From Grill to Plate: 7 Ways to Create Healthier BBQ Meals


Summer is on its way, which means it’s time to fire up the grill and enjoy some delicious barbecue. For many, barbecuing is an enjoyable way to spend time outdoors and share tasty meals with family and friends. However, it’s no secret that traditional barbecue fare can be heavy in calories, fat, and sodium. But fear not, health-conscious grill masters! There are many delicious ways to make your barbecue healthier without sacrificing flavor. Fortunately, there are ways to have a healthier barbecue this summer without sacrificing flavor.

A Clean Grill Is a Must for Health

Take a closer look at your grill. Is there a build-up of dark material on the metal? Time to give it a thorough cleaning. Keeping your grill clean will reduce your family’s exposure to harmful chemicals and carcinogens that build up on metal when you grill meat. By keeping your grill clean, not only will you ensure a better-tasting meal, but you’ll also reduce your family’s exposure to harmful chemicals and carcinogens that build up on metal when you grill meat.

Cleaning your grill is an essential part of maintaining a healthy and safe cooking environment. So, grab some gloves, a grill brush, and some soap and water, and get to work. You’ll want to start by removing the grates and giving them a good scrub. Then, clean the inside of the grill, including the burners and the bottom tray. Use a wire brush to remove the stubborn, hard residue that’s harder to get off. Don’t forget to clean the exterior of the grill too! With a little elbow grease, your grill will be sparkling clean and ready for your next cookout. So go ahead, fire it up, and enjoy a delicious and healthy meal with your loved ones.

Pre-Cook Your Meat Indoors

Pre-cook meat inside before BBQing outside. If you’re grilling chicken, microwave it for four minutes per pound of meat before grilling it. Studies show that cooking meat at high temperatures can create carcinogens called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) that form when you cook meat at high temperatures. Precooking your meat in the oven or microwave first reduces the amount of time the meat spends in the flames when you grill it, thus lowering its HCA content – and that’s better for your health.

Cook It Long Enough Though

Cooking meat thoroughly is the key to avoiding food poisoning. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), you should cook ground beef to a minimum temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit, while poultry should reach a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees for safety.  It’s best to measure the internal temperature of the meat with a meat thermometer by inserting it into the thickest part of the meat. Make sure it’s reaching this temperature to kill bacteria that cause food poisoning.

Marinades, Marinades, Marinades

Marinades can be a good way to add flavor to your meat and vegetables, and they can also help tenderize the food, so you can use less oil and butter. But there’s another reason to use them. Studies show acidic marinades reduce the number of HCAs that form when you grill meat.

You can use a vinegar-based marinade or just add extra lemon juice, and you’ll get the same HCA-reducing effect. By precooking meat, using marinades, and reducing time under high temperatures, you’ll enjoy all the flavor of grilling without as many health risks.

When marinating meat, use low-sodium soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce as an alternative to regular store-bought versions loaded with salt. Another great option is fruit juice marinades. Fruit juices contain natural sugars that help tenderize and season the meat, while adding some sweetness for balance (rather than relying on artificial sweeteners).

There are many pre-marinated options available at grocery stores these days, so finding one should be easy; just make sure it has no more than 300 mg of sodium per serving and watch out for added sugar.

Keep It Lean

One simple trick is to choose lean cuts of meat. Now, I know what you might be thinking. Can you have a delicious steak or burger without all that tasty fat? The answer is a resounding yes! Not only can you still enjoy your favorite foods without the added guilt, but you might even find the flavor is just as good, if not better.

There’s another benefit to choosing lower-fat cuts of meat. When the high temperature of the grill hits fat, it produces polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), linked with cancer. Lower-fat cuts of meat produce fewer hydrocarbons, and that’s better for your health. Also, cutting off extra fat and removing the skin to reduce drippings will further reduce exposure to carcinogens and make grilling safer from a health standpoint.

Grill More Vegetables

Grilling vegetables brings out their flavor and makes even veggie haters sit up and take notice. Plus, they’re packed with antioxidants that help counter the PSHs and HCAs that grilling produces. So, for balance, grill mushrooms, peppers, onions, zucchini, asparagus, and more.

You can even buy pre-cut veggies that are ready to throw on the grill. All you have to do is drizzle them with olive oil and season them to perfection before exposing them to the flame. Don’t forget about antioxidant-rich fruit either. Grilling fruit like peaches, pineapple, and watermelon can be a healthy and delicious side dish option. You can serve them as is or add a little bit of honey or cinnamon for extra flavor.

For more protein and to reduce the meat content of a barbeque, try tempeh. It’s a fermented soy-based food, that also holds up well to grilling. Marinate tempeh beforehand for a flavorful meat substitute that’s packed with protein.

Think Twice About That Side Dish

Watch out for the side dishes you serve at a barbecue. Potato salad and fries are examples of high-calorie foods that you don’t need to serve at your next outdoor barbecue. If you must serve these types of side dishes, consider serving a smaller portion than usual, so that people can enjoy their barbecues without feeling too full afterward. How about serving up a fresh garden salad or a quinoa salad instead?


So, there you have it, a few simple ways to make your outdoor barbecue healthier for you and your family. These healthy tips don’t have to be limited to just barbecues. You can apply them in other settings to make your recipes healthier and more nutritious.


  • “Chemicals in Meat Cooked at High Temperatures and Cancer Risk.” cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/diet/cooked-meats-fact-sheet.
  • “Is BBQ food bad for you? | BBC Science Focus Magazine.” sciencefocus.com/the-human-body/is-bbq-food-bad-for-you/.
  • “How to Precook Chicken for the Barbecue | livestrong.” livestrong.com/article/473621-how-to-precook-chicken-for-the-barbecue/.
  • “Cooking Meat? Check the New Recommended Temperatures – USDA.” 22 Jun. 2020, usda.gov/media/blog/2011/05/25/cooking-meat-check-new-recommended-temperatures.

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Make Your Next Summer Barbecue a Healthy One

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