Summertime– and the grilling is easy.

Too easy perhaps.  The ubiquitous hot dogs and burgers are the go-to toss on the barbecue grill. Searing animal flesh spills smoky flavors into the air, sending siren calls to all but the most nutrition-vigilant guest.

But remind yourself of the downsides of grilled meats:

High flames make these saturated fat, high cholesterol picnic foods even more lethal: heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons form which can trigger a fast path to cancers of many types. Cancer wrapped in a bun. Yum.

Still sound tasty?

Then know that these particular amines and hydrocarbons are emitted in the burning of tobacco in cigarettes; according to a publication produced by the Prostate Cancer Foundation, the average American consumes the same amount of carcinogens as are inhaled in a pack and a half of cigarettes when consuming overcooked or charbroiled meats.

Damage control if meat is a must

  • Choose steaming or baking over grilling or pan-frying
  • Marinate the meats to shield from some of the harm
  • Turn the meat frequently to prevent overcooking

Avoid the common potato and pasta salads full of mayonnaise and salt

Instead: Fresh vegetable salads such as cucumber and tomato with vinaigrette or carrot sticks with probiotic-rich yogurt dip spiked with garlic and herbs

Eat that, not this:

Avoid potato chips

Instead: add a side of cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower (laced with olive oil and garlic) mops up some of the damage.

Avoid hot dogs and fatty beefburgers (why are they called hamburgers if cattle not pigs are the donors?)

Instead: Salmon or tuna burgers (healthful omega 3 oils) or lentil burgers on low heat or lettuce and tomato and avocado on garlic toast brushed with olive oil.

Avoid white flour buns

Instead: Whole grain rolls, pita or even lettuce wraps (fiber)

Avoid rich desserts and cakes with heaps of frosting

Instead: Treat the family with all the delicious fruits of the season: nectarines, peaches, blueberries, strawberries—nothing can compare when they are at the peak of ripeness. Top with yogurt laced with a bit of honey and vanilla

Picnics don’t have to be formulaic, designed by the supermarket circular. Think outside the meat locker.