The Manual
25 Jul 2014

How to have a healthy barbecue

The summer is finally here and BBQ season is upon us. This year people all around the country will be hosting BBQs to help raise money for research to revolutionise how we diagnose and treat prostate cancer.

The summer is finally here and BBQ season is upon us. This year people all around the country will be hosting BBQs to help raise money for research to revolutionise how we diagnose and treat prostate cancer.

Our MAN v BBQ season promises to be a great one and we can’t wait to hear all about what you’ve got planned. And so that your BBQ is not only good for the cause but good for you too, we’ve put together our top tips for a healthy BBQ.

Why is it important to eat healthily?

A healthy balanced diet is important for your general health and can help to reduce the risk of health problems such as heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. There’s also some research which suggests that the foods you eat might be important if you have prostate cancer, particularly if you are having certain treatments. Maybe you’re struggling from weight gain from having hormone therapy to treat your prostate cancer. Or perhaps you’ve found that following treatment for prostate cancer your appetite isn’t what it used to be.

Eating healthily can help you take control of your health, and do something positive to improve it. So here are a few ideas of how you can make your BBQ healthy. Now we just have to hope the British weather doesn’t spoil the day!

Barbecue your meats and fish over a low heat

We all know the BBQ flames can get a bit unruly at times and there’s always that one blackened sausage that got left on there for that little bit too long...

Barbecuing or grilling foods can be a healthy low fat method of cooking. But when meats or fish are grilled or barbecued at high temperatures, they produce chemicals which can increase your risk of some cancers. However overall, the risks linked with eating grilled and barbecued meats are relatively small when you look at the bigger picture. For example, being overweight and inactive is worse for your health than eating meat cooked on a barbecue - whether you have prostate cancer or not.

Even so, it's a good idea to wait until all the flames have died down and all the charcoal has turned grey before you start cooking. This lowers the temperature of the fire and reduces the amount of the harmful chemicals, called carcinogens, being produced.

If you’re planning on cooking meat at your barbecue there are some things you can do to reduce the risk of carcinogens.

  • Cook leaner meats. The less fat, the fewer flames and less smoke – all of which are associated with the carcinogens produced from cooking meat.
  • Pre-cook your meat in the microwave before putting it on the grill. This reduces the time that meat needs to be cooked at the high heat of a barbecue.
  • Flip often. Continuously turning meat over can reduce the amount of carcinogens that form, compared with just leaving the meat on the heat without flipping it often.
  • Marinate meat before barbecuing. This can also reduce the amount of carcinogens that form during cooking.
  • Clean your barbeque and remove charred bits of food. This will prevent potentially harmful chemicals building up and getting onto your food the next time you have a BBQ.

Cooking at lower temperatures over grey charcoal also stops your food from cooking too quickly and means it’s less likely to be burnt on the outside and uncooked in the inside. If meat is not cooked properly all the way through it can cause food poisoning. Always check that the meat is not pink, it’s piping hot in the middle and that when you prick it any juices are clear.

Put fish on the menu

As soon as the word BBQ is mentioned hot dogs and burgers are always the first thing to spring to mind. But it’s a good idea not to eat too much red or processed meat, so why not try something a bit different? Not only does fish work really well on a BBQ but it’s also a fantastic healthy alternative to red meat and a key part of a balanced diet. It’s low in fat and full of healthy nutrients.

If you’re worried about the fish falling apart on the BBQ just remember these simple rules. Brush the fish with small amount of olive oil first so it doesn’t stick. Don’t turn the fish too often - wait till it’s seared on one side before turning it. Use a large spatula to lift and turn the whole fish all at once. Or you could always go for the simple option and buy a grill cage that sandwiches the fish and makes the whole job a lot easier. Or opt for wrapping the fish in foil. 

Avoid fat

Whilst you need some fat in your diet, eating too much of it can make you put on weight.  Being overweight or obese is bad for your general health – and there’s some evidence that suggests it might make you more at risk of advanced prostate cancer. There’s loads of little ways you can strip the fat out of your BBQ without taking out the enjoyment factor.

Number one, swap burgers and sausages for a leaner and less fatty option such as chicken or fish. For added healthy bonus points remove the skin from the chicken, as this is high in fat, and try something like this tasty recipe for BBQ orange glazed chicken or chicken tikka skewers. Avoid the temptation to fill your table with nibbles such as crisps. Instead replace these with healthier options such as olives, fruit or vegetable crudites. If you’re doing a pasta salad, avoid creamy sauces  - this recipe for a summer pasta salad is a winner. And last but not least don’t over do it on the salad cream or mayonnaise, as these are high in fat, or opt for low-fat alternatives.  

Pick a pulse

Pulses such as soy beans, kidney beans, chickpeas and lentils are an important part of a balanced healthy diet. The pulses are an easy food group to forget about but they have a lot to offer. Not only are they high in fibre and a good source of protein but they also count as one of your five a day because they’re full of useful nutrients. Dishes such as chickpea salads are a fantastic way to make your BBQ healthier.

Eat the rainbow

We’re not talking about skittles but fruit and vegetables. Eating a variety of fruit and vegetables of different colours helps to make sure you get a wide range of vitamins and minerals. These can be fresh, frozen, dried or even tinned but, if they are, make sure there’s no added sugar or salt. You should aim to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day.

For more information on eating a healthy diet read our fact sheet Diet, physical activity and prostate cancer or call our Specialist Nurses, in confidence, on 0800 074 8383.