By Bonnie Roill
While festive winter months are often associated with sweet indulgences, summer isn’t without its guilty food pleasures. From the Fourth of July to Labor Day, now is the time to enjoy grilled meats, mayo-drenched salads, over-the-top desserts and, of course, a glass or two of wine. But all this celebratory feasting can make it hard to maintain a clean-eating lifestyle. The key to indulging in your favorite summertime dishes while maintaining clean-eating habits can be as simple as swapping and upgrading certain foods. Grilled meats have various amino acids and fatty acids that, when grilled, provide a distinct flavor and texture. However, studies have shown that cooking protein at very high temperatures creates heterocyclic amines (HAs). According to the American Cancer Association, these chemicals may increase the risk of cancer.
Upgrade and swap your food choices to reduce HAs:
- Use marinades made with vinegar, citrus juice or red wine—they have the added benefit of antioxidants.
- Choose lean cuts of meat like round, loin, sirloin or poultry. Trim any excess fat, as dripping creates excess smoke and flare-ups.
- Reduce grilling time by pre-cooking meats in the microwave oven or parboiling.
- Avoid charring meats. Blackened or burned parts have the highest concentration of HAs.
- Consider wild fish and seafood. Fish is generally cut into thin fillets, needs less grilling time, and has low levels of fat, which means less smoke and fewer flare-ups. Research shows that wildcaught varieties contain fewer pesticides and hormones when compared to farm-raised.
- Upgrade to grass-fed organic beef, shown to have up to 47 percent higher levels of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids than non-organic cuts.
Grilled vegetables have a distinctly sweet taste from natural sugars that are caramelized when cooked.
Selecting and grilling vegetables:
- Use organic vegetables or select vegetables lower in pesticide residues from the Environmental Working 2017 Group Shopper’s Guide at ewg.org/foodnews/summary.php.
- Grilling vegetables with the peels on conserves more nutrients and gives a smokier flavor.
- Vegetables like beets, carrots, parsnips, potatoes and winter squash can be pre-cooked to shorten grilling time.
- To avoid overcooking vegetables, slice them extra thick and pull them from the grill before they reach desired cooking texture.
Summer salads are perfect as a main entrée or side dish. However, most commercially prepared varieties found in markets contain high-fat regular mayonnaise in high-sugar dressings. These salads are often lacking in greens and may rely too heavily on white potatoes or pasta.
Smarter summer salads:
- When purchasing ready-to-eat prepared salads, choose oil-and vinegar-based dressings over mayo-based.
- When making your own salads, select organic triple-washed bagged salad mixings. For example, bagged organic broccoli slaw is a great time saver.
- Upgrade bagged broccoli slaw by adding chopped kale and roasted pumpkin seeds along with an olive-oil mayo and a splash of apple cider vinegar. Top it off with dried tart cherries for a sweet touch.
- Spruce up traditional potato salad by using purple or red-jacket potatoes over white potatoes. Not only are you adding antioxidants found in the purple potatoes, but the colorful veggies also provide a type of fiber called “resistant starch” when refrigerated. Resistant starch has been shown to be a powerful hunger-fighting food and aids beneficial gut bacteria.
Dessert is a perfect time to take advantage of summertime’s abundance of fresh fruits, but that doesn’t mean your sweet treats have to be boring.
Clean(er) dessert options:
- Upgrade traditional ice pops by making your own healthy version. Take your favorite chocolate protein powder and add unsweetened coconut milk. Use a blender to mix thoroughly and pour into Popsicle molds, then freeze.
- Combine vanilla Greek yogurt with the frozen fruit of your choice; hand mix thoroughly and freeze for at least 30 minutes. Remove from the freezer and enjoy faux ice cream without the added sugars.
- Try grilling fruits! Unlike grilled meats, fruits do not form the same carcinogens. Be sure to clean residue from previous grilling. The best fruits to grill include watermelon, peaches, nectarines, bananas, pineapple, pears and grapefruit.
Bonnie Roill is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Certified Health and Wellness Coach and Hormone Support Coach working exclusively with women to rebalance their hormones to create a healthier weight and a happier life. Visit B3Nutrition.com for more information. Eat Clean(er), Feel Great, Look Awesome!
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