For Immediate Release: June 16, 2010
Contact: Mya Nelson 202-328-7744

A Healthy, Delicious Dad’s Day Cookout
Grill Safely With Tips and Recipes
From the AICR Test Kitchen

Portabello Po'Boy

WASHINGTON, DC Dad loves to grill, but you care about his health. With this healthy Father’s Day feast recommended by experts at the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), you and he can both feel good about firing up the grill … if not about his Kiss The Cook apron.

Researchers warn that grilling may pose some health risks because two cancer-causing compounds, heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) form when meats are charred or burnt.

Fortunately, AICR has some strategies to lower cancer risk when grilling. “Grilling more vegetables and keeping meat, poultry or fish amounts small are two ways to go healthier,” says Alice Bender, MS, RD, Nutrition Communications Manager for AICR. AICR recommends limiting red meat to no more than 18 ounces (cooked) per week for cancer prevention and good health.

Another idea for safer grilling: Use slightly lower heat. According to Bender, PAHs form on foods cooked at very high temperatures, so using moderate heat while grilling reduces the amount of these carcinogens we ingest.

Marinating meat beforehand has been shown to reduce the formation of HCAs. Researchers aren’t exactly sure what aspect of marinades confer the anti-carcinogenic protection evidence has suggested that the acidic nature of vinegar and citrus may play a role, or antioxidant-containing herbals like rosemary and tarragon but even brief (30 minutes or so) marinade baths have resulted in reduced HCA formation.

Burgers That Deliver Big, Beefy Flavor … Without The Beef

Better yet, try some recipes from the AICR Test Kitchen that treat Dad to a great tasting and healthy cookout. If it’s burgers that he loves, a grilled Black Bean Burger served with all the usual toppings will be a delicious change of pace and provide plenty of fiber and anti-cancer phytochemicals.

Or try a Grilled Portabello, which offers meaty texture with a rich, earthy flavor. And there’s evidence that selenium-rich foods like mushrooms help protect against prostate cancer.

“While the grill is hot, add some cancer-fighting veggies such as zucchini, onions or eggplant,” suggests AICR’s Bender, “and grill apples, pears and bananas to bring out their sweetness by caramelizing their natural sugars.”

These recipes are available at the AICR website, along with a host of others in an ever-growing database of healthy-and-delicious recipes.

What a great way to celebrate with Dad - a healthy, hearty cookout.

Portabello Burgers

  • 4 large Portabello mushrooms
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced into very thin slivers
  • 1 tsp. fresh rosemary or 1/2 tsp. dried, (optional)
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp. dried, (optional)
  • 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp. balsamic or red wine vinegar
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat broiler or grill.

Wipe mushrooms with damp cloth. Remove stems. With paring knife, make slits in tops of caps. Stuff slivers of garlic and herbs (if using) into slits.

In small bowl, whisk together oil and vinegar with salt and pepper to taste. Brush mushrooms with oil mixture. Place mushrooms, cap-side down, on pan and broil or grill until soft and brown, about 3 to 5 minutes per side.

Serve with lettuce and tomato on toasted whole-grain buns

Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 94 calories, 7 g. total fat (1 g. saturated fat), 6 g. carbohydrate,
2 g. protein, 1 g. dietary fiber, 8 mg. sodium.

Black Bean Burgers

  • Canola oil cooking spray
  • 2 bunches finely chopped scallions, both white and green parts
  • 1 red pepper, seeded and cut in 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 can (15-oz.) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • Dash hot pepper sauce, or to taste
  • 1 tsp. cumin, or to taste
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 large egg white, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup whole grain breadcrumbs

Heavily coat medium skillet with cooking oil spray. Heat over medium-high heat until hot. Add scallions, red pepper and garlic. Reduce heat to medium-low and sauté until very soft, about 5 minutes. Do not let vegetables brown.

Remove vegetables from heat and mix in beans and rice. Transfer to food processor or blender and process until mixture is coarsely chopped. Be careful not to over-process.

Transfer mixture to medium bowl. Season to taste with hot pepper sauce, cumin, salt and pepper. Add egg white and mix in lightly with fork until just blended. Mix in breadcrumbs with fork until lightly blended. Form mixture into eight patties. (Patties will hold their shape better if refrigerated, covered, at least 30 minutes.)

Place patties on a lightly greased grill and cook on both sides until nicely browned about 4 minutes per side.

Serve plain or with lettuce and tomato on whole grain buns.

Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 222 calories, 2 g. fat (less than 1 g. saturated fat), 39 g. carbohydrate,
10 g. protein, 9 g. dietary fiber, 365 mg. sodium.


The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed more than $96 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, AICR is part of the global network of charities that are dedicated to the prevention of cancer. The WCRF global network is led and unified by WCRF International, a membership association that operates as the umbrella organization for the network. The other charities in the WCRF network are World Cancer Research Fund in the UK (; Wereld Kanker Onderzoek Fonds in the Netherlands (; World Cancer Research Fund Hong Kong (; and Fonds Mondial de Recherche contre le Cancer in France (

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