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Summer BBQ Planning? Read This First!

By Amy Johnson, RD, CDE - With the winter chill finally gone, many of us are excited to gas up our grills and start planning Memorial Day Parties and Picnics!! Since grilling meat, chicken and fish are part of our summer traditions, it’s worth learning about ways to reduce our cancer risk.

Cancer risk? What does grilling have to do with cancer??

Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) are cancer-causing chemicals that are formed when meat, chicken, or fish are cooked at very high temperatures. The higher and hotter the heat, the more HCAs are created. These chemicals can increase our risk for many forms of cancer, including breast, colon, lung, pancreatic, and prostate cancer!

While baking, roasting, boiling, steaming, poaching, stewing, and stir-frying are the best ways to decrease HCAs, we can reduce our HCAs when we grill by following these tips:

  1. Marinate before grilling – Marinating is a must! The type doesn’t matter, as long as the protein source sits in some form of liquid. The amount of time it stays in the marinade also doesn’t matter.

  2. Microwave it after cooking – Microwaving cuts 90% of the formation of HCAs. Just throw the protein in the microwave for 1 1/2 - 2 minutes and pour off the juices before eating.

  3. Substitute meat with seafood – Seafood is the best option for grilling as it produces fewer HCAs than meat or chicken. Substituting fish for meat also decreases our risk for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes!

  4. Prevent dryness – The drier the meat, the more HCAs!

  5. Flip it – Turning the protein source every few minutes helps to keep the temperatures down.

  6. Eat more veggies – Grilling veggies or veggie burgers don’t create HCAs. Broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts may actually help our bodies detoxify the HCAs!

Now that you're prepared for a safer summer, don’t forget to enjoy yourself!



These mini cheesecake cupcakes bring the red, white, and blue to your Memorial Day or Fourth of July festivities. These are the perfect weekend treat and taste too good to be under 100 calories!


  • Servings: 12

  • Calories per serving: 98

  • Total Fat: 4.5 g

  • Sodium: 29.5 mg

  • Carbohydrates: 10.5 g

  • Dietary Fiber: 0.5 g

  • Sugars: 7.5 g

  • Protein: 3.5 g


  • 12 reduced-fat vanilla wafers

  • 8 oz 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened

  • 1/4 cup sugar

  • 1 tsp vanilla

  • 6 oz fat-free vanilla Greek yogurt (I used Chobani)

  • 2 large egg whites

  • 1 tbsp all-purpose flour

  • 8 oz strawberries, hulled and sliced thin

  • 8 oz blueberries


  • Heat oven to 350°.

  • Line cupcake tin with liners. Place a vanilla wafer at the bottom of each liner.

  • Gently beat cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla until smooth using an electric mixer.

  • Gradually beat in fat-free yogurt, egg whites, and flour. Do not overbeat.

  • Pour into cupcake liners filling halfway.

  • Bake 20-25 minutes or until the center is almost set.

  • Cool to room temperature then chill for at least 1 hour in the refrigerator.

  • Before serving, top with fresh strawberries and blueberries.



Made with crisp power greens, toasted walnuts, chunks of Parmesan, and a lemony Dijon dressing — this salad tastes like a healthful, crunchy Caesar. Be prepared to love it, even if you’re not a kale or Brussels sprouts person.


  • Calories per serving: 256

  • Fat: 20g

  • Saturated fat: 4g

  • Carbohydrates: 13g

  • Sugar: 3g

  • Fiber: 5g

  • Protein: 10g

  • Sodium: 432mg

  • Cholesterol: 10mg


  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped

  • 1 pound brussels sprouts, trimmed, halved, and thinly sliced

  • 1 pound Tuscan or curly kale (about 1 large bunch), thick center rib removed, leaves thinly sliced

  • 1 cup coarsely grated or chopped Parmigiano Reggiano


  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, from about 2 lemons

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots, from one large shallot

  • 1 small clove garlic, minced

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy clean-up.

  2. Bake the walnuts for 5-8 minutes, until toasted and fragrant. Keep a close eye on them; they burn quickly.

  3. Combine the brussels sprouts and kale in a large bowl.

  4. Combine all of the dressing ingredients in a small bowl, and pour over the vegetables.

  5. Add most of the walnuts and cheese, reserving some to garnish the platter, and toss well.

  6. Let the salad sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes (or up to a few hours in the fridge) to allow the flavors to meld and the vegetables to soften.

  7. Transfer to a serving dish and scatter the remaining walnuts and cheese over top. Serve at room temperature.

Think your diet is sub-par and you may be missing needed nutrients? Our registered dietitian has over 20 years of experience helping patients make healthy food choices! We invite you to schedule an appointment with our nutritionist by calling us at 703.349.5100 or clicking here to request an appointment. To stay up-to-date on the latest news and tips from us, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram, and sign up for our monthly newsletter for even more information sent straight to your inbox!



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