain cancer-causing agents. Cut off any charred parts before serving grilled goodies. Marinating meat is shown to reduce the potential for carcinogen development. So, try some low-salt, low-fat marinades with your beef, chicken, pork and fish.
- Cook meat to a safe temperature. Undercooked meats can lead to various illnesses, so make sure you’re hitting the minimum mark with each item. The only guaranteed way to get an accurate temperature reading is to use a food thermometer. Safe meat temperatures are:
- Poultry: 165 F
- Steak: 145 F
- Beef and Pork: 160 F
- Fish and Seafood: 145 F
Summer is a time for enjoyable outdoor experiences, which, of course, includes grilling. With some thoughtful adjustments to your grilling routine, you’ll be on your way to a healthier dining experience.
Linda Carruthers is a registered dietitian and nutritionist at Mayo Clinic Health System in Springfield.