Healthy Living in the North

Foodie Friday: Turn up the heat! Cooking healthy meals on the BBQ

BBQ chicken, mango salsa, asparagus, and carrots on a plate.

Think outside the steak for the grill this summer! Erin’s jerk chicken recipe is a great option for a healthy and quick BBQ dinner!

Summer is here!

Hot weather invites you to enjoy the outdoors, and cooking is no exception. Unless you enjoy cooking in a hot kitchen while gazing out at the beautiful sunshine, it’s time to pull out the barbecue and get creative!

While I was in Vancouver, I ran a community kitchen as part of a local organization that empowered families to grow their own food and cook delicious and healthy meals from their bounty. We cooked everything on a barbecue, from cedar-planked salmon to homemade wild blueberry perogies, to show that anything is possible with a little creativity and improvisation.

When you think about barbecuing, are you envisioning a juicy steak with grilled potatoes and corn on the cob?

While that is definitely an option, I like to try new things on the barbecue and also look outside of the typical steak and potato meal for cancer prevention.

Eating a diet high in red meat has been shown to increase cancer risk and grilled or barbecued meat may further increase your risk of developing cancer. According to the Dietitians of Canada, when meat is cooked at a high temperature, like on the grill, fat can drip onto hot flames. This can cause flare-ups and cancer-causing compounds may be formed. To help keep healthy while enjoying your favourite foods on the barbecue, here are a few tips.

Tips for a healthy BBQ season

  • Choose kabobs or thin cuts of meat to minimize time on the grill.
  • Trim off visible fat to help reduce flare-ups.
  • Marinate your meats to reduce the formation of cancer-causing compounds by 80-90%!
  • Barbecue at a lower temperature.
  • Trim off any burnt or charred pieces.
  • Opt for vegetarian items! Grilling vegetables doesn’t increase your cancer risk.

Last night, I enjoyed this spicy jerk chicken with mango salsa, using butterflied and marinated chicken for a quick and healthy summer dinner.

Chicken, vegetables, and rice on a plate.

Butterflied chicken (or small cuts of meat on a kabob) is one way to minimize time on the grill and make your BBQ healthier this summer. What are your BBQ favourites?

Jerk Chicken with Mango Salsa

Ingredients:

  • 4 chicken breasts, butterflied or pounded 1 inch thick
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • ¼ tsp red chili flakes
  • ½ tbsp dried thyme
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1 lime, juiced

Mango Salsa

  • 1 mango, diced
  • 1/3 cup red onion, diced
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • ¼ tsp salt

Instructions:

  1. Combine spices and lime juice together to create a paste. Rub over chicken and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.
  2. Turn the barbecue on to medium heat.
  3. Make the mango salsa by combining mango, red onion, tomato, cilantro, lime juice and salt together in medium-sized bowl. Set aside.
  4. Place chicken on the barbecue and cook for approximately 5 minutes, until golden brown. Flip chicken and cook on the other side until the internal temperature reaches 165 F.
  5. Serve chicken with mango salsa and your favourite sides.

Food safety is still important on the grill. For tips to keep barbecuing safe, check out tips from Health Canada.

Don’t feel like cooking? Check out Carly’s “full-meal-deal salad” for a quick summertime dinner.

Erin Branco

About Erin Branco

Erin is a dietitian with Northern Health's clinical nutrition team at UHNBC. Erin has a passion for growing and cooking food as well as teaching patients, clients and families about incorporating a balanced, wholesome diet into a healthy lifestyle. In her spare time, you can find her cooking up a storm, writing about food and nutrition, and growing vegetables at her community garden. During her dietetics internship, Erin explored the north from Fort St. John to Haida Gwaii, learning about clinical and public health dietetics with many adventures along the way.

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