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  • Myron Yau

Barbecuing Healthily

Myron Yau, HK BioTek Nutritionist

The last chapter on this topic is barbecue. In fact, this cooking method is simpler than hotpot as there are less factors contributing to unhealthy barbecue. Unlike hotpot, it does not include soup bases or a large variety of different foods. Yet there are a few points that we have to aware of.

Same as hotpot, the choices of different foods in barbecue are elemental to a healthy barbecue meal. The worse choices remain to be beef, pork chop, animal organs, fried fish balls, etc. One may not realize that the beef and pork chop contain high calorie content. For example, 150 gram beef and pork chop with middle fat/lean content contain 250-300 kcal, which are a lot more than a bowl of rice. For the meat lovers, the better alternatives are lean beef, chicken meat without skin, unfried fish balls and seafoods. Equal weights of various seafoods, including different fishes, shrimps and scallops, only contribute to one’s calorie intake varying from 30 to 135 kcal, which are ten times to two folds less than those of beef and pork chop. As one may observe, it actually make an enormous difference in energy intake of a meal with a wise choice of foods. It does not necessarily mean that everyone should not eat beef and pork chop thereafter, but that we recommend to eat these meat types less frequently and the amount of other meats eaten should be reduced accordingly if these meats are eaten in that particular meal so that a balanced diet is attained.

Apart from caloric intake, different methods of barbecue are able to give healthy and delicious foods. The direct barbecue right above the fire is a very traditional way. However, it is also a way that will produce some carcinogenic compounds on the foods like red meats, poultry and seafoods. These carcinogens include polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and Heterocyclic amines (HCAs). The former one is produced when the fat (oil) drop onto the burning charcoal, which is then released as smoke and spread on the surface of the foods. Also, the darkened parks of the foods may contain PAHs. On the other hand, high temperature can produce the latter one in the presence of proteins. Thus, the cook is advised not to put the foods too closely to fire. Then, the problem will be minimized. The second way by which many people use to cook seafoods, vegetables and mushrooms in barbecue is using an aluminum foil to wrap up the foods and putting it near to the fire for cooking. The latter method should be healthier as there is no direct between the fire and the foods, and less carcinogenic compounds are produced.

For the seasonings in barbecue, the most commonly used is honey. The honey available on the market is usually very concentrated and thus high in sugar. Therefore, one should dilute the honey with water before use. As the fire will evaporate the water from diluted honey, the sweet taste will become strong again but the sugar intake is reduced. For the preserved barbecue packs, the foods inside have already been preserved heavily by salt, and many other flavorings. Therefore, they may be too salty. The foods preserved at home with natural flavorings will be much better.

Similar to hotpot, the better drinks during a barbecue are sugar-free / light drinks, cold tea and water.

A few meals after barbecue should be lighter so that fewer calories, fats, and salts are ingested on average. More fruits intake can help in digestion. Since Vitamin C can neutralize the carcinogens, people who had barbecue are recommended to eat more citrus fruits that are rich in vitamin C.

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