Meatless Cookout

The Physicians Committee

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Chuck Carroll exam room podcast host
Chuck Carroll
Chuck shed 265 pounds by conquering food addiction and devoting himself to a healthier lifestyle! Eight years later, he’s maintaining the weight loss by eating a plant-based diet. Going vegan once seemed unthinkable to Chuck, but now it’s going back to eating processed meat and dairy that would be inconceivable.

Neal Barnard M.D.
Neal Barnard, M.D.
Dr. Neal Barnard, a real-life rock star and authority on plant-based living, motivates and inspires both new vegans and those who have been plant-powered for life.

meatless cookout

Meatless Cookout

Memorial Day marks the unofficial start to summer. Many pools will be opening, and beaches will be crowded with swimmers and sunbathers for the first time this year. Unfortunately, it also means that millions of hamburgers and hot dogs will tossed on the grill turning an otherwise fun-filled day into a potential health disaster.

Stephen Neabore, M.D., joins “The Weight Loss Champion” Chuck Carroll to discuss the cancer-causing compounds that are produced when meat is cooked over an open flame. Plus, you’ll discover which meats contain the highest levels of carcinogens.

But if you’re not having the classic barbecue, what can you put on the grill? Lee Crosby, R.D., L.D., returns to the show with some great palate-pleasing alternatives that everyone will enjoy.

Chuck Carroll with Zahrah Dad

You’ll also hear the remarkable story of Zahrah Dad, who completed her internship with the Barnard Medical Center. Dad is a medical student from the United Kingdom who is completing her studies and will begin practicing just outside London this summer.

She’s proud to be among the growing number of doctors and practitioners who will be speaking with their patients about the importance of preventative medicine through a whole-food plant-based diet.


Five Unhealthiest Meats to Grill

Physicians Committee researchers have examined a number of the most popular grilled foods to determine which contain the highest levels of heterocyclic amines (HCAs), a cancer-causing compound. According to the research, “alarmingly high” levels of HCAs were discovered in the foods.

The Five Worst Foods to Grill

Food Item

HCAs: nanograms per 100 grams*

Chicken breast, skinless, boneless, grilled, well done

14,000 nanograms/100 grams5

Steak, grilled, well done

810 nanograms/100 grams6

Pork, barbecued

470 nanograms/100 grams7

Salmon, grilled with skin

166 nanograms/100 grams8

Hamburger, grilled, well done

130 nanograms/100 grams6

*100 gram portion equals about 3.5 ounces grilled

Linking Grilled Meat to Cancer

What is the link between grilled meat and cancer? As it turns out, grilling meat creates a number of cancer-causing compounds, including heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs). In 2005, HCAs were added to the federal government’s list of known carcinogens. Research shows that consumption of even low levels of HCAs can nearly double the risk of breast cancer. There is also a statistically significant link between grilled meat and other cancers, including colon cancer.

PAHs have also been proven to increase the risk of several forms of cancer. Research shows that higher heat causes a greater number of compounds to form on the surface of the food.

For more information on the link between food and cancer, please visit our cancer resource page.

Plant-Based Alternatives to Grill

You don’t need to rely on traditional hamburgers and hot dogs to have a blockbuster cookout! In fact, you can grill up a plant-based feast that’s sure to please all of your family and friends. Most importantly, research shows that grilled plant-based foods do not produce detectable levels of HCAs.

Here are some delicious alternatives courtesy of Lee Crosby, R.D., L.D.

Plant-Based Hot Dogs

There are a number of options available, including smoky carrot dogs, Smart Dogs, or Tofu Pups.

To take the vegan dog to the next level, you can create veggie chili dogs and top it with an easy vegan queso recipe.

Veggie Burgers

Yes, you can grill a veggie burger! To keep it extra healthy, stick with a grain or veggie-based burger and avoid “meat-like” alternatives.

Consumer Reports has a number of tips for cooking the veggie burger on the grill:

  • Don’t thaw frozen veggie burgers—they can go straight from the freezer to the grill. (Just be sure to clean the grill first to prevent sticking.)
  • Set the grill to medium heat and don’t oil the grates. Preheat the grill for 10 minutes.
  • If the veggie burger package has grilling instructions, follow them. If no instructions are provided, cook burgers for about 5 minutes per side.
  • Flip burgers carefully and just once, halfway through cooking, to keep them from falling apart.
  • Consumer Reports testers also found that grilling veggie burgers gives them a nice, crisp exterior and caramelized browning that deepens flavor.

To take your burgers to the next level, add a slice of avocado or grilled pineapple.

Mushroom Burger

If you want to keep it really simple, you can try a delicious marinated mushroom burger.

Tip: Don’t wash the mushroom, simply wipe it off so that it doesn’t absorb a ton of water and dilute the flavor.

BBQ Grilled Tofu

This is another hearty crowd pleaser. If you use thick cuts of firm tofu, you’re sure to feel full after gobbling down the last bite.

Serious Eats has a number of tips on how to best prepare it to maximize the flavor.

  • Use firm or extra-firm tofu, pressed to get out excess liquid so it will brown.
  • Grill low and slow for 10 minutes per side

Grilled Zucchini Sandwiches

These grilled balsamic zucchini sandwiches are incredibly easy to make. Simply marinate zucchini sliced lengthwise in a little balsamic and grill for one to two minutes per side. Top it off with roasted red pepper white bean dip and fresh basil and serve on a whole-grain bun. Just be prepared for guests to ask for seconds.

Grilled Corn

What’s a good cookout without some delicious sides?  Grilled corn is always an easy option. You can grill it in the husk (soak first) or after it has been shucked. Either way is delectable!

Hawaiian Veggie Kebobs

Quick Barbecued Vegetable Kebobs are one of Lee’s favorite summer dishes!

Grab a skewer and add chunks of sweet bell pepper, red onion, pineapple, and extra-firm tofu. Simply brush with a sweet BBQ sauce and grill for five to six minutes per side over medium heat. Be sure to apply another layer of sauce each time the kabob is flipped.


Yes, you can grill a healthy plant-based dessert!

These grilled peaches with sweet balsamic glaze are a perfect (and sweet) example!

Your guests will also go bananas over grilled bananas!  To make, slice an unpeeled banana lengthwise down center. Be sure not to cut the banana in half, you only want to slice it about halfway through. Crimp foil around the base of banana to make a “boat.” Open the “hull,” sprinkle with cinnamon and a few dairy-free chocolate chips. Grill for five minutes or until the banana softens and chocolate melts.

More Ideas

There are countless other plant-based recipes you can try this summer. For more inspiration, check out our Vegan Memorial Day Menu from the Food for Life program.

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