Picnic Confidential

Outdoor eating is loads of fun. Getting sick from it isn’t. Herein, the basics of healthy barbecuing.

It’s not fair, but picnic time, like so much else in modern life, is no longer carefree. Will eating a grilled T-bone steak cause cancer? Is the neighbor’s pasta salad infected with E. coli? Can you still enjoy an outdoor barbecue?

Of course you can. Just use a little common sense to up the safety factor without bringing down the fun factor.


Grill Friends
According to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), grilling’s high temperatures can produce cancer-causing compounds in meat. Other carcinogens are formed when dripping fat sizzles and smokes on hot coals or stones. Along with the smoky flavor, those flare-ups can send carcinogens back onto your food.

But the picnic isn’t over. There’s no specific data on what level of consumption could increase cancer risk. So, the AICR simply suggests limiting grilled-meat meals to no more than twice a week. To further reduce the risk while still enjoying the grill, the AICR offers these tips:


Marinate meat before grilling. It enhances flavor and significantly reduces carcinogens.

Use lean meats and trim off all fat beforehand to reduce flare-ups.

Use tongs or a spatula to flip meat instead of piercing it with a fork.

Keep portions small, like kabobs, so they require less cooking time.

Remove all charred or burnt portions before serving.

Hard to Stomach

Picnic time is, sadly, food poisoning time as well. The bacteria that make us sick to our stomachs grow faster when the temperature and humidity climb.

To lessen your risk of a food-borne illness, heed these tips:

Wrap raw meat securely. Keep it separate from ready-to-eat foods. Raw meats destined for barbecuing carry the biggest bacteria risk. Cooking will kill bacteria, but if they get onto prepared foods, you could be in for trouble.

Cook meats thoroughly. Don’t be fooled by grilled foods that get nicely charred on the outside but stay pink and undercooked within. And don’t try to get a jump on the grilling. Partial cooking of meat allows bacteria to survive and multiply so quickly that a heat-up won’t kill them.

Keep foods cold. Perishable foods, luncheon meats, salads, and spreads need to be kept on ice or in well-insulated coolers. When the temperature hits 90 degrees, you can’t trust food that’s been left out for more than an hour.

Picnic Picks: Lots of Flavor Without the Fat

Appetizer: Whole-wheat baguette with hummus. Fresh vegetable sampler with low-fat dressing.

Main Course: Grilled vegetables, turkey burger, chicken breast, or fish. (A skinless chicken breast has about 16 fewer grams of fat than a hamburger.)

Side Dish: Potato salad with vinaigrette instead of mayonnaise. (That can save you another 15 grams of fat.) Low-fat, vegetarian baked beans.

Dessert: Summer fruit salad of fresh berries and melons


For more great recipes and summer ideas, browse our boards on Pinterest at Pinterest.com/gwinnettmedical. 

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