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Delicious and Healthy Grilling Tips

By Sarah Heffron, MMH Dietitian

Research shows diets high in red and processed meats (beef, pork, lamb, hot dogs, sausage, etc.) increase the risk of colon cancer. Grilling red and white meats at high temperatures increases the formation of cancer-causing substances as well.

Listed below are five tips for healthier (and more delicious) grilling.

  1. Choose fish or poultry rather than red or processed meats.
  2. Marinate meats for at least 30 minutes. HCA’s (heterocyclic amines) can form when fish, poultry and meats get charred. If marinade contains an acidic component, such as mild vinegar or lemon juice, along with oil, spices and herbs it can reduce the formation of HCA’s.
  3. Pre-cooking meats will reduce exposure to smoke which limits the PAH’s (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons).
  4. Keeping meats in the center of the grill on low flame while flipping frequently can reduce the risk of HCA formation as well and also keeps burning and charring to a minimum. Make sure to cut off all charred pieces before serving.
  5. My greatest piece of advice would be to add fruits and especially vegetables to the grill for delicious flavor (but more importantly – a wide variety of nutrients!). HCA’s don’t form when grilling plant foods. Create a plate with a higher proportion of grilled fruits, vegetables and whole grains to add more flavor and more nutrition to your meals.

Five Minute Meat Marinating Technique

  • Place protein of choice in a resealable bag.
  • Push air out of bag and seal tightly.
  • Massage the protein, turning the bag often so the meat absorbs most of the marinade. Remove the meat and grill discarding all remaining marinade.

* Flavors up to two pounds of meat. Adapted from McCormick –

See below for several marinade ideas, courtesy of our dietitians.