TOPS offers healthy cookout tips to spark up the grill

By on July 18, 2009

This summer, turn your oven off and take your family outdoors to fire up the grill for sizzling, healthy meals on a sunny day.

July is National Grilling Month, and it offers tasty timing for TOPS Club, Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) to suggest nutritious alternatives to cook on a grill.

Registered dietitian Dena McDowell, M.S., C.D., nutritional expert for TOPS, suggests preparing lean ground turkey breast as an alternative to ground beef for burgers. She advises looking on food labels for ground turkey that is at least 93 percent fat-free. 

According to www.nutritiondata .com, four ounces of ground beef containing 10 percent fat has 240 calories and 12 total fat grams. Four ounces of ground turkey with 7 percent fat has 150 calories and 7 total fat grams. Four ounces of ground turkey with 1 percent fat has 120 calories and 1.5 total fat grams.

Here are tips from McDowell to keep your food fresh and healthy at a cookout:
• Trim the excess fat from meat before grilling to lower the fat in the end-product, as well as reduce the amount of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) that are produced.
• Get creative and grill vegetables and fruits to add more texture and flavor to the meal. Use a grill basket (found at most hardware stores) to grill slices of peppers, eggplant, zucchini, sweet potatoes, and even corn on the cob. For a sweet dessert, try grilling pineapple and papaya slices. Add a little cinnamon for increased sweetness.
• Use a marinade that contains lemon, lime juice, or vinegar. The acidic nature of these marinades will reduce the amount of advanced glycation end-products (AGEs) that are formed. AGEs can cause inflammation in the body and increase risk of chronic diseases such as cancer heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.
• Keep food out of the danger zone (between 40° F and 140° F). Bacteria can multiply quickly if food is kept in this temperate zone. Keep hot foods hot, using a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature. Keep cold foods below 40° F by keeping foods in coolers that have adequate ice.
• Cook beef to a minimum of 160° F or until the center is no longer pink and juices are clear. Cook ground poultry to 165° F and poultry parts to 180° F.
• Marinades diminish the charring of meats, which reduces the risk of developing heterocyclic amines (HCAs). These food components can increase risk of certain forms of cancer.
• Marinades that contain red wine, beer, or fruit juices (such as papaya or pineapple) will tenderize the meat and also prevent charring from taking place. This may reduce the amount of HCAs produced by an estimated 90 percent.

Never re-use marinades that have been used for raw meat, chicken, or fish.