Nutrition, safety tips for grilling season

Cooking meat, including beef, pork, fish, or poultry, with high-temperature methods such as pan frying or grilling directly over an open flame can increase exposure to chemicals that can cause changes in DNA that may increase the risk of cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Researchers also have found that high consumption of well-done, fried, or barbecued meats was associated with increased risks of colorectal, pancreatic, and prostate cancer, the NCI reports.

"Grilling at high temperatures and consuming red meat both increase your risk of colon cancer. Done together, the effect can be compounded," says gastrointestinal cancer specialist Dr. Muhammad Beg, Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine and with UT Southwestern Medical Center's Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center. "Minimize your risk by limiting the time on an open flame, while still ensuring the meat is cooked to the correct temperature. Mixing up what you chose to grill by adding chicken and vegetables to the meal will automatically reduce the amount of red meat you eat."

Other considerations:

•microwave meat to reduce the amount of time on the grill;
•turn the meat often while grilling;
•remove charred or blackened meat before serving.

Nutrition tips: Controlling calories during grill season picnics

As grilling season fires up, UT Southwestern Medical Center nutritionists have cooked up a few tips to keep calorie counts in control.

"There are plenty of tricks and tips that offer alternatives to full-throttle calorie binging," says Lona Sandon, Assistant Professor of Clinical Nutrition at UT Southwestern.

Among the best tips for controlling calorie count during grill season gatherings:

•Eat a low-calorie meal just before going or a salad prior to higher-calorie selections so you already feel full.
•Drink water instead of other drinks to help you feel full during the party. Add a little flavor with a squeeze of lime, lemon, or orange.
•Drink water instead of beer when eating salty foods. Remember moderation when it comes to alcohol: one drink for women, two drinks for men. One 12-ounce beer equals one drink.
•Instead of depriving yourself of favorite foods, eat smaller portions. You're less likely to binge eat if you don't feel deprived. Wait 15 to 20 minutes before going back for seconds or dessert. Ask yourself if you are still hungry.
•Think tapas. Take a small sampling of the items you would like to taste.
•Make your selections, then move away from the serving table rather than standing nearby and eating continuously without thinking.
•Ask for a smaller plate, allow yourself one serving. Don't pile on more food than fits on the smaller plate. If going back for seconds, pick the veggies: grape tomatoes, celery sticks, red pepper sticks, baby carrots.

Nutrition tips: Nutritional trade-offs for grilling season feasts

There are plenty of options for cutting calories as well as substitutes for some of the higher-calorie options.

"If you're not ready to replace your entire plate with healthy alternatives, you can still significantly cut down on calories and fats by blending your favorites with some lower-calorie options and alternatives," says Lona Sandon, Assistant Professor of Clinical Nutrition at UT Southwestern.

Be realistic, she added. Fat free does not necessarily equate to lower calorie intake and the lack of flavor of some substitutes might actually lead people to want to eat more.

Offer taco salad bowls instead of burgers, substitute lean ground turkey and beans for beef or cold cuts, offer subs with lots of salad-style fixings and use less cold cuts, or grill some vegetables to help fill the plate. In addition, pay attention to how much and how many portions you're taking.

Below are some nutritional alternatives:

Wings: For chicken wings, take the skin off, bake or grill instead of deep frying. Consider grilling chicken pieces instead of traditional wings. Make your own hot sauce without the butter and use low-fat versions of cream cheese, sour cream, and blue cheese, or substitute plain Greek yogurt.

BBQ: Try vinegar-based sauces instead of those with high brown-sugar content. Mix chicken and beef on your plate to help lower overall calories. Offer kebabs mixed with vegetables instead of traditional steak.

Ribs: Try leaner beef ribs instead of pork ribs, which are usually fatter. Try baby back instead of normal ribs. Consider brisket instead because you're likely to eat less.

Burgers: Try using your favorite spices and rubs on veggie, turkey, or soy burgers to create a similar flavor with fewer calories, or blend hamburger with ground turkey or ground soy. Try beef jerky to get the beef flavor.

Bratwurst/hot dogs: Bratwurst usually has more calories than lean hotdogs. Look for 100 percent beef franks. Also try turkey or soy franks. Use wheat buns or tortillas.

Safety tips: Keep food safe this season

With warmer temperatures and backyard grills resuming their place in the sun, UT Southwestern Medical Center toxicologists say a few cautionary steps can help you and guests avoid food poisoning.

"Make sure your guests carry home fond memories instead of stomach aches or worse with sound food handling and preparation practices," says toxicologist Dr. Kurt Kleinschmidt, Professor of Emergency Medicine and Chief of Medical Toxicology at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

•Refrigerate or freeze perishable foods as soon as you get them home from the store.
•If you're not going to use meats within a couple of days, freeze them. Once you've thawed meat, cook it. Don't re-freeze thawed meat.
•Pack plenty of ice in coolers to store raw or leftover foods at tailgate parties.
•Keep meats for grilling cold until you put them on the grill.

•Before handling food, always wash your hands thoroughly in warm, soapy water or use hand sanitizer.
•Don't leave food standing for long periods of time. A general rule of thumb is not to leave foods out for more than one hour.
•Eat hot foods as soon as they're cooked or while they're still hot.
•Remove cold foods from the refrigerator just before serving and put them away quickly.
•Wash hands, surfaces, and utensils that come in contact with raw meats. Use different dishes and utensils for cooked meats and raw meats.

•Cook foods at recommended temperatures to kill bacteria. Use a meat thermometer to be sure the food is thoroughly cooked. That's especially important for ground beef. When grilling, cook hamburgers until they're no longer pink inside, or until juices run clear.
•Generally, grilled meats should be cooked to at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit and poultry to at least 160 degrees. Pork should be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 155 degrees in order to destroy the parasite that causes trichinosis. This disease causes abdominal pain, diarrhea, muscle soreness, fever, and swelling around the eyes. If you're grilling pork ribs, you don't want the meat to be red near the bone.

Safety tips: Avoid burns, scalding when grilling

Grilling can provide some tasty dishes, but it also can cause unexpected burns, scalding, and fires. To help avoid unintended consequences, UT Southwestern Medical Center physicians urge caution for those who are grilling as well as socializing.

"When you're smelling the barbecue, it's easy to forget that grills - both gas and charcoal - are an open source of flame and a potential danger," says burn surgeon Dr. Brett Arnoldo, Professor of Surgery at UT Southwestern.

Some common precautions to prevent burns include:

•Don't pour water directly on coals. Beware of steam that can rise up unexpectedly and scald.
•Use baking powder to help contain grease fires.
•Always have an extinguisher nearby in case flames get out of control or something else nearby catches fire.
•Keep charcoal fluid out of the reach of children and pets and away from any source of heat, including grills and fire pits. Never use gasoline as a source of ignition.
•Never leave a lit grill unattended and designate an area around the grill for children to avoid. Children and pets should remain at least 3 feet from a grill to help avoid burns or accidentally knocking over the grill.
•Don't lean directly over the grill. Be aware of clothing such as scarves, shirt tails, or apron strings that can catch fire when bending over. Consider flame-retardant oven mitts and long utensils to avoid burns.
•Never try to move a hot grill. Be sure to wait for coals to cool off before disposing.

Also remember to avoid toxic fumes from charcoal. Burning charcoal produces carbon monoxide, a colorless and odorless gas. Never burn charcoal indoors or in garages, tents, RVs, campers, or other enclosed spaces.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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