Barbecues are sure to be a favorite pastime at The Club at Boynton Beach. As soon as the weather heats up, you’ll find many of our residents in the central courtyard hanging out by the outdoor grill. For our seniors, cookouts are all about enjoying the great outdoors, spending time with friends and family, and, of course, eating good food!
Unfortunately, grilling isn’t always the healthiest method for preparing food. Grilled meals tend to include meats, which are higher in fats, calories, and cholesterol. Plus, recent research has shown that grilling meats may increase the risk of cancer. But cooking outdoors doesn’t have to be scary or unhealthy. Here are a few ways seniors can stay healthy while grilling out this summer.
#1: Control the temperature of the meat.
When red meat, poultry, and fish reach high temperatures, they release cancer-causing chemicals called heterocyclic amines (HCAs). To reduce these chemicals from forming, seniors can use the following tips:
- Cook smaller pieces. By cutting meat into smaller pieces, you can reduce the cooking time and temperature of your food.
- Flip frequently. Cooking enthusiasts may not like this one, but when combined with lower cooking temperatures, frequently flipping meat can reduce HCAs and E. coli.
- Precook meats. The longer you grill, the hotter your food gets. By precooking your meat, you can reduce the time your food needs to stay exposed to harmful chemicals.
#2: Choose low-fat meat.
When selecting meats, it’s usually best to choose those that are low in fat. High-fat meats tend to be high in calories and cholesterol as well. They drip excess fat, too. While this may seem like a positive, the effects are quite negative. When the fat from meat drips onto the coals, it forms a carcinogen called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). When smoke travels up, or when flare-ups occur, these harmful chemicals can enter the meat. Seniors can reduce these toxins by purchasing low-fat meats or trimming any visible fat before placing it on the grill.
#3: Create a protective marinade.
Studies have shown that marinating your food with certain ingredients, like pepper and herbs, can help protect it from forming HCA. High concentrations of rosemary extract, for example, have been shown to reduce HCAs by up to 90%. Prevention offers a tasty marinade recipe that’s full of protective ingredients. To make it, mix together red wine, olive oil, red wine vinegar, rosemary, garlic, and pepper. Just be careful not to over-marinate, as it can counteract the positive effects. Two hours seems to be the sweet spot.
#4: Limit red and processed meat.
When it comes to grilling, red and processed meats are not your only options. Studies have shown that red meat may increase the risk of certain health conditions. In addition to cancer, eating red meat is linked to heart disease and diabetes. Processed meats, such as hot dogs and sausage, contain nitrate preservatives. When cooked at high temperatures, they can trigger carcinogens called nitrosamines in addition to HCAs. So what can you do? Opt for safer proteins such as shrimp, oysters, and lobster.
#5: Complete your meal with vegetables.
You are probably already aware of the many benefits of vegetables. In addition to being packed with vitamins and nutrients, veggies are also full of antioxidants. Their free-radical fighting properties may help counteract the toxins that form when grilling. Tomatoes, onions, and bell peppers are all great choices. Not only do they taste great when grilled, but they tend to pair wonderfully with most meats.
Grilling Can Be Healthy
Being mindful of how you grill out is essential for people of all ages. By taking these precautions, seniors can enjoy summer barbecues without sacrificing their health, or the wellness of their guests.
At The Club at Boynton Beach, we know how important it is for seniors to eat a well-balanced diet. Consuming nutrient-dense foods can not only prevent many health problems, but it can also improve the way you feel. That’s why we are available to meet with our residents to develop a meal plan that supports their goals. Contact us today to learn more about how we help our residents live their best life.