Healthy BBQ Tips & Tricks

There is nothing like cooking and eating al fresco under the summer sun. It is a fantastic opportunity to eat fresh, lightly grilled summer vegetables, cool salads and delicious omega-3 packed wild fish.

In order to ensure your BBQ is as healthy as it can be it is important to follow a few key tips when at the grill. First off, cooking meat, poultry and fish at high temperatures on the BBQ can lead to the meat being charred.  This blackening of the meat leads to the formation of carcinogenic compounds called heterocyclic amines (HAs). The National Cancer Institute (in US) found that HAs may increase the risk of colon, stomach and other cancers.

So that’s the bad news. The good news is that you can take a few simple steps to reduce the formation of HAs.

  • Marinating your meats, poultry and fish with garlic, ginger, turmeric, wine, beer, lemon juice or rosemary have all been found to reduce HA formation.
  • Reduce heat. Temperature is the most significant factor in HA formation. Reduce the grill to medium or try pre-cooking your meat/poultry gently on the stove and then finish off on the BBQ to incorporate the smoky flavour.
  • Reduce cooking time. The longer the cooking time, the more HAs are formed.
  • Veggies! HAs do not form on vegetables.
  • Crack open a cold one. One study showed that drinking beer neutralizes the cancer-forming activity of the HAs. Darker or stout beers appear to have the strongest neutralizing affect.

Another trick is to use the BBQ like an outdoor oven and protect your fish from the flames with a base of citrus slices and herbs. The fish absorbs the wonderful flavours of the oranges, lemons and herbs as it “bakes” on the BBQ. Try the salmon recipe below at your next BBQ for a delicious, healthy alternative to burgers and steaks.



Serves 8.

Wild salmon (about 3 lbs)

4 Lemons

2 Oranges

1 Small bunch cilantro

1 Small bunch Italian parsley

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Slice lemons and oranges into 1/4 inch rounds. Make a bed for the salmon by laying the citrus slices along the BBQ. Then place the cilantro and parsley on top. Lay the salmon, skin side down, over the herbs and season with salt & pepper. Close the BBQ and cook salmon for between 20-30 minutes depending on thickness. When serving use two large spatulas to carefully transfer the salmon along with the citrus and herbs to a large platter.  Serve along side a green salad, grilled veggies and a few new potatoes. Enjoy.

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Finally, summer has hit British Columbia. It’s time to dust off the BBQ and get grilling. However, before you reach for your usual BBQ fare of cheeseburgers, potato salad and lemonade, I have some suggestions on how to keep your BBQ meal light and delicious with a couple of culinary twists.


First step in the BBQ makeover is to transform your greasy cheeseburger into a leaner, meaner bison burger.

Bison has less total fat and less saturated fat than its beef equivalent.  For a 3 ounce patty, a regular lean hamburger contains 279 calories with 25 grams of fat. A bison burger, by comparison, contains 190 calories and only 14 grams of fat. Bison also contains more iron and zinc, but less cholesterol than a beef burger.

We know that “fat = flavour” so to ensure that your bison burger does not turn out to be a dry, tasteless version of its more popular cousin, here are a few tricks to keep the burger moist and tasty.

  1. Seasoning. Add some of your favourite spices like paprika & cumin or hamburger spice rubs or Hye’s MSG-free Seasoning Salt to the ground meat.
  2. Worcestershire or BBQ sauce. Adding a dash of Worcestershire sauce or a tablespoon of your favourite BBQ sauce into the mix will also add some moistness and added flavour.
  3. Cheese. Incorporate the cheese INTO the burger by grating sharp cheddar, fontina, or pepper jack straight into the mince. Use about half an ounce of cheese per patty. Form the beef into patties and place on the grill. The cheese melts inside as the burger cooks making it ooey-gooey good.

One final tip – watch the serving size. Most burgers are an average 5-8 ounces. One serving of meat should max out at 3 ounces. Think slider size and add tomatoes, lettuce,  sprouts or  avocado to “beef up” the burger.  Fill the rest of your plate with Summer Quinoa Salad.


Ditch the heavy mayonnaise- based potato salad and lighten up with a nutritious Summer Quinoa Salad. 

By now you have likely heard about the benefits of this super-food. In fact, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations has officially declared 2013 as “The International Year of the Quinoa”. Yes, really.  The Organization wanted to recognize the exceptional nutritional qualities of quinoa, its adaptability to different agro-ecological floors and its potential contribution in the fight against hunger and malnutrition.

Unlike most grains quinoa provides a complete source of protein as well as small amounts of the anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids. It has twice the amount of calcium than wheat and is a rich source of antioxidants.

Along with all this great news is that it is fast and easy to prepare making it an ideal go-to staple in a busy household.  Follow the recipe below to add a nutritious, light salad to your BBQ menu.


Summer Quinoa Salad

1 cup quinoa, rinsed

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 clove crushed garlic

2 large tomatoes – chopped

1 cup chopped cucumber

1 cup chopped red or yellow sweet bell peppers

8 mint leaves, ripped

½  cup crumbled feta

8-10 Kalamata or Nicoise olives pitted & sliced

Combine tomatoes, garlic, oil and vinegar in a large bowl; let stand while you cook the quinoa.  Boil 2 cups of water and add rinsed quinoa. Cover, and reduce heat to low. Simmer gently until all of liquid absorbed, about 12-15 minutes. You will know when the quinoa is done as it becomes translucent and the germ partially detaches from the seed.  Fluff quinoa with fork and cool to room temperature (or rinse under cold water).  Place in large salad bowl, add tomato mixture and remaining ingredients. Serve on own or on bed of lightly dressed mixed salad greens.  Serves  4-6.



If you are thirsty for a cool drink but don’t want the added calories of a sugary punch or lemonade, try a Berry Cooler. Simply blend together ½ cup berries of your choice and 1 cup sparkling water (make sure lid is on tight) then pour over a tall glass with ice and finish with a squirt of lime. This refreshing drink is packed full of vitamins and anti-oxidants and will leave you feeling revived and refreshed.

Happy Barbecuing!

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