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Simple tricks to help you throw a better BBQ

Laura Mahoney

Forget the mayo-laden potato salad that’s been soaking up the sun for hours – Salmonella is not a party favor. Instead, bring bright homemade marinades and crisp summer vegetables to the table with these tips for a healthy al fresco meal.

Turn up the grill

Research suggests that grilling meat, poultry and fish can produce heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), two compounds that have been linked to cancer in animals and possibly humans. But that doesn’t mean that die-hard grillers need to stow away their spatulas for good. There are several ways that you can grill more safely:

  • Clean up: Always make sure to wipe down your grill before use. This helps to remove any charred debris that may stick to food.
  • Veg out: Grilling vegetables doesn’t create the same harmful compounds. Arrange vibrant veggies on kebobs for a delicious, no-fuss side dish or showcase vegetables front and center by trying out vegetarian burgers.
  • Let it marinate: If you can’t say no to that BBQ chicken, research shows that marinating meat before grilling reduces the amount of HCAs and PAHs that form (Smith J.S., 2008). Vinegar and lemon based marinades seem to provide a protective shield, and certain spices (like rosemary) offer a hefty dose of antioxidants to counteract harmful compounds (Puangsombat K., 2010). Many sauces or marinades can be very high in sugar, salt, and additives. Making your own allows you to have complete control over ingredient lists and avoid unwanted calories.
Spice up your sides

Make your barbeque light and bright by highlighting key ingredients. Rather than drowning those regular potatoes in mayo, toss sweet potatoes in a light dressing made of Dijon mustard, vinegar, and fresh herbs like chives and scallions. The same goes for traditional creamy coleslaw.

Alternatively you can replace half the mayo for Greek yogurt without sacrificing taste in any traditional salad to reduce the fat and add a punch of protein.

If you’re feeling adventurous, forego traditional pasta salad and put the spotlight on some of those all-the-rage ancient grains. Toss farro, barley, quinoa, or buckwheat with finely chopped summer vegetables and nuts and seeds for an added crunch.

Lighten up dessert

While patriotic, the classic flag cake at your July 4th barbecue isn’t the best choice for your waistline. Stick with desserts that are refreshing and easy to execute. Wash, chop, and toss your favorite fruit together for a simple fruit salad. You can also put together homemade popsicles in minutes and adapt them to your taste. Make them creamy with Greek yogurt, add decadence with dark chocolate or sweeten them with frozen berries. Alternatively, for a seemingly sophisticated dessert that is secretly an adult snow-cone in disguise, try this fresh granita recipe. With any of these choices, your guests will appreciate a meal that celebrates the ingredients of summer!