It’s summer: what to put on the barbecue for your health?

[Article updated on 19/09/2023]

A little history of Barbecue: it originally comes from an old expression meaning “from the beard to the tail” which was born when French explorers reported eating a whole cooked goat from the beard to the tail!
Barbecue cooking is often associated with the summer season and represents a moment of sharing, a festive meal. Did you know that 63% of French people over 25 have a barbecue and have used it more than once in the summer?

Before reading on

I’m not an expert in this field, but I am passionate about nutrition and health.

The articles you’ll find on my site are the result of in-depth research that I’d like to share with you. However, I would like to stress that I am not a health professional and that my advice should in no way replace that of a qualified physician. I’m here to guide you, but it’s important that you consult a professional for specific questions or medical concerns. Your well-being is important. So be sure to consult the appropriate experts and take the best possible care of yourself.

Might as well know all the secrets, right?

As a Dietitian Nutritionist I will give you instructions for using the barbecue: which foods to use and how to best use this cooking method to respect your health!

What meat should you favor?

I invite you to favor low-fat meats.
Indeed, contact between fat and the flame generates benzopyrenes (= organic compounds) which have the bad reputation of being carcinogenic!

What to choose: it is preferable to eat white meats such as chicken or turkey and red meats such as flank steak, sirloin steak or even lamb stools with little fat.

Does a barbecue without chipolatas or merguez seem difficult to imagine?
Little advice: do not prick your sausages and merguez before and during cooking.
Water + fat = promotes the formation of flames and therefore increases the toxicity of the barbecue. Additionally, they will become drier and less flavorful.

2 methods to season your meats:

  • Marinade: preparation which allows you to soak meat or fish in order to tenderize them and add additional flavor to your grilled meat. Marinating your meat would reduce carcinogenic substances by more than half. A thin film will form on your food and protect it during cooking. If the marinade is generally quite fatty, you have nothing to fear for your figure since all the fat will melt on the barbecue, leaving only meat imbued with a taste of herbs and spices.
  • Spices and herbs: they have the advantage of seasoning your dishes and giving them flavor and different flavors, while reducing the amount of salt.

What other foods can I cook?

Fruits and vegetables are often forgotten in the barbecue!

Grilled vegetables such as peppers, zucchini or even corn on the cob are excellent grilled.
You can cook them in pieces or make skewers.

Most often the skewer is a combination of meat or fish and vegetables. Have fun with family or friends creating skewers to your liking.
You can add peppers, onions, tomatoes or even mushrooms to your favorite meats. Yum !

It is also possible to grill fruit!
Bananas cut in half lengthwise or slices of pineapple that caramelize slightly… A balanced and healthy dessert just the way we like them. Think of apple, pear or peach wedges to sprinkle with dessert spices like cinnamon for example.
Fruits can also be marinated in citrus juice or honey with, why not, mint leaves. Vary the pleasures!
And the fruit skewers? Test them!

For people who like the combination of sweet and savory: create skewers combining the sweetness of fruit with the power of your well-seasoned meats or vegetables.

Maintain your grill and pay attention to cooking food

It is essential to take care of your barbecue grill. The accumulations of fat that char on it expose you more to carcinogenic substances. So clean it carefully.

It is also very important to monitor the cooking of your food. Prefer not to overcook your food because carcinogenic substances can develop with excessive heating of the food (the food is burnt, blackened).

My advice: place food far enough away from flames or embers to reduce the creation of toxic substances and thus have slow cooking which will give a better taste to your grilled food.

Is eating barbecue good for my health?

Unsurprisingly, barbecue is a cooking technique that generates a lot of smoke and the formation of toxic substances on your food. It is important to turn your food often to prevent it from overheating and becoming loaded with toxic substances.

Prefer not to start your barbecues with firelighters but rather with very dry kindling. In fact, solid or liquid firelighters are concentrates of toxic products which will subsequently mix with your food when cooking.

So, eating barbecue from time to time yes but it must remain an occasional means of cooking (maximum 2 times/week).

What to remember and apply?

  • Cook your meats with little or no fat
  • Get away from the usual barbecued meat and think about fish (sea bream, sea bass, sole, red mullet, etc.)
  • Add vegetables to the grill
  • Consider skewers for a more varied and balanced meal
  • Make marinades (you’ll always find one you like!)
  • Use spices to bring new flavors and reduce your salt intake
  • Clean your cooking grill thoroughly at the end of each use of the barbecue
  • Keep your food away from flames
  • Remember to turn your food often
  • Choose kindling to start a barbecue rather than firelighters

The barbecue allows you to cook your food from starter to dessert if you wish. This cooking method is not restricted to certain foods, quite the contrary. Break out of your habits!

Dare to try new foods and other combinations while respecting the main guidelines of a balanced and varied diet! You will enjoy summer just as much and these moments that everyone loves to share.