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Ready, Set, Grill!

While many folks, celebrated Memorial Day as the unofficial beginning of summer, it certainly marks the official beginning of grilling season!

Typical grill fare such as hamburgers, hot dogs, mayo-rich potato or macaroni salad can be high in fat and calories. But grilling healthy isn’t impossible! There are great options to serve up like grilled chicken, fish, and veggies, with lots of fresh salads made with fruit, vegetables, and whole grains. I pay attention to how I grill foods for my family, since some studies suggest that there may be a cancer risk from food cooked by high-heat cooking methods.

Here are some tips for healthy grilling I’ve learned along the way:

  • Avoid high-fat, high-sugar, or high-sodium sauces. Instead, marinate meats in your own citrus marinade. Citrus marinades have vitamin C, which can provide delicious zest, tenderize the meat, and protect the meat from forming cancer-causing compounds. Try mixing olive oil with the juice from a lemon or lime, along with your favorite herbs for marinating.
  • Grill a variety of vegetables such as zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant, asparagus and onions. Lightly coat them in olive oil and herbs and spices of your choice.
  • Try veggie or turkey burgers instead of beef (add mashed beans or sautéed mushrooms or onions to the ground turkey for moister burgers).
  • Enjoy whole grain buns and rolls for extra fiber.
  • Use low-fat mayonnaise or plain yogurt, or olive oil and vinegar, in your side salads.

Cancer-causing substances are produced where there is fat and extreme heat. The more smoke produced from fat drippings when grilling, and the longer food is grilled, the more of these substances produced. To reduce the risk, try these suggestions when grilling meat, chicken or fish:

• Microwave the food—even for just one minute—to partially cook them before grilling.
• Grill small portions of lean cuts and trim the fat as much as possible before cooking.
• Don’t eat the burnt pieces.
• Marinate the food but drain before grilling.
• Use a meat thermometer to check that food isn’t under- or overcooked.

More detailed information about safe grilling can be found at

So, enjoy your grilling days of summer and less kitchen cleanup!

Written By:

WIC Nutritionist

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