Your Guide to Holiday Barbecues


Barbecue has always been a popular food choice for holidays or parties with family and friends. A common way of eating barbecue is to start with meat and then end with some vegetables, but often not much of the latter. If you can "shuffle" this popular order of eating barbecue, there may be health benefits!

  1. Try treating vegetables and whole grains as the “base” of your meal. Carbohydrates and dietary fiber in whole grains can help stabilize blood sugar and prevent overeating. The fiber in vegetables can help reduce fat absorption and increase satiety. In addition, colorful peppers, tomatoes, carrots and other vegetables are rich in antioxidants, which can help prevent cancer.

  2. Try to minimize the time that food is in direct contact with fire and avoid eating charred food. Harmful chemicals are produced by burning charcoal, which can damage body cells and create carcinogens. To avoid charring, try to wrap the ingredients such as salmon, mushrooms, broccoli, and corn in tin foil.

  3. Season without salt –try garlic, onions, vinegar, lemon juice, pepper, and spices instead. Try to also use vegetable oil instead of butter or lard.

  4. Stay hydrated! Try sugar-free beverages such as tea or fruit-infused water. Eating fruits by themselves is also a great source of hydration –they are good sources of vitamins and antioxidants.

  5. It’s easy to overeat the protein. Keep in mind that meat should only take up ¼ of your plate!

  6. Stand or take a walk after eating your meal to help with digestion.

Eating barbecued foods may increase the risk of cancer because they are rich in heterocyclic amines (HCA), a carcinogenic compound that is formed when red meat, poultry or seafood is cooked at a high temperature. The intake of HCAs has been associated with increased colon and stomach cancer risk. Try the following tips to reduce your carcinogen risk!

  1. Reduce your cooking temperature.

  2. Marinate your meat. According to the American Cancer Society, marinated meat can reduce the formation of HCAs by 96%.

  3. Choose lean meats such as chicken and fish. Meats with higher fat content, such as red meats, create more fat drippings. When fat comes in contact with the red hot charcoals, smoke is created. This smoke is carcinogenic because it contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

  4. If you really like red meat, try using skewers. Skewered meat can reduce cooking time.

  5. Try roasting vegetables and fruits, since roasted fruits and vegetables do not produce HCAs. In addition, fruits and vegetables contain anti-cancer nutrients and phytochemicals. Phytochemicals can stimulate the body to excrete HCAs more easily.

Interested in learning about weight goal and nutrition needs? Schedule a free body weight and % body fat analysis with our Smart Eater Dietitians at 626-283-5128 or email dietitian@smarteater.net.

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