4th of July Cookouts: Build a Healthier BBQ Meal!


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?


7 Trader Joe’s Best Bite Entrees When Time is Tight!

It’s summer, and I cannot figure out why I am so busy! Today, as has been the case for the last few weeks, I am short on time and decided to hit my favorite area specialty grocery store this morning for some “back-up” type meals to avoid being tied to the kitchen later in the day.  I like to keep a few “convenience” type meal alternatives that do not require either thinking, or labor, when I am either very tired or too busy to spend time in the kitchen.  My criteria when purchasing such foods is typically limited to evaluating: total fat, calories, and sodium.  For many convenience foods, it is easy enough to find limited fat and calories, or limited sodium, but rather a difficult task to find convenience foods already prepared that are acceptable in all three categories.  Here are my favorite “go-to” foods from Trader Joe’s:

  • Breaded Tenderloin Chicken Breasts (per 66 gram piece, has 110 calories, 3.5 gm total fat, 180 mg sodium); toss on a bed of lettuce greens for a quick meal.
  • Roasted Vegetable Multi-Grain Lasagna (per 1/4 package, has 240 calories, 7 gm total fat, 480 mg sodium)
  • Wild Salmon in Yogurt and Mint Sauce with Orzo Pasta, Spinach and Zucchini (one container has 350 calories, 10 gm fat, 310 mg sodium)
  • Chile Lime Chicken Burger (one burger has 150 calories, 6 gm fat, 310 mg sodium)
  • Organic No Salt Added Marinara Sauce (has 60 calories, no fat, and only 35 mg of sodium per 1/2 cup).  Just put on pasta, add a dash of favorite cheese and serve with a salad.
  • Reduced Fat Fish Sticks (6 fish sticks have 220 calories, 9 gm fat, and 240 mg sodium)
  • Grilled Chicken Strips (3 oz. serving has 130 calories, 2.5 gm fat, and 210 mg sodium).  Toss on top of a bed of greens, with a lower sodium roll, and you are good for dinner.

Here’s to a night out of the hot kitchen! And, for dessert, there is always a bite of TJ 56% cacao dark chocolate (1/2 bar has 80 calories, 5 gm of fat, 0 sodium, and  a lot of antioxidants). Do you have any healthy meals to recommend from Trader Joe’s or other specialty grocery stores?


6 Benefits of Beer: Happy Dad’s Day!

I know a lot of great fathers and they ALL enjoy their beer.  While everyone knows the downside of too much beer-the “santa claus” physique (known technically as central obesity) or the dreaded hangover, there are actually some benefits from drinking modest amounts of beer.  For men, a “modest” amount of beer would be two or less 12 oz. cans of beer. If there was ever a time to toot beer’s horn, it would seem to be Father’s Day.  Here are some of the benefits of modest beer consumption:

  • It can actually decrease blood pressure if consumed in small amounts.
  • It can contribute B vitamins to the diet because beer is made from hops and yeast, both of which provide various B vitamins.
  • It is a modest source of selenium (an anti-oxidant), calcium, and magnesium. These nutrients are important for strong bones.
  • It can be a source of anti-oxidants.  In fact, the darker the beer, the more anti-oxidants! 
  • It can thin the blood, thereby decreasing the potential for blood clotting which could lead to heart attack or stroke.
  • It may lessen the likelihood of kidney stones, in part due to the high water content of beer.

For those dads with special medical problems that would generally require abstinence from regular beer, there are even non-alcoholic beers and gluten-free beers now widely available you so can imbibe without affecting your health! And for those dads trying to whittle their waist or needing to control their carbohydrate due to diabetes, beers come in a wide range of calories and carbohydrate content, so check the labels to find the beer that is best for you.  

So happy Father’s Day to all you great dads out there.  Enjoy your beer and fire up the grill while you are at it. Nothing beats a cold “brewski” with a grilled meal on a hot summer day.

Build a Better Breakfast!

