Not many people have perfect six-pack abs (but if you do, good on you!) but having an exceedingly expanded waistline can do more than keep you out of figure-hugging clothes, you could face serious health issues: Your risk increases up for high blood pressure and high cholesterol– m…
For many Americans, summer just wouldn’t be the same without a backyard barbecue. However, the blackened meats and smoky flavor that come with grilling could put your health at risk, experts caution.
The good news, though, is that by planning ahead and making some smart choices, you can enjoy summer barbecues and reduce your exposure to cancer-causing chemicals.
High-heat grilling can convert proteins found in red meat, pork, poultry and fish into heterocyclic amines (HCAs). These chemicals have been linked to breast, stomach, prostate and colon cancer.
“What happens is that the high temperature can change the shape of the protein structure in the meat so it becomes irritating in the body and is considered a carcinogenic chemical,” Stacy Kennedy, a nutritionist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, said in an institute news release.
Another cancer-causing agent, called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), is found in the smoke from the barbeque. PAHs form when fat and juices from meat cooking on the grill drip down onto the heat source.
“That’s where the main cancer-causing compound occurs in grilling,” Kennedy said. “So you want to reduce the exposure to that smoke.”
For those who plan to fire up the grill this summer, Kennedy offered the following tips to reduce exposure to cancer-causing agents:
- Choose meats wisely. Avoid grilling high-fat meats, like ribs and sausages. Instead, choose lean meats, which create less dripping and less smoke. Always trim excess fat and remove skin. It’s also a good idea to choose smaller cuts of meat, such as kabobs, which require less cooking time.
- Try thin marinades. Thicker marinades tend to char, which could increase exposure to cancer-causing agents. Choose marinades made with vinegar or lemon, which will form a protective layer on the meat.
- Reduce grilling time. Always thaw meat before cooking. Meat and fish also should be partially cooked in the microwave before grilling. This will reduce cooking time and the risk for smoke flare-ups.
- Flip often. Flipping burgers once every minute will help prevent burning or charring.
- Consider food placement. Be sure to place food at least six inches away from a heat source.
- Create a barrier. Do not allow juices to spill and produce harmful smoke. Line the grill with aluminum foil or cook on cedar planks.
- Consider veggies. Try grilling your favorite vegetables since they do not contain the protein that forms harmful HCAs. “People are surprised, but you can safely eat charred vegetables,” Kennedy said. “They have different proteins that are not affected the same way as the meat protein.
Despite the risks, Kennedy said, barbecue enthusiasts should keep things in perspective. “If you’re grilling and following the proper safety tips, the risk of getting cancer from grilling food is very low,” she said. “Being overweight or obese, which are at epidemic levels in the U.S., are far greater risk factors for developing cancer than the consumption of grilled foods.”
Here are well-balanced options you can eat for days, weeks or even months at a time and feel assured that you’re getting the nutrients you need. Mix and match them for breakfast, lunch, or dinner for variation.
A burger with fries is a go-to favorite meal for many people, so turn it into a healthy choice by swapping out a fatty burger for a soy burger, and roasted or potato fries. Start with a 100-calorie whole grain roll, add your soy burger, and top with lettuce, tomato, low-fat cheese slice, pickles, and a bit of mustard and ketchup. A small baked or sweet potato (the size of your fist) baked whole or cut into six long chunks (Roasted at 400 for 30 minutes, first tossed with one teaspoon of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper) is a fiber-rich starch. Complete your meal with one cup of sliced melon, or fresh fruit of your choice. That’s a 450-calorie meal with heart healthy fat, high-quality protein, and fiber-rich carbs.
An egg is the most digestible protein in nature and an ideal choice to mix with cooked vegetables and low-fat cheese. Enjoy a vegetable frittata by beating two eggs (or egg substitute) and pouring into a non-stick pan then adding one cup of chopped veggies (fresh or frozen) and ¼ cup of shredded low-fat cheese. Cook until eggs are firm, then fold over one edge if you want it omelette-style. Include a fresh green or fruit salad and you’ve got a low-calorie healthy meal you can eat anytime of the day.
Roasted chicken can be a calorie-watcher’s best friend. Whether grilled at home, or cut from a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken, a skinless chicken breast or leg/thigh combination is a perfect source of lean protein. Just add two cups of a bagged salad and a half-cup of cooked instant brown rice to make it a meal. You can alternate one cup of fresh or cooked broccoli or other veggies instead of salad, and swap out your brown rice for half a cup of cooked couscous or a small baked potato (eat the skin for optimal nutrients). You’ve got a 450-calorie lunch or dinner loaded with protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Still hungry? Add a 100-calorie dessert of berries with low-fat topping or small low-fat yogurt or pudding.
