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A healthy barbecue - tasty advice from Laois nutritionist Debbie Devane

A healthy barbecue - tasty advice from Laois nutritionist Debbie Devane

Laois nutritionist Debbie Devane

These past few weeks have been challenging for most of us, we’re missing our family and friends, the children are missing the normality of school and we are all trying to figure out some sort of ‘new normal”.

The need to get quality, nutritious food on the table is as strong as ever so why not make the most of the good weather we are having and bring dinner outside with a nutritious barbecue that the whole family will love, and get the added bonus of our daily dose of Vitamin D!

Over the years there has been mixed reviews on the health risks of barbecued food, the good news is the BBQ itself is not actually bad for us! However, it’s certain processes that occur when cooking on the BBQ that may be hazardous to our health, particularly with meats cooked over high heat on a charcoal BBQ.

The reason for this is when red meat, poultry, pork or fish is cooked directly over a flame at high temperatures, it causes the muscle proteins to react with the heat, this then forms compounds known as heterocyclic amines (or HCAs) which have been shown to cause DNA changes in cell structures and this has been linked to certain cancers.

Another problem with cooking meat on the BBQ is that the high heat releases the fat from the meat and as this fat drips down onto the hot coals it ignites, producing smoke, as this smoke rises, it swirls over the food depositing these chemicals onto your food, and it is this smoke that contains chemicals called PAHs, which are known to be carcinogenic.

Relax, don’t panic! For every problem there is a solution, just follow my tips on ways to reduce the potential health risks associated with cooking on the barbecue.

Use lean cuts of meat and trim off any visible fat to help limit the amount of fat dripping onto the hot coals.

Not only will a marinade infuse your food with delicious flavors, add moisture and tenderizes meats, marinating meats before cooking has been shown to reduce the formation of HCAs. (see below for my go-to marinades)

As if you needed another reason to get more antioxidant rich veggies into your diet!
HCAs and PAHs don’t form on vegetables, so get them veggie kebabs, courgettes, mushrooms, tomatoes, bell peppers to name a few onto the BBQ and enjoy their many health benefits.

Chicken, turkey and fish are naturally lower in fat than red meat, so less fat dripping onto hot coals and producing dangerous fat (remember to remove skin from chicken first) enjoy homemade chicken or turkey burgers as an alternative to beef burgers.

As it is cooking meat at high temperatures that causes the formation of PAHs and HCAs, precook meat in your oven at a lower temperature and finish on the BBQ, you will still get all the flavors of the BBQ without the risks.

There is no better way to enjoy the summertime than a BBQ outdoors, with deliciously marinated cuts of meat, fish, vegetables with a variety of eye-catching salads.

For more delicious BBQ recipes go to my website and download my free recipe book 15 delicious & healthy BBQ recipes.

Debbie Devane from The Nutri Coach is a qualified nutritionist and health coach, Debbie runs her clinic from the Glenard Clinic in Mountmellick and also offers one to one online consultations, online groups and corporate workshops. Debbie is also Nutritionist to the Offaly GAA senior footballers. For more information or to make an appointment email Debbie at
Ph: 086-1720055
Facebook: The Nutri Coach@debbiedevane
thenutricoach Instagram: the_nutricoach

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