With Memorial Day around the corner, grills will be fired up. Grilled foods are usually considered healthy because they are cooked without fat. For instance, a typical 4-ounce chicken breast cooked on the grill contains about 7 grams of fat, while a 4-ounce serving of fast-food fried chicken contains about 17 grams of fat.
Although your waistline is better off with grilled cuisine, the American Institute of Cancer Research (AICR) points out that grilling might increase the risk of cancer. Cancer-causing compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) are produced when meat (eg, fish, beef, and chicken) is cooked at the high temperatures used in grilling and broiling. Other cancer-causing compounds called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are formed when meat fat drips onto hot coals. As food cooks on the grill, flames and smoke help deposit the PAHs onto the food.
What You Can Do to Be Safe
There are steps that you can take to lower your risk of these potentially cancer-causing chemicals:
- Trim the fat. To minimize the PAHs from forming, trim as much fat as you can from the meat.
- Marinate. Some studies suggest that marinating meat before grilling may reduce the formation of HCAs.
- Precook. Pop the meat in the microwave to partially cook it before grilling.
- Use smaller cuts of meat. Smaller cuts take less time to grill. You can also flip your food often, which can further shorten grilling time.
- Remove charred parts. After grilling, cut off any charred parts from the meat.
- Eat your fruits and veggies. Add variety to your meals by grilling fruits and veggies instead of meat. Vegetables do not produce HCAs.
Other Ways to Be a Safe Grillmaster
- Frequently wash your hands and surfaces. This can prevent cross-contamination of bacteria, like E. coli.
- Use separate plates. Use one cutting board for raw meats and a clean one for other foods in order to reduce bacteria crossover. Be sure to use separate plates, utensils, and platters for raw and cooked foods. For instance, if the raw steaks are carried out on a platter and tongs are used for placing them on the grill, you must use a new clean platter and tongs for taking the cooked steaks off the grill when they are done.
- Keep the temperatures appropriate. Meats should be refrigerated while marinating and up to the point of being cooked. When the grilling starts, be sure the internal temperature of meats is appropriate to kill bacteria . Use a meat thermometer to check proper internal temperatures. Leftovers should be refrigerated immediately and tossed if left out more than one hour in hot temperatures and 2 hours in cooler temperatures.
A little precaution goes a long way in keeping your grilled food safe at the plate, both on this holiday weekend and all grilling season. Happy Memorial Day!
It is that time of year when families start thinking about the Easter ritual of dying Easter Eggs. It is a fun tradition, and the eggs can easily be eaten as a snack, breakfast, or added to salad if they are handled properly pre and post coloring.
A hard boiled egg has only but 80 calories, but is rich in many nutrients, including protein, phytochemicals, many B-complex vitamins, and vitamins A, D, and E. If eggs are from chickens fed an omega-3 rich feed, the hatched eggs will also contain omega-3 fatty acids which we need more of in the American diet. Another nutritional perk of eggs hatched in 2012, is they are significantly lower in cholesterol. Today’s eggs have an average of only 180 mg. of cholesterol, down from about 220 mg. cholesterol in years past!
Here are ten tips to keep those eggs safe to eat after Easter.
- When purchasing your eggs, make sure there are no broken or dirty eggs. The shell keeps the inside of the eggs free of bacteria and a broken shell can allow for bacterial contamination.
- Be sure to check the date stamped on the carton. Avoid purchasing eggs which are stamped with a “sell by” date close to the purchase date.
- After purchasing, eggs should be refrigerated immediately at 40° or less. Avoid putting eggs in the refrigerator door, as temperatures will be inconsistent and may not meet temperature guidelines.
- For eggs already in your refrigerator, you may safely use them for both coloring and eating even if the sell-by date has already passed. In fact, they can be safely eaten 2-4 weeks past that stamped “sell by” date. If your eggs are typically stored in another container in the refrigerator, and you have no idea how long they have been there, it is best to pitch them and start with fresh eggs for coloring if you plan on eating them.
- Consumers should not wash egg shells prior to hard boiling. When the chicken lays an egg it has a protective film coating to protect the inside of the egg. Washing the shell can actually remove that protective film, and hasten the likelihood of bacteria moving into the egg.
- Cook the eggs thoroughly. For directions on how to cook a hard boiled egg, visit
- After cooked, the eggs may be dyed but must be refrigerated within 2 hours.
- Be sure to use a food safe dye if you plan on eating your Easter eggs.
- Do not plan on eating Easter eggs which have been placed on the ground. This becomes a perfect recipe for making you ill as the bacteria from the ground can enter the cooked egg. Stick with the plastic version for egg hunting in the yard.
- If you are hiding real Easter eggs, pick clean areas to hide them inside your home. Eggs can only safely be left unrefrigerated for 2 hours, so keep your egg hunt to no more than 2 hours. Leftover Easter eggs should be eaten within 7 days as long as they have been properly handled and refrigerated.
