Five Steps to Your Healthiest Summer BBQ

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Eighty-two percent of Americans own a grill or smoker, according to the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association's (HPBA) 2009 "Barbecue Lifestyle, Usage and Attitude" study. So, it is safe to say that regardless of your dietary preferences, chances are you — or someone in your household — is a self-professed grill master.

With Labor Day approaching and summer coming to an end soon, we want to help make sure that the last BBQs of summer 2013 are top notch. According to the HPBA study, Labor Day is the third most popular American grilling holiday (trailing Fourth of July and Memorial Day).

Here are five steps to make sure that you not only serve delicious foods that are healthy too (i.e. packed with essential micronutrients and void of harmful toxins, unnecessary sugars, and potential cancer causers).

1. Choose a Quality Protein.

Whenever possible, choose organic, 100-percent pasture-raised or grass-fed meats from a local farm or reputable butcher. When you choose these meats, you can be sure that the animals were not given GMO feed, antibiotics or hormones. Burger lovers, beware of non-organic meats that contain the infamous pink slime (an estimated 70 percent of supermarket ground beef). When choosing poultry, opt for vegetarian-fed (i.e. chickens that were not fed meat) or free-range poultry.

2. Consider Different Kinds of Buns.
Due to gluten sensitivities and the prevalence of GMO wheat, traditional rolls and hot dog buns might be something you are feeling wary of - and for good reason!

Here are some great alternatives:

Lettuce Wraps: More and more restaurants are serving burgers with lettuce wraps. They are lower in carbs and calories, but still just as delicious.
Store-Bought Gluten-Free Bread: Try Food for Life Gluten Free Rice Almond Bread, Lydia's Organics Sunflower Seed Bread or Sami's Bakery Millet And Flax Bread.

Coconut Wraps: Create a delectable roll up with wraps made from organic coconut. They are low in carbs and can transform your burger into a burger burrito in no time! Try Pure Wraps which are organic and non-GMO.

3. Don't Get Blindsided by Condiments.
While many condiments were once homemade, those found in the stores today are full of thickening agents, gels, GMO oils and sweeteners. Don't ruin your high-quality protein by loading it up with inferior condiments.

Here are the main three you should keep an eye on:
Mayonnaise: Most store-bought mayonnaise contains canola or soybean oil  -- two overwhelmingly GMO crops in the United States. Even mayo that boasts that it's made with "olive oil" contains primarily either canola or soybean oil. (Ninety-three percent of the soybeans grown in the U.S. are genetically modified.) Even organic mayo, while GMO free, is highly processed. If you've never made your own mayo, this is your chance! It's quick, and you'll only need simple ingredients you can find at your local grocery store. Watch our video showing how simple it is to make homemade mayo in under 5 minutes.

Ketchup: Grocery store ketchup is filled with added sugar. A study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that organic ketchup contains up to 60 percent more cancer-preventing lycopene per gram than conventional type. Here's how to make your very own homemade organic ketchup: Combine organic tomato paste, organic white vinegar, organic garlic and onion powder, organic allspice, organic cayenne pepper, unrefined sea salt, organic pepper, and pure stevia extract. If you would rather purchase an organic version at the store, try Rejuvenate Raw Live Ketchup.

Mustard: Go organic. The white vinegar in conventional mustard is usually derived from corn, which - unless it is labeled organic - 88 percent of the corn grown in the U.S. is genetically modified.  To ensure that you and your BBQ guests avoid GMOs, a great option to try is Annie's Organic Yellow Mustard.

4. Be Smart About Side Dishes.
You already know how to choose the best protein and even what condiments to look out for, but side dishes are just as important to pay attention to.

Pasta Salad: Pasta made with wheat flour will raise your blood sugar higher than almost any other food. Ninety-nine percent of today's wheat is the result of an unhealthy, intense genetic manipulation of the wheat of our grandparents' generation. Instead try different grains, such as Ancient Quinoa Harvest pastas, or Truroots Ancient Grains pasta made with quinoa, amaranth and brown rice.  And swap out the mayo in the recipe with organic Greek yogurt.

Drop the Coleslaw in Favor of Sauerkraut: Sauerkraut is an excellent source of beneficial live bacteria which assist in the digestive process. Sauerkraut also has fewer calories than many slaws, and it leaves out the sugar as well.  Our favorite is Bubbies Brand.

5. Master the Grill.
According to the National Cancer Institute, charring meat can cause Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) carcinogens (cancer causing substances) to form. They get into your food when dripping meat juices cause the grilling surface or coals to flare up.  Unfortunately, while the flames are adding flavor, they are also engulfing the meat or fish in toxic vapors.

Here Are Some Tips to Guarantee a Safer Grill:
- To avoid charring the meat, choose marinades made with lemon as it helps change the acidity of the meat and prevent some of the carcinogens from sticking.
- Turn down the heat, and raise the rack. Temperatures over 300 degrees trigger HCA formation.
- Turn the meat with tongs. Using a fork can puncture the meat, which causes drippings to flare up the flame.
- Flip meat frequently. Turning every few minutes has been shown to greatly reduce HCAs.
- Avoid overcooking. Chargrilled pieces contain the most toxins. Cut off any charred sections.
Good luck, healthy grilling and enjoy your BBQs!

Author: Calton Nutrition
BIO: The husband and wife duo of Mira Calton, CN and Jayson Calton, Ph.D., are leading LIVESTRONG.COM contributors. In addition to authoring their books, Naked Calories, and Rich Food, Poor Food, the Caltons are the founders of Calton Nutrition and the Calton Institute of Lifestyle Medicine, and are columnists, contributing editors and quoted experts in multiple national publications and media outlets.
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