Bypass BBQ Blunders: 5 Steps to a Healthy Summer Cookout

If you’re planning on attending outdoor parties this summer, be sure you’re equipped to enjoy the party, while still keeping it safe and healthy.  We’ve put together a cookout road map to help you carefully navigate through a summer BBQ from start to finish.
Before the party: Resist the temptation to lather up with sunscreen.  Since an estimated 50-78 percent of Americans have lower-than-optimal levels of vitamin D, soaking up a few minutes of sunshine can be a good thing.[1.]  People with low levels of vitamin D are at a higher risk for several degenerative diseases including cardiovascular disease, cancer and respiratory disease. 2 After 10 to 20 minutes of sun exposure, use sun protection, preferably in the form of clothing and hats.  If you use sunscreen, choose an organic brand. Many popular sunscreens are filled with toxins like petro-chemicals and parabens, which have been linked to DNA damage and even breast cancer[2. P.D. Darbre et al. “Concentrations of Parabens in Human Breast Tumours.” J. Appl. Toxicol. (004. (24):5-13.] [3. Okamoto Y. et al. “Combined activation of methyl paraben by light irradiation and esterase metabolism toward oxidative DNA damage.” Chem Res Toxicol. 2008 (8):1594-9. Epub 2008 Jul 26.].
When you get there: Don’t just stand around drinking beer waiting to eat. Cookouts give you the opportunity to be outside for three hours or more, so capitalize on the opportunity. Get active. Go play Frisbee or toss around a football. Running around with friends is more engaging than huffing and puffing on a treadmill. Burn some fun calories.
While the food is cooking: Grilling meat at high temperatures can cause the formation of heterocyclic amines (HCAs), which have been linked to cancer; and advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which have been linked heart and kidney disease and diabetes. In fact, a person’s cancer risk from HCAs goes from 1-in-10,000 to 1-to-50 for those ingesting large amounts of well-done meats, especially flamed-grilled chicken.[4. W. Zheng,, et al. Report: “Well-done Meat Intake and the Risk of Breast Cancer,.” Journal of the National Cancer Institute 1998 Nov 18; 90(22):1724-1729.] When the fat from the meat drips into the fire, the smoke created can release polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), also linked to cancer[5. Harvard Health Letter. June 2007.]. The safe alternative? Cook at lower temperatures and use leaner meat. Also try supplementing fatty meats with mushrooms and other vegetables.
As you are eating: Weigh your side options.  Summer cookouts are notorious for greasy, potluck-style sides like potato chips, onion rings and macaroni and cheese—all “dead foods” that are void of nutrition.  Opt for “life-giving foods” like fresh fruit and vegetables.
After the main course: What’s for dessert? The phrase “American as apple pie” is quickly becoming “American as obesity.” If you’ve saved room for dessert, don’t let yourself fall prey to loads of sugar and white flour.  The Maximized Living website is full of delicious dessert recipes to satisfy your sweet tooth while keeping your diet on track. Take the initiative and bring a raving raspberry smoothie or strawberry gelato to the party.
If you follow this advice, you’ll be feeling great for the after-party while everybody else is sunburned, tired and bloated.  For more ideas, check in with your local Maximized Living doctor, or stay tuned to the Max Living blog for more great tips and recipes. You can also participate in the upcoming Community Dinner on July 9th and the big event “Living to 100” on July 12th at your local Maximized Living Health Center.