If you love breaking out the grill as much as I do, then I feel it’s only my duty as a health coach to give you some healthy grilling tips.

First, the bad news; then the good news, but brace yourself from some textbook jargon from grade school science class.

Research has shown that chemicals like Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) form when grilling meat over a high-temperature, open flame. HCAs form in meat during the actually grilling process, and PAHs form when fat and juices drip down onto the coals or open flame and adhere to the surface of the grilled meat. According to The U.S. Department of Human Health, four different types of HCAs and five different types of PAHs can be reasonably expected to cause cancer in humans.

WHA??? Yep.

UGH! Terrible news, I know, but don’t throw away your grill just yet! All is not lost.

If you follow the super simple guidelines below, you can reduce HCA and PAH formation in your grilled foods and keep your meals healthy this BBQ season.

1. If you’re grilling meat, start by trimming off excess fat to reduce dripping and PAH formation as the meat cooks.
2. Wrapping meat in aluminum foil to direct grilling over an open flame will also reduce PAH formation and exposure.
3. Buying smaller cuts of meats that require less cooking time, such as kabobs, can also reduce PAH exposure.
4. Just Say No to processed meats like hot dogs and sausages (I know, I know – SORRY!). They may taste great, but according to the American Institute for Cancer Research, processed meats contain cancer causing preservatives, which can increase your risk of colorectal cancer. As a health coach, one of my goals is to help you become a better decision maker when it comes to nutrition for you and your family. So weigh the risks, and make an educated decision regarding where you stand on this one!
5. Always thoroughly clean your girl of any carcinogenic residue and buildup when you’re done cooking.
6. Flip frequently – this accelerates cooking and prevents HCAs from forming.
7. I’m sure you can guess that I’m thrilled to write this one: grilled vegetables don’t form HCAs, so that’s just another reason to incorporate more veggies in your diet!
8. Some research suggests that marinating meat can reduce HCA levels by up to 90%. Try using a citrus marinade with garlic and fresh herbs for an antioxidant boost, and marinate your meats for at least an hour for maximum flavor.

So the next time you fire up the grill, I urge you to incorporate some of these super simple tips. If you have any questions or need additional advice, feel free to reach out to me at

To Your Amazing Health,


* This information should not be seen as medical advice and is not meant to take the place of seeing a licensed health professional. You should discuss any dietary supplement use and should not discontinue any prescription medication without first consulting your doctor.