My Creamy Berry Smoothie

Nutritionally speaking, there are a lot of important reasons to fuel up in the morning.  Research has noted that breakfast eaters have a jump-start on: maintaining a healthy weight, meeting daily nutritional requirements, and performing better physically and mentally all day. The “problems”, however, always seem to revolve around what to eat, how long will it take to prepare, and how fast can it be eaten!  If you are getting tired of standard breakfast fare, consider the following as options:

  • Berry Creamy Smoothie-Blend 1.5 cups of blueberries (may start off as frozen and let thaw while in shower), ½ cup 1% milk fat cottage cheese, and ½ cup orange juice in a blender until thoroughly mixed. 

Each 12 ounce serving has 260 calories, 15 grams protein, 48 grams carb, 2 grams fat, 7 grams fiber, and 275 mg. of potassium.

  • Oat Bran Muffins-Make from scratch.  This is about as easy as it gets and you know what is going into your body. They can be frozen after you make a batch, and then pulled out of the freezer when you get up in the morning.  Let thaw as you shower. Enjoy with some orange or low sodium V-8 juice.

When evaluating an oat bran muffin recipe, if you are watching your waistline, consider recipes without dried fruits and nuts as ingredients.  If a recipe calls for applesauce, that allows for a moister oat bran muffin.         

 Oat Bran Muffin Recipe

  • Egg and Bacon Sandwich-Toast an English muffin, add one slice low-fat cheese and a slice of Canadian bacon.  Now you have an Egg McMuffin, sans the egg, and you don’t need to stop at the drive through!

Bottom line, a better breakfast will mean a better you and better day.  If you are also thinking of lunch and dinner, here are some other suggestions! 

 Do you have a favorite, fast, and healthy breakfast idea?



Got Gas? 10 Tips to Fight Flatulence!

We all have gas production which is a normal bodily function.  For some, however, gas production can seem excessive and uncomfortable, not to mention embarrassing. Some people are so bothered by excessive gas that they bring up the topic to their physicians.  While it is very important to rule out diseases, often the gas symptoms result from how and what one eats! In fact, once a gastroenterologist referred a healthy patient to me simply to help the patient minimize gas, or flatulence, with specific eating strategies.  Some helpful strategies to minimize flatulence include:

  • Don’t go long periods without eating.  It is very common to have more gas discomfort if you skip food all day and then gorge on a large meal at the end of the day.
  • Avoid drinking beverages quickly.  Using a straw may lessen the amount of air swallowed.
  • Do not wolf down your meals.  Eating too rapidly will also introduce extra air into your digestive tract.  After all, what goes in must come out!
  • Steer clear of carbonated beverages, particularly without eating.
  • Stop chewing gum as this may also be a source of swallowed air.
  • Try decreasing or eliminating lactose in from your diet.  Lactose is a natural sugar found in dairy products.  As we age,  we start making less of the enzyme necessary to break down the lactose.  Lactose-free milk is readily available at grocery stores for those who want to continue drinking milk.
  • Certain vegetables are known culprits for causing gas.  Healthy vegetables such as cauliflower, asparagus, brussels sprouts, and cabbage all contain a natural sugar which some people have trouble digesting without an over-the-counter enzyme supplement such as Beano.  Beano provides the necessary amounts of enzymes to break down the natural sugar from these vegetables.  Or, simply consider eating smaller amounts of these foods!
  • Certain fruits such as apples, pears, prunes, and bananas may also be problematic due to the natural sugars fructose and sorbitol. No need to cut these fruits and the vegetables out, just try to pinpoint with food tracking which fruits and vegetables seem to be the gas culprits.
  • Many dietetic goodies also contain a lot of sorbitol which is used as a sweetener. If you consume a lot of dietetic foods, consider decreasing your intake to decrease your sorbitol intake and symptoms.
  • High fiber grains can also be gas culprits due to the soluble fiber.  Fiber is important for over-all health, so if you are having trouble with fiber rich grains, just increase these foods gradually.  Most people adapt to a higher fiber intake within a few weeks.

The best way to determine your dietary gas culprits is to track your food and your symptoms. As everyone is different, some food eliminations work for some and not for others.  Being aware of how you respond to your dietary adjustments is key to less gas discomfort.  If symptoms persist and your physician has ruled out any medical conditions, seeing a dietitian can help you sort through the best eating strategies in order to both minimize gas and keep you healthy!