Get grilling!

Fruit on skewers after being grilled - stock

Enjoy outdoor cooking with these healthy ideas.

For many of us, welcoming the warm summer months means firing up the grill! Whether it’s a weeknight dinner or entertaining for a summer gathering, there are many delicious options for backyard barbeque this season! The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends a diet with lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, with limited amounts of red and processed meats. This pattern of eating is associated with a lower risk of cancer and better overall health. So, what does that mean for grilling season?

Does grilling cause cancer?

First off, grilling meats at high temperatures results in the formation of heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). These are chemicals that may increase the risk of cancer. Avoid or limit these compounds by cooking at lower temperature for more time, trimming excess fats from meats and scraping off any charred pieces. To ensure your meats are cooked to a safe internal temperature, refer to the chart below. Use acid-based marinades containing vinegar, lemon or lime juice, wine, or yogurt to reduce the formation of these compounds and improve flavor and texture.

Healthier grilling options

You can still enjoy the grill and follow nutritional guidelines with these approaches:

  • Limit red meat. Reduce your intake to about 18 ounces of cooked red meat per week. Try these Vegetable and Lamb Kabobs for a delicious way to still enjoy a smaller portion of grilled red meat.
  • Fire up the fruit. Grilling fruit is a tasty way to include more fruit in your day! Fruit adds fiber, nutrients and phytochemicals to your meals, and grilling fruit does not create the compounds that form when meat is grilled. Try this Grilled Peaches and Goat Cheese Salad for a delicious appetizer or summer lunch!
  • Grill your veggies. Like fruit, vegetables provide fiber, phytochemicals and other nutrients. While grilling vegetables does not produce HCAs, you still want to avoid charring or burning vegetables as that can also lead to the formation of other carcinogens. To use vegetables as a side dish to accompany a grilled protein, try these Summer Grilled Balsamic Vegetables, topped with a balsamic glaze and fresh basil for an extra boost of summer flavor. Or let the vegetable be the star of the show with a heartier option like Stuffed Grilled Portobello Mushrooms which make a perfect summer entrée. To use veggies as a topping for an entrée, try this Summer Tomato and Olive Relish – great on grilled fish or poultry!
  • Seek seafood and poultry. Other protein options to grill up rather than red and processed meat are fish and poultry. This Lemon Baked Trout is great on the grill in the summer instead of in the oven. Aim to incorporate seafood into your meals twice per week. For flavoring fish, try a variety of herbs and spices, such as: bay leaf, cumin, curry, dill, dry mustard, lemon juice, marjoram, onion, paprika, parsley and cilantro. Many types of shellfish are great on the grill as well! For poultry, try switching up your standard burger with these Sweet Potato and Spinach Turkey Burgers.

Cooking to safe temperatures

Measure with a food thermometer to ensure food safety!

Food type Internal temperature
Beef, Pork, Veal, and Lamb (chops, roasts, steaks) 145°F with a three-minute rest time
Ground meat (such as burgers) 160°F
Poultry (ground, parts, whole) 165°F
Fin fish (such as salmon, trout, etc.) 145°F or flesh is opaque and separates easily with fork
Shrimp, lobster, and crabs Flesh pearly and opaque
Clams, oysters, and mussels shells Open during cooking
Scallops Flesh is milky white or opaque and firm

Watch our videos

Roswell Park has created a series of nutrition and cooking videos sponsored by General Mills. Join two of our Clinical Dietitians — Sara Jank, MS, RDN, CDN and Michelle Memmo MS, RDN, CDN — to learn about key nutrition recommendations, tips and demonstrations of quick, easy, affordable and delicious meal and snack recipes!

After watching the video, be sure to fill out the survey for the chance to receive a Tops gift card to help kickstart your grocery shopping to try out these recipes.

Nutrition Series