Summer is barbecue time, which everyone knows means unhealthy, junk-laden toxic foods and questionable toxicity with your grill. But what if the problem wasn’t the foods but the brands you are buying? And what if you could eliminate toxins from your grilling? You can make choices that keep you and your friends and family healthy, while still enjoying everything your grill has to offer. Here are some tips on how to make your barbecue healthy:
Setting Up Your Grill For Safety
- Go for gas/propane grill.
These grills are the friendliest for the environment and they cook much faster than electricity or charcoal. In addition, charcoal presents a host of health issues, like the use of petroleum products in your lighter fluid or self-lighting charcoal.
- Clean your grill regularly.
It sounds like common sense, but it’s easy for your grill to build up dirt, ash and food stuff especially when you are grilling daily. Missed meat and produce buildup can be full of bacteria and toxic. Scrub it clean with a good wire brush, dump the ash and use a cover to keep it safe from the environment.
Safer Grilling Techniques
- Marinate meat to reduce carcinogens.
Grilled meat and fish can be a source of HCAs and PAHs, which are cancer-causing compounds. Research from J. Scott Smith, a professor at Kansas State University, shows that using marinades that contain antioxidants herbs like basil, mint, rosemary, safe, savory, oregano and thyme can reduce those HCAs. So mix up an awesome blend and get marinating!
- Avoid drips by trimming fat.
When juice from fat drip onto the coals, those HCAs and PAHs can bounce back up onto your food. Use lean cuts or trim the fat to avoid this problem.
- Avoid aluminum foil and use a grilling plank or salt plate.
Aluminum is a toxin related to Alzheimers, autism and neurological disorders. When heated, aluminum molecules enter your food. You can avoid this, avoid drips and add flavor by using a wooden grilling plank or, even better, a salt plate.
- Cook meat, especially burgers, thoroughly to reduce any possibility of bacteria.
Of course, if you buy grass-fed and organic beef, you can avoid much of this problem.
- Don’t burn or char your food.
While you want your meat cooked thoroughly, you should avoid char on your food as it can be carcinogenic. Taking your meat off as soon as it is cooked allows for a richer flavor as well.
Healthy Barbecue Food Choices
- Grill up some organic fruit and veggies!
You can grill anything from beets to pineapple! Using a CSA like FarmBoxLA is a great way to be creative and get the most of out produce you may not have considered grilling. An easy recipe is to dice multicolored peppers, red onions and mushrooms, seasons them with olive oil and spices, and set them on a skewer to cook.
- Use organic or pastured dairy products.
If you’re using cheese to top that hamburger masterpiece or making your own ice cream, make sure you are using pastured dairy from local farms or organic products. Pastured dairy comes from cows that are grassfed outdoors, rather than mass-produced dairy, whose cows are kept indoor and usually fed grains. In California try Organic Pastures, which carries raw dairy products. For a supermarket option, check out Stonyfield Organic milk.
- Use safe buns.
Rudi’s Organic Bakery creates hot dog and hamburger buns are non-GMO. Their products contain no high fructose corn syrup, azodicarbonamide, or artificial flavors or coloring. And they have a variety that include gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free and vegan – even pretzel buns!
- Buy grass fed or pastured organic meats.
The easiest way to avoid unsafe bacteria like E. Coli and salmonella is to buy grass fed, pastured and organic meats. Unlike animals that are fed corn and soy, these animals are fed their natural diet, which keeps them healthy and prevents the spread of dangerous bacteria. Brands we recommend include: Organic Prairie Grassfed Beef, Homestead Natural Grassfed Beef, Rocky Mountain Organic Meats and Homegrown Meats. In addition, you can use your local, organic butchers found at at farm market, CSA’s and at better quality grocery stores, like Whole Foods Market and Wegman’s.
- Buy organic, uncured hot dogs.
Uncured hot dogs have no added nitrates, using only organically derived nitrates. These use celery seed as a preservative instead, making them a better choice. Great brands for hot dogs include Applegate Hot Dogs, Organic Prairie Uncured Beef Hot Dogs, Trader Joe’s Uncured All Beef Hot Dog, Homegrown Meats, and Rocky Mountain Organic Meats.
- Avoid juice and soda.
Instead, serve up fresh water or seltzer with citrus fruit added. Or serve fresh made iced tea and lemonade. Looking for a refreshing recipe? For a healthy twist on a classic summer drink, try this iced tea recipe made with Numi Organic Tea and Nutiva Chia Seeds.
Using nontoxic grilling techniques and selecting safer brands can help you enjoy your grilling season safely!
Disclosure: Some of ShiftCon Media’s sponsors are in this post, including Applegate, Organic Valley, Stonyfield Organic, FarmBoxLA, Nutiva, and Organic Pastures.