Seeking an easy way to control your portions and maintain variety? Try a frozen, low-calorie meal. Look for meals that are “lean”, “healthy”, “light” and “smart” and are high in protein and low in sodium. You can find many in the 300 to 350 calorie range. Add a bag of green beans, a fresh fruit, or frozen berries (eaten frozen or thawed) to boost your nutrient intake, and the complete meal should come in under 450 calories.
When you’re on the go and want a deli lunch, look for low-fat options like Subway’s 6-inch sandwiches with 6 grams of fat or less (on whole- grain bread). Skip the cheese, and load up on fresh veggie toppings like lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, onions, and cucumbers. Use mustard instead of mayonnaise. Add a small bag of baked chips or piece of fruit along with a bottled water or low-calorie soda, and you have a satisfying meal for 450 calories or less. Or try the chain’s kid’s combo, which includes a 4-inch sandwich and a choice of mini-yogurt and fruit, for fewer than 400 calories.
Colorful Veggie Salad with Tuna
You can make this healthy salad yourself, or select it at a serve-yourself salad bar. Start with three cups of dark green mixed greens and add about 4 ounces of water-packed canned tuna. Top with colorful veggies of your choice like tomatoes, carrots, celery, onions, mushrooms, or peppers. Mix up different veggie combos to keep it interesting. Put your dressing on the side and use the “dip and scoop” method of dipping your fork in the dressing first then scooping up salad, or use a calorie-free balsamic vinegar blended with a teaspoon of olive oil. Add a 100-calorie pack of whole wheat crackers and a fresh fruit, and you’ve got yourself a 450-calorie nutrient-dense meal that will keep you satisfied for hours.
Egg and Cheese Sandwich
Who doesn’t love an egg sandwich? Make your own healthy version by starting with a 100-calorie whole-grain English muffin, bagel, or slice of bread. Add one cooked scrambled egg plus 2 egg whites (either use the stove or cook a beaten egg and 2 egg whites in the microwave in a glass cup for 1 minute). Top with a thin slice of 2% low-fat cheddar cheese. The whole grains and protein combo is filling and nutritious, and just 275 calories.
Greek Yogurt with Fruit
A container of plain, low- or non-fat Greek yogurt is a quick and easy breakfast on-the-go. Mix in some sliced fresh fruit, or frozen berries, or take along a whole fruit to add on the side. If you’re drinking coffee or tea, add 1% or skim milk, and if you use a sweetener, stick to one teaspoon of a natural sweetener (honey, brown sugar, cane sugar, etc.), which adds only 15 calories to your coffee. This protein-dense breakfast is about 200 calories.
Waffles with Peanut Butter and Strawberries
If you want to lose weight, fiber-rich carbohydrates are the best way to start the day. Spread one tablespoon of peanut butter on a high-fiber waffle and top it off with three sliced strawberries or a handful of blueberries. Add a small skim milk latte and you have a “grown-up” version of PB and J and milk for just 290 calories.
Easy Ways to Eat 5 Fruits and Veggies Each Day, “Eat your fruits and vegetables.” We’ve heard it all of our lives. If only it were so simple.
Our bodies crave fruits and vegetables more than just about any other food because we tend to get far fewer of them than we need. We often think we’d survive just fine on 2-3 servings a day – or less. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the USDA both recommend at least 5 servings per day! What you’re missing could be the difference between just surviving and all out thriving.
With just a little thought and a tiny bit of effort in snack preparation, you can make these nutritious foods more convenient and accessible.
Add fruit to your cereal, oatmeal, waffles or pancakes at breakfast.
Create your own yogurt flavors with plain yogurt and different combinations of fresh fruit.
Snack on raw vegetables or fruits instead of chips or pretzels. Keep sugar snap peas, raisins or carrot sticks in your car, your office or your backpack.
Use chunky salsa instead of thick, creamy snack dips.
Drink 100% juice instead of addictive coffee, tea, or soda.
Going out to lunch? Take a trip to the grocery salad bar. Use lots of dark green leaves and other vegetables instead of piling on all of the extras like eggs, bacon and cheese.
Add frozen veggies to any pasta dish. It’s an easy way to get in another serving of the good stuff.
Keep fruits and vegetables in line of sight. Grapes, oranges, bananas, and apples make a colorful bowl arrangement on the table. If you see them, you will eat them.
Dried fruit is just as portable as potato chips — and less messy. It tastes especially good when added to basic trail mix.
