Safe Grilling Tips from Online Registered Nutritionist

Cherry pies, picnics at the beach, ice-cold watermelon … summer. There’s nothing that says summer more than those delicious foods and a barbecue. And to stay safe and enjoy the flavors of the grill, we have some important information and tips for healthy summer grilling. (Grilling is definitely a great part of any weight management diet plan!)

When meat is grilled at high heat, carcinogenic compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) can form. In addition, PAHs are produced when fat drips into coals and creates smoke that clings to the outside of meat. Consuming these compounds has been linked to colon and stomach cancer.

Fortunately, there are ways to grill safely and still enjoy delicious, healthy food. To minimize the formation of HCAs and PAHs, it’s best to grill at lower temperatures, use lean cuts of meat, and marinate the meat before grilling. You can also minimize your exposure to PAHs by keeping the grill clean and avoiding direct contact between the flames and the meat.

Grilling is a summer staple, but it’s important to grill smart to reduce the risk of carcinogenic compounds.

  • Grill your foods at low to medium-low temperatures (HCAs begin to form at 325 degrees). Make sure your coals are burning embers, not high heat. This will help decrease the char that forms on meat, which has a high carcinogen content.
  • Grill lean cuts of pork, steak, and lamb (trimming all fats) to reduce PAH smoke getting into your food. Alternatively, try grilling meat or pork on aluminum foil to reduce the PCA flare-ups. Also lean meats support cardiovascular health.
  • Flip your meat often, and keep it marinated while on the grill. “Marinating can decrease HCA formation by up to 96%.” (Karen Collins)
  • Use spices that battle HCAs. Research shows that thyme, sage, garlic, and rosemary can reduce HCAs while grilling. (Mara Besch).
  • Avoid well-done meat, as it is more likely to cause colon, breast, prostate, pancreatic, and stomach cancer.
  • Opt for fish and skinless chicken, and don’t forget to grill veggies! They don’t contain HCAs but still have that smoky taste.
  • Cut back on sugars in your barbecue sauce. Try bold, less sugary ingredients such as Worcestershire sauce, chili sauce, tomato paste, and low-sodium soy to add flavor to your barbecue and reduce the amount of sugar.
  • Be cautious with sweets, as too much sugar in the sauce can cause burning and high carcinogen levels. A little molasses or brown sugar to sweeten the sauce is a good idea.

Have a safe, flavorful BBQ season!


Grilled Lemon Herb Chicken


  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. In a small bowl, whisk together garlic, thyme, rosemary, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper.
  2. Place chicken breasts in a shallow dish and pour the marinade over the chicken, making sure to coat each breast.
  3. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, or up to 2 hours.
  4. Remove chicken from the marinade and discard any remaining marinade.
  5. Preheat grill to medium heat.
  6. Grill chicken breasts for 6-8 minutes per side, or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F (74°C).
  7. Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.


Grilled fish kebabs:


  • 1 lb of firm fish (such as swordfish, tuna, or salmon), cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 red onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Wooden skewers, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes before grilling


  1. Preheat grill to medium-high heat.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, thyme, paprika, salt, and pepper.
  3. Thread fish, bell peppers, and red onion onto skewers, alternating ingredients.
  4. Brush the skewers with the lemon herb marinade.
  5. Place the skewers on the grill and cook for about 3-4 minutes on each side, or until the fish is cooked through and the vegetables are slightly charred.
  6. Remove from the grill and serve hot with lemon wedges and your favorite dipping sauce.

Enjoy your delicious grilled fish kebabs!