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9 Tips for Healthy Summer Eating

Friday, July 06, 2012

 

Summer eating can be unhealthy, whether it's about weight gain or food contamination. Keep an eye on your food with these important tips. Photo: The Half-Blood Prince/flickr

Summer means family cook-outs, clambakes on the beach and visits to the ice cream parlor. But experts caution that some of our favorite summer activities and treats could not only sabotage your diet but could also pose a major health threat.

“Not only do we tend to indulge in fatty, sugary foods more often during the summer, but when we’re having fun at a picnic or barbecue, many of us leave things like cheese or deli meat sitting out for hours and hours – which increases the risk of food poisoning,” said Kimberly S. Maloomian, RD, LDN, a dietitian at The Miriam Hospital. “But with a little careful planning, and the knowledge that it’s OK to indulge occasionally, it’s very easy to keep you and your family healthy and safe this summer.” Maloomian offers some tips to avoid some of the common summer eating pitfalls:

Healthy eats

  • A few days before a cookout, buy some avocados and allow them to soften on the countertop. Then cube them and put into a salad that would normally require mayonnaise, such as potato salad. When you scoop up a bite of the salad with some cubes of avocado, the avocado will spread over the food in your mouth and create that same smooth feeling that mayonnaise usually gives to the dish, but with no saturated fat and lots of great omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Replace pasta in pasta salads with quinoa, a high protein grain that was a staple in the ancient South American diet. Quinoa can be cooked just like rice: two parts water or broth and one part quinoa for about 10 minutes. Then toss with lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, dill, feta cheese and cucumbers or any other items you would add to pasta salad.
  • To help keep chicken, turkey, salmon or tuna burgers moist on the grill, mix fat-free plain Greek yogurt in with the meat prior to shaping it into patties. Dried herbs, finely chopped bell peppers and onions and even mushrooms could even be added. The Greek yogurt will provide extra moisture to the meat and also provide an extra protein and calcium boost.
  • Instead of quenching your thirst with a cool, but calorie-laden, soda, mix half a pitcher of Crystal Light with one liter seltzer water. Cool and refreshing with only a few calories!
  • It’s certainly okay to indulge in ice cream and other summer treats, but don’t forget that delicious fruit like strawberries, blueberries and watermelon are in season and can also satisfy a sweet tooth – plus they’re fat-free and high in nutrients and fiber.

 

Summer food safety

  • Use those insulated coolers! Warmer weather creates an atmosphere for food-borne bacteria to multiply rapidly. If you’re going to a picnic or other outside event, remember that any perishable food that would normally be in the refrigerator must be kept at a minimum of 40 degrees Fahrenheit, so pack plenty of ice. And don’t forget about leftovers. Anything that is not going to be eaten within four hours should go right back in the cooler or refrigerator. A good rule of thumb: When in doubt, throw it out.
  • Meat grills the best when it is allowed to come up to room temperature. Leave meat in the ice box until about 30 minutes prior to grilling. When meat is left out to come up to room temperature, leave it inside on a countertop, if possible – as long as it is not in direct sunlight.
  • Just before grilling, season with salt and pepper and some herbs and 'throw' it on the fire!
  • Remember, meat should never be left on the counter for more than two hours – any longer can promote harmful bacterial growth.
  • If using tongs to place meat on the grill, be sure to wash them before touching meat again. Bacteria that can cause food-borne illness will have attached themselves to the tongs in the 10 seconds it takes to move the raw meat from the plate to the grill.
 

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