In three days, folks from sea to shining sea will celebrate the birth of our nation with equally glorious displays of fireworks and grilling. And while it may be tempting to go all out with both, doing so can pose some pretty serious risks -- to both your personal safety and your digestive system. And since we care too much to let that happen, we've put together the "In the Loop (almost) Complete Guide to Grilling and Fireworks Safety."
We begin where all good Fourth of July celebrations do -- at the grill. Diane Dressel, a dietitian at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire, tells The Dunn County (Wisconsin) News that while the Fourth of July, and the summer grilling season in general, can be a "challenging time" for those of us attempting to watch our weight, there are plenty of ways to have our burgers, brats, hot dogs and whatever else tickles our culinary fancy, and eat them, too. (Okay, maybe not the brats) "When we think of barbecues, what generally comes to mind isn't necessarily healthy," Dressel tells the newspaper. "The good news is that you can have a wonderful gathering of friends and family that also can be healthy."
And you can do it, she says, by letting go of that whole "fat equals flavor" mantra in favor of "lean cuts of meat, skinless chicken breasts and fat-free hot dogs." Portobello mushrooms, potatoes and "other root or sturdy vegetables" also are great on the grill, Dressel says, and don't pose the health risks that mayonnaise-based salads and side dishes do when left on the picnic table for extended periods.
There is perhaps no greater defeat in all of grilling than having to put an undercooked piece of meat back on the grill for one of your guests. To save yourself that embarrassment Mayo Clinic dieticians Jennifer K. Nelson and Katherine Zeratsky suggest you leave nothing to chance and use a meat thermometer, making sure poultry is cooked to 165 degrees, ground meat to 160 degrees, and everything else (steaks, chops, fish) to 145 degrees.
Of course, none of this matters if you set your grill (or worse, your house or lawn) on fire in the process. To keep that from happening, the National Fire Protection Association offers safe grilling tips for both charcoal and gas grills. And when it comes time for the fireworks, we recommend you heed the timeless safety tips offered by the Mayo Clinic News Network and our old pals, Gus and Raaj Ruparel, M.D., and perhaps just leave them to the professionals.
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