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The Thrill of the Grill and Its Healthy Too!

(As published on TheTownDish.com, July, 2011)

As a rite of passage into spring, most households fire up their grills for dinner. The inevitable and incredible smells of grilling fill the air and even if you weren't planning to grill, one whiff of your neighbor's BBQ chicken gets you on board to grill your evening's meal.

Grilling is already one of the healthiest ways to cook; but here are some ways you can make it even healthier.

Choose foods that are low in fat and high in nutrients.

You don't have to sacrifice flavor, either - there are many tasty foods that fall into this category. Although the traditional barbecue foods are hotdogs, hamburgers, ribs and the like, you can lighten things up this BBQ season.

Try grilling vegetables. If you are a gardener, this is a great way to use some of your freshly grown produce. Grilling vegetables brings out an incredible flavor and tenderness in many vegetables, including corn, zucchini, squash, mushrooms, and many more.

Take a twist on burgers. Opt for turkey burgers, or veggie burgers instead of the higher fat beef burger. You'd be surprised how flavorful and fulfilling these options can be.

See how tasty seafood can be. Grilling fish is one of the healthiest options for the grill. Cook this omega-rich food right next to some fresh veggies to make the ultimate healthy meal. Try using some fresh herbs and a squeeze of citrus on the fish and it will come out tender and tasty.

Don't forget about dessert. Grilling fruits is a tasty way to finish off a summertime meal. Throw some pineapple slices on the grill until they are heated through -- serve by themselves or with some low-fat yogurt and nuts.

Can grilling really cause cancer?

Well, we can't say that it is the cause of cancer, but there are some cancer-causing agents that are formed when meats come into contact with intense heat or flames. There are some ways to prevent the formation of these agents on your foods, though.

Use marinades. This not only adds that extra zing to your dinner, it reduces the formation of cancer-causing substances on your foods. A marinade containing olive oil and/or citrus juices can reduce the formation of these chemicals by as much as 99% while tenderizing and flavoring meats.

Flavor with herbs. A study found that grilling meats marinated in herbs such as basil, mint, rosemary, thyme, sage, and oregano reduce the formation of free radicals (bad stuff) in foods.

Trim the fat. Cancer-causing substances are known to form mostly from fat. This applies to the intense heating of the fats as well as the smoke formed from the fats dripping off of the meats. Reduce this effect by trimming the excess fat off of your meats before grilling, and using meats low in fat. Keep your grill clean -- this not only makes your food taste better, it removes the left over char from the last time you cooked. Also, don't overcook your foods. Charred bits of food contain the highest levels of these bad agents, so if you can't help but char the food, cut these areas off before eating.

We would be remiss if we didn't mention one of the greatest benefits of grilling. The clean up is minimal! No pots and pans to scour after your meal; just be sure to clean the grates of your gill after each use.

Last Updated: 9/7/2012