Summer is here! That means it’s time for a good ole’ backyard barbecue. Gather friends and family, and get the grill ready! Before we get-to-grilling however, there are a few considerations to be made to ensure we aren’t compromising health or blood sugar.
Firstly, which type of food do you envision when you hear the word “grill?” I’ll wager I’m right when I say… meat! For most of us, it’s just not a barbecue without meat.
It’s important to get enough protein, but not too much. Believe it or not, excess protein can actually raise blood sugar! By eating too much protein, you can trigger the body to release glucose into the bloodstream.
For non-diabetics, this is not a serious issue, however, for individuals who do not produce enough insulin, or whose cells are resistant to insulin, this extra glucose in the blood roams free and results in high blood sugar.
While grilled meat does have a deliciously singular taste and texture, it does not come without risk. According to the National Cancer Institute, potentially cancer-causing (carcinogenic) chemicals called HCAs are produced when meat is cooked at temperatures above 300 degrees.
Some toxins produced by cooking at high temperatures can also have a direct impact on insulin production and the regulation of inflammation. According to researchers, this can not only increase one’s risk of developing Type II diabetes, it can also lead to complications in those already diagnosed with the disease.
If you simply must grill meat, be sure to avoid foods like hot dogs or sausages. Those processed meats contain high levels of salt, nitrite and nitrate preservatives which aren’t doing your health any favors. Choose lean cuts of steak to grill instead, and avoid charring it or cooking it to very well done, to reduce risk of those chemicals released through high-heat cooking.
Recipes to try:
For a healthier grilled protein option, give seafood a try. While most types of fish also release HCAs if grilled at high heat, researchers have found that some varieties of seafood do not. Imagine – grilled scallops, shrimp, oysters, even lobster!
Recipes to try:
The deliciousness doesn’t end there! Have you ever considered grilling vegetables? How about fruits? There are several vegetables and fruits that lend extremely well to grilling, and that do not form HCAs when cooked at high temperatures. Artichokes are absolutely divine when grilled, and as a bonus, artichokes are low in calories, rich in fiber and high in essential nutrients.
Recipes to try:
Grilled Cinnamon Apples (just don’t add the brown sugar – you won’t miss it, we promise!)
Another way to grill healthier is to focus on marinades. Store-bought marinades usually contain very high amounts of salt and can also be unexpectedly high in sugar. Instead, try making your own marinades at home. For flavors from Far East to Tex Mex, from the coast of the Mediterranean, to an old-fashioned American barbecue, check out these 4 Easy Make-at-Home Marinades.
On that topic, do not marinate foods outside or at room temperature. It may be tempting to keep meat marinating next to you while you tend the coals on the grill, but leave the meat inside in the refrigerator until you are ready to put it directly onto the heat. If you want to use the marinade as a basting or finishing sauce, always set aside a small amount prior to marinating the meat. Never reuse the marinade as a sauce for the cooked food.
Also, make sure your hands are clean before you begin preparing your grilled dishes. Also wash hands, knives, and cutting boards in between handling cooked foods and raw ones. Never put the cooked meat on the same plate it marinated on without washing the plate first. If you are grilling vegetables or fruits, be sure to give them a good scrubbing before starting your prep.
We hope these tips, tricks, and recipes will get your summer off to a happy and delicious start. Go fire up those coals!