Does your family do anything special with leftover Easter eggs?
Homemade chicken soup made in my favorite Cuisinart electric pressure cooker
It seems as though sinus infections, the stomach flu, bronchitis, and muscle aches are making the rounds in my large family and we don’t even live in the same house! I finally found both the energy and time to take out my favorite cooking equipment, my pressure cooker, to make some virus fighting fuel. We have all heard that even canned chicken noodle soup can help fight a cold, but I was eager and ready to taste the rich flavorful type of chicken noodle soup I could make with my electric pressure cooker. At this point, I decided I would enhance the rich flavor by making the chicken stock base in my pressure cooker rather than using low sodium chicken broth.
Pressure Cooker Homemade Chicken Stock Ingredients
- 2 pounds of chicken wings
- small onion
- 2 carrots
- 2 stalks celery
- 2 bay leaves
- 5 parsley sprigs
- 2 quarts water
Cook all ingredients on high pressure for 40 minutes. Use a natural release to continue extracting the flavors. Strain the stock. Cool the stock in order to skim the fat off. If time is short and you need to use the chicken stock before it is completely cool, use a chilled lettuce leaf to help skim the fat off the stock. The chilled leaf will actually attract the fat in the broth to allow for removal.
On to the Chicken Soup….
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 2 stalks of celery, diced
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 pound of skinless chicken breasts
- 1/4 tsp. dried thyme
- 1/2 tsp. sea salt
- 1/2 tsp. pepper, to taste
- 6 cups of your homemade chicken stock recipe or 6 cups low sodium packaged chicken broth
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 1 cup egg noodles (may substitute rice or orzo)
Saute the celery, onion, and carrots in the tablespoon of oil for a few minutes. Add the chicken breasts, thyme, salt, pepper, and stock or broth. Cook on high pressure for 10 minutes; when done release the pressure quickly. Add in the chopped parsley and then cook the egg noodles or other pasta or rice in the hot soup.
In addition to being a “comfort” food, chicken soup will fight inflammation, thin your mucous, and hydrate you which will all hopefully fight whatever ails you!
Do you have a favorite chicken soup recipe?
Those turkey scraps that don’t fit nicely on a serving platter for Thanksgiving lend themselves very well to a favorite family recipe of mine. Take all those pieces of turkey and place into a food processor or a blender. This recipe calls for about 2 cups of shredded meat. The meat mixture will be mixed with a light roux sauce to bind it and then baked in the oven for a healthier alternative to a traditional fried croquette recipe.
For the croquette meat mixture you will need:
2 cups of chopped or shredded leftover turkey
dash of salt and pepper
1 tsp. lemon juice (optional)
1 tsp. chopped parsley (optional)
Combine these ingredients in a mixing bowl and set aside.
Next, make the light roux sauce. You will need:
4 Tbsp. butter
1/3 cup flour
1/4 tsp. salt
dash of pepper
1 cup milk
Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the flour and seasonings and blend. Slowly add the one cup of milk, stirring continually with a wire whisk until the mixture thickens. After the mixture thickens, add into the chopped meat mixture. You want the mixture to be firm enough to shape, so use only part of the sauce mixture initially, and then added the rest as needed. It is helpful to chill the mixture for awhile in order to allow for shaping the mixture into firmer patties.
After the roux sauce and chopped meat are mixed together, shape your croquettes into eight hamburger like patty shapes.
The next step is to coat the croquette patties with the bread crumbs. You will need:
1 cup fine bread crumbs
1/4 cup butter
one egg with 1 tbsp. water or alternatively you may use eggbeaters
Place the butter in a shallow baking dish and melt. Dip the croquettes into the bread crumbs, egg, and then back into the bread crumbs. Next place the breaded croquettes into the melted warm butter and coat all sides. Preheat the oven to 350 ° and bake for about 30 minutes until crisp. This can be served with a dollop of any leftover roux sauce if not needed for the croquette mixture. Garnish with a sprig of parsley and enjoy that turkey again.
Nutrition information per croquette:
9 grams of fat
15 grams of protein
15 grams of carbohydrate
360 mg sodium
Tip: If you would like to decrease the fat and calorie content further, skip rolling the bread coating mixture in the melted butter. Turkey scraps can also be frozen to make this recipe at a later time.
The eating frenzy is about to begin in a week or so. Across the country, people will eat dinner with family and friends in homes and restaurants. Many of my clients feel it is difficult to focus on health and wellness at this time of the year. For Thanksgiving gatherings, I tell my clients it is “just one day” of dining. If you exercise control over the aftermath of the meal, then it should be viewed as a meal enjoyed with those that matter in your life, a time to be thankful, and a time to reflect. Controlling the “aftermath” means that you get rid of the leftovers that may sabotage your healthy eating plans or plan appropriately to avoid having leftovers in the first place! With that stated, I think we can also think about the traditional Thanksgiving meal as having the potential to be a meal that can even offer health benefits to your diet. Here is a sampling of traditional Thanksgiving foods and the potential impact on your health:
Pumpkin. Pumpkin is loaded with beta-carotene which is the plant derived form of vitamin A. Consider offering your guests a slimmed down crustless pumpkin pie option in addition to traditional desserts.
