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Making Summer Grilling Healthier

International Men’s Health Week is June 12-20, 2023. This is a time when we celebrate and honor the importance and the health of the men in our lives. It’s also grilling season once again and many Americans have plans for backyard grilling as we approach Father’s Day. To make this favorite past time for many men a bit healthier, try swapping out the old standbys, such as burgers and ribs, for healthier options at your next cookout.

Grilled food does taste good to many people, whether you enjoy the smoky flavor, the taste of a fun marinade, or just the appearance of the charred, grill-lined food. As with most foods, moderation is key as there can be long-term health dangers when consuming a high quantity of grilled foods. This is due to PAHs and HCAs which form when meat is grilled.

Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH):

These are formed when fat or juices from the meat drips onto a hot surface, causing flames or smoke. The smoke contains PAHs which then adhere to the surface of the meat. Research has shown that PAH exposure increased incidences of lung, skin, and bladder cancers.

Heterocyclic Amines (HCA):

HCAs are produced when substances in meat react to high temperatures, charring or blackening the meat.  Research has found a link between stomach, colorectal, and pancreatic cancers associated with high intakes of well-done and barbecued meats.

Here are Several Grilling Tips to Reduce Your Cancer Risk:

  1. Avoid direct exposure of meat to an open flame or a hot metal surface. Also avoid prolonged cooking times (especially at high temperatures) to reduce PAH and HCA formation.
  2. Use a microwave oven to cook meat prior to exposure to high temperatures. This practice can substantially reduce HCA formation by reducing the time that meat must be in contact with high heat to finish cooking.
  3. Continuously turning meat over on a high heat source can substantially reduce HCA formation compared with just leaving the meat on the heat source without flipping it often.
  4. Remove charred portions of meat prior to eating.
  5. Stick with fish. Fish contains less fat and is cooked faster than red meat and poultry.
  6. Lightly oil the grill. This keeps charred material from sticking to your food.
  7. Use a marinade. Marinating meat in vinegar, lemon juice and herbs such as basil, rosemary, tarragon, sage, or mint can reduce HCA formation by as much as 90%. Just a quick 30-minute marinade can help.
  8. Showcase fruits and veggies. Grilling fruits and vegetables produce no HCAs.


This summer, try these healthy and mouth-watering dishes at your next BBQ!


Basil Marinaded Grilled Tuna


  • 4 tuna steaks (3/4 – 1 in. thick)
  • 1 bunch fresh basil, washed and stemmed
  • 4 cloves garlic, cut in half
  • 3 strips lemon zest
  • Juice of 1 lemon (3-4 tablespoons)
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Pepper to taste


  1. Combine all ingredients except tuna in a food processer and puree until smooth. Pour mixture over tuna and let marinate in the refrigerator, covered, for 30 minutes to 2 hours. Turn the tuna steaks several times.
  2. Grill until cooked to taste, 2-3 minutes per side for rare, 4-6 minutes per side for medium.

Macaroni Salad with Avocado Dressing


  • 8 oz. whole-wheat elbow macaroni (about 2 cups)
  • 1 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced celery
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1/4 cup light avocado mayo
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried minced garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper


  1. Cook pasta according to box instructions, drain, rinse with cold water, and drain again.
  2. In a large bowl, add pasta, bell pepper, celery, scallions, and parsley.
  3. Halve the avocado and scoop the flesh into a food processor. Add mayo, vinegar, salt, dried garlic, and pepper. Process until smooth. Add dressing to macaroni and stir well to mix.

Grilled Peaches with Honey


  • 3-4 medium peaches
  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt


  1. Preheat grill on high until temperature reaches 450 degrees.
  2. Halve peaches and remove pits.
  3. In a shallow bowl, whisk together honey, cinnamon, and salt until ingredients are fully incorporated.
  4. Dip each peach half in honey mixture until well coated.
  5. Place peach halves honey side down directly on grill grate. Grill peaches 3-4 minutes or until grill marks are as dark as desired.
  6. Flip peaches over and grill skin-side for 1 minute.
  7. Carefully remove peaches from grill and serve immediately with yogurt or ice cream.