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A nutritionist’s view of barbecuing

Because we’re biased and love ALL things BBQ, we thought we’d get a nutritionists take on barbecuing as a cooking method, to educate us on the scientific ins and outs.

Having interviewed Sophie, a qualified nutritionist, she provided us with a lot of helpful knowledge that we’d like to share! Here’s how it went; 

Firstly, what are the benefits of barbecuing? 

Barbecuing is seen as a healthier option to other cooking methods such as frying or baking. This is because grilling over higher heat releases the bad fats from the meat, allowing it to melt and drip off/away from the food. Frying for example, allows the meat to cook in its own fat which is then reabsorbed by those eating it. Higher heat also allows food to become crispy on the outside, whilst sealing all the nutritional juices within. This is why grilled meats are typically lower in calories than fried meat. Vegetables also benefit from grilling, over boiling or frying, as it helps to preserve the key nutrients within. 

What are your thoughts on gas vs charcoal?

From a health perspective, it all sizzles down to the higher levels of carcinogens from charcoal cooking. Cooking on gas is scientifically better for your health due to it creating a lot less smoke. Charring your food creates higher levels of PAH’s (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) and HCA’S (heterocyclic aromatic amines) than gas, due to the heat when cooking being much higher. 

Gas grills also carry a much smaller carbon footprint, usually around 1/3 of a charcoal grill. 

What are the cons of barbecuing in general?

There are of course cons to this cooking method. Although the risk is much higher when charcoaling, studies have still shown that gas barbecuing also produce HCA’s and PAH’s. These can cause changes in DNA that may increase the risk of cancer. Cooking over open flames where the fat drips, produces smoke. Smoke leads to the formation of PAH’s. 

When we think of barbecuing, we think of a rather stodgy, greasy (although very tasty) meal paired with a lot of booze! A meal many would avoid if trying to stay on track with eating healthily, due to being carb and grease rich. 

What are your top tips to a healthier BBQ? 

We all love a barbecue, so realistically we’re never going to turn down hosting or attending one. If I have friends and family over, of course the best and easiest way to cater for them all is to fire up the barbie and cook multiple things at once.

There are many ways in which we can make a barbecue less calorific and more nutritional. My top tips are as follows; 

  • Cook with less oil or replacing with a healthier alternative such a coconut oil, avocado oil or Fry Light spray!


  • Always avoid frying on the barbecue due the food cooking in its own fat which is then reabsorbed by those eating it. Grilling allows the excess fat and oil to drip OFF the food. 


  • Go bun-fee! Swap the carb heavy items out for healthier alternatives such as Portobello Mushrooms, cauliflower buns, sweet potato, or eggplant buns. You could even swap a white bun for a wholegrain wrap or seed-based bun to increase your daily fibre intake and provide you with more nutritional value! 


  • As explained above, cooking over smoke and fire exposes you to certain chemicals that are linked to cancer. You can reduce the formation of these chemicals by lining your BBQ with foil perforated with holes and cook your food longer but at a lower temperature. 


  • Choose leaner, or plant-based proteins; Fish, Chicken sausages, tuna steaks!


  • Avoid the empty calories in sauces! Use condiments wisely or create your own. For example, swapping mayo for Greek yoghurt, marinate meat beforehand, rather than adding lots of BBQ sauce after. 


  • Create your own (lighter) side dishes; shop bought dishes are prone to having additives within, as well as being high in calories. Think couscous salad, potato salad, roasted veg, griddled aubergines, mixed grain salads…


  • Limit the booze or chose a cleaner drink – Vodka, soda and fresh lime or Tequila and lime are the best low calorie alcoholic beverages out there. 


  • Swapping a ready-made dessert for grilled fruit! Here’s a tasty poached pear recipe to try!


Take the above advice into consideration, be realistic and enjoy yourself (in moderation)!