Sweet potatoes. This is another beta-carotene superstar. Keep the calories in tow by limiting the brown sugar, butter, and marshmallows used in traditional recipes.
Mashed potatoes. Potatoes are loaded with potassium! Slim down your recipe by limiting the butter used in your recipe. Consider using skim milk, low sodium chicken broth, or fat-free sour cream in your recipe to slash the fat and calories.
Cranberries. This traditional side dish is loaded with cancer fighting plant chemicals, vitamin C, and fiber. No need to limit its use to cranberry bread and sauce-consider using it in a fruit compote instead.
Turkey. Turkey is full of lean protein. Watch your serving sizes and the gravy added to your plate, and consider this a healthy meat option for your Thanksgiving gathering.
Watch your servings sizes for all your foods and leftovers, and enjoy the day and the health benefits of traditional Turkey day fare. Do you have any healthy Thanksgiving recipes?
Marie’s Mango Lime Salsa
We are now in full summer swing with July 4th quickly approaching. Of course, this time of year is noted for sizzling burgers and hotdogs on the grill. For those who are looking for healthier alternatives for quick summer meals or ways to opt out of the standard grilled burger and hotdog routine, try some of the following alternatives to standard cookout menu items.
Try grilling some salmon or chicken and top with this mango lime salsa. My client provided the recipe and photo, and noted how delicious it was. She kindly calculated the calorie content as well! Thank you Marie!
Mango Lime Salsa-makes 2 cups; prep time about 30 minutes
1 small red onion diced small
1/2 red pepper 1/4 inch dice
1 jalapeño (or to taste)
1/3 cup fresh lime juice (about 2 large limes)
2 tsp ground cumin
2 mangos peeled, pitted and cut into 1/4 inch dice
1/4 cup chopped parsley or cilantro
salt & pepper to taste
In medium bowl, combine all the ingredients and mix well. The salsa will keep 2 days in the refrigerator. Serve with baked tortilla chips, or over any grilled fish or chicken.
Each 1/2 cup portion has about 50 calories. You can also top lettuce leaves with salsa and serve as a side dish.
For a great healthy side and alternative to fatty side dishes such as creamy potato salad, try grilled fruit kabob.
Grilled Fruit Kabobs
1/4 cup melted butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
juice from 1 fresh lime and lime rind
1 tsp. cinnamon
In a small bowl, stir together melted butter, brown sugar, grated lime rind, lime juice, and cinnamon until the sugar is dissolved. Use any fresh fruit cut into one-inch pieces such as pineapple, apples, nectarines, melon, bananas, or large whole strawberries. Thread the fruit alternately onto metal skewers. Brush kabobs with butter mixture and place on barbecue grill. Grill for 6-8 minutes, turning frequently and brushing generously with butter mixture until the fruit starts to brown and is heated through.
Anyone have other non-traditional BBQ sides for this upcoming 4th of July?
I was a child in the 50s. Mothers back then frequently cooked with a “scary” piece of equipment called the pressure cooker. I remember being afraid of the loud sounds it made, and always feared that the rattling piece of metal sitting atop the lid would fly off. When my mother gave me her pressure cooker after I myself became a mom, it sat in my cabinet and was never used. It was just way too intimidating to me with three small children to feed. After all, I was also concerned for their “safety”!
Fast forward to being a grandma. Like many grandmas, I am very busy. But, as a practicing and working dietitian, I am still concerned about getting healthy foods on the table. Modernized pressure cookers seem to be the perfect solution to preparing healthy food in limited time. They are equipped with a variety of settings, such as browning, sauteing, and warming, along with both low and high pressure settings, making it easy to prepare a complete gourmet meal in no time. For instance, rather than going through the hassle of soaking lentils overnight, with a pressure cooker you can cook with them immediately. What’s more, modern pressure cookers have safety features to help prevent kitchen accidents. There are many other benefits to using a pressure cooker. Aside from saving time, using a pressure cooker limits nutrient losses. Because all the recipe components are in one pot and the liquid is part of the main dish, all nutrients are retained. Additionally, preparing a meal with a pressure cooker saves money. Tough and more economical cuts of meat can be used very successfully in the pressure cooker because the high pressure will tenderize the meat. Two of my favorite pressure cooker recipes can be found on this website.
So, if time is tight and healthy eating is a priority, consider lessening your personal pressure by increasing the pressure for cooking. Do you have any favorite foods you enjoy making in your pressure cooker?