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Barbecue Boruch

During the summer, my family frequently barbecues. Just about all our dinners are made on the grill. I even eat the leftovers for lunch! Is this okay in terms of health? Is there a difference between grilling with charcoal versus gas?


Barbecue Boruch

Dear Barbecue Boruch,

In terms of healthy eating, selection of food items, recipes and cooking methods all play a role. There are answers to your question: Let’s explore!

Food Selection

Food Selections are imperative when it comes to health outcomes. Selecting high fat cuts of meat, including ground meats, high fat hot dogs and skin on poultry versus choosing lean cuts of meat, lower fat hot dogs and skinless poultry make a huge difference. If you are calorie conscious or concerned about dietary fat intake and having good health, select the leaner versions of meat and skinless poultries. Boruch, what kinds of foods are you selecting for the barbecue grill?

Recipe Ingredients

Preparing foods with high calorie sweet and sour sauces or high salt content sauces, affects the outcome of your final food product. If the ingredients are not healthy, the meal will not be either. Some people drench grilled food in these types of unhealthy sauces. Baruch, how are you preparing your foods for the grill? What are your ingredients?

What to Do?

If you are really concerned with healthy eating, avoid seasoning with heavy sugar-honey sauces. Avoid highly salty tenderizing products and sauces as well. Reduce added sugar in recipes. Get used to eating less sweet and salty food items to better your health. Think about this: when you add excess sugar, salt or sauces to foods, you lose the taste of the “real deal.”

Herbs and Spices

There is research-based evidence that herbs and spices contain antioxidants (cloves and cumin), anti-inflammatory agents (ginger, black pepper, turmeric and rosemary), anti-tumorigenic and anti-carcinogenic agents (capsaicin, a component in red pepper). In addition, some have blood glucose lowering qualities (turmeric, basil and cinnamon) and cholesterol lowering components (turmeric).

Also, note that some herbs and spices have positive effects on cognition and mood (black pepper, sage, saffron and ginger).

*One can have a wide variety of interesting tasty and healthy foods on the grill by using a variety of fresh spices and herbs. That’s “dietician recommended cooking!”

Charcoal Versus Gas Grilling

Grilling with charcoal is associated with creating carcinogens. The risk is highest with high fat content meat cooked at high temperatures. (June 22, 2021)

In terms of taste, charcoal is unmistakably the victor over gas grilling. The smoky flavor of charcoal grilling is considered unbeatable. In terms of health, gas-grilled food contains fewer carcinogens compared to food that has been charred. Gas grills also have smaller carbon footprints (since the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses emitted is less due to the consumption of fossil fuel). Gas grilling is better for the environment. Lastly, there is less clean up with gas grilling compared to charcoal grilling.


Moderation is the key to eating safe and healthy. If you only barbeque or grill in the summertime, then perhaps it is not so terrible. But, if you prepare food this way all year long, it would be prudent to consider other types of cooking. In any event, it would be wise to consume leaner cuts of meat and skinless poultry as healthier selections and consider seasoning with fresh herbs and spices.

Pineapple Shish-Kabab

  • 1 can unsweetened pineapple juice (6 oz)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 lime, zested and juiced
  • 1 inch piece fresh ginger, grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 fresh pineapple, cut into 16 chunks
  • 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 16 (1-inch) chunks
  • 4 metal skewers or 8 (12-inch) wooden skewers soaked in water for 30 minutes.

Marinate: Cut chicken breasts into 16 bite-sized chunks. In a bowl, whisk together the pineapple juice, vegetable oil, lime juice and zest, grated ginger and red pepper flakes. Add the chicken chunks, cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Thread: Thread alternate pieces of chicken, pineapple and red bell pepper onto each skewer. Discard the remaining marinade.

Grill: Heat your lightly greased grill or grill pan to medium-high. Grill kebabs for 10 to 12 minutes; turn them every 3 to 4 minutes. Chicken is done when it feels firm to the touch and when a meat thermometer inserted in the center reaches 170°F.


Serve with tossed salad and grilled potatoes. Fresh fruit for dessert! Healthy, Yummy and Nutrition Transformations approved!

Yours in good health,



By Jennifer Chapler, MS, RD, CDN

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