When cooking vegetables, makes 2-3 times more than you need and immdiately store the extra away for tomorrow. It’ll save you time later on.
Add your own beans and vegetables (tomatoes, spinach, peppers, cabbage) to canned and quick-serve soups.
If you must have pizza, load on extra veggies and pineapple instead of fatty meats and extra cheese.
Try berries, melons or dates for a naturally sweet dessert rather than the usual candy bar, cookie, or ice cream sandwich.
Frozen fruit and veggies are nearly as healthy as the fresh stuff, and only take minutes to prepare.
Combine fruit with your main meal courses. Raisins, apples and tangerine slices add sweet, crunchy variety to a salad. Apples complement pork, pineapple is great with fish, and orange slices are perfect with chicken.
Besides being packed full of nutrients, fruits and vegetables can also be quite filling. They may even ward off any empty calorie snacking that might follow! Don’t be discouraged by the recommended 5 servings a day. The guide below shows that one serving is less than what you might think.
One serving equals:
1 medium piece of fruit
1/2 cup fruit (raw, canned, or frozen)
1/2 cup cooked vegetables (canned or frozen)
1 cup raw vegetables
1/4 cup dried fruit
4-6 oz. of 100% juice (serving size depends on the type of juice)
1/2 cup cooked peas or beans
- 7 Great Ways to Cook Fresh Vegetables images
Are you a creature of habit in the kitchen and at the grocery store? Do you reach for the same carrots and celery for snacks, bagged greens for salads, and frozen veggies for dinnertime sides? It’s time to break out of your food rut. Learn a few basic cooking techniques, then head to the produce aisle and pick out something new. With very little time and effort, you can create crave-worthy veggie side dishes every night of the week.
Note: The smaller you cut your vegetables, the faster they will cook. Aim for bite-size pieces unless noted below. No matter how large or small your pieces are, be sure they are the same size to avoid uneven cooking.
For each cooking technique, you’ll need four cups prepared vegetables to yield four servings. If you’re cooking for fewer people, you can adjust the amounts or save extras for future meals.
When the pan is hot, add the chopped veggies.
Cook, stirring often, until the veggies are tender yet crisp.
For flavor add one of the following:
- 1/4 teaspoon salt-free seasoning blend
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic or ginger
- low-sodium soy sauce or
- miso paste
Tip: Add “harder” vegetables such as broccoli and green beans first, then softer veggies like onions and peppers.
Cut your vegetables into uniform pieces.
Spread the vegetables in a single layer on a baking sheet.
Drizzle on 2 teaspoons oil, sprinkle with pinch of salt and pepper, and 1 tablespoon dried herbs.
Roast, stirring halfway through the cooking process:
- 10-20 minutes for quick-cooking veggies
- 20-30 minutes for long-cooking veggies
Quick-cooking vegetables: mushrooms, bell peppers, zucchini, summer squash, broccoli
Long-cooking vegetables: sweet potatoes, white potatoes, carrots, turnips, butternut squash, and parsnips, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Coat a baking dish with a tight-fitting lid with cooking spray.
Add your vegetables, chopped into uniform pieces.
Add flavor with:
- 2 teaspoons purchased pesto or
- 2 teaspoons dried basil, oregano, parsley, thyme or rosemary
Good for: carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, bell peppers, green beans, onions, celery, cabbage
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and lightly oil a baking sheet.
Slice your vegetables into long, thin strips and pat them dry with paper towels.
Assemble a dipping station. You’ll need two shallow with flat dishes, such as pie pans.
- To the first, add 2 beaten egg whites
- To the other, add 1 cup fine breadcrumbs, 1 tablespoon dried parsley and 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
Place vegetables in a single layer on the baking sheet.
Bake for 20 minutes, flipping the vegetables once, until the crust is golden brown.
Serve with a dipping sauce such as salsa, hummus, pesto or tomato sauce.
Good for: green beans (no need to slice), eggplant, squash, onions, mushrooms or asparagus
Slice the vegetables.
For the microwave: Place veggies in a microwave-safe dish with a tight-fitting lid. Add 1/4 cup water, cover and cook on high for 3-5 minutes.
For stove top steaming: Place veggies in a saucepan with a tight fitting lid, using a steamer basket if you have one. Add 1/4 cup water and cover. Cook on medium-high for 5-7 minutes, until the vegetables are crisp and bright yet slightly tender.
To add flavor, add 1 bay leaf or 2 lemon slices to the cooking water.
Good for: green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, snow pea pods, zucchini and summer squash
Preheat an indoor or outdoor grill to medium.
Slice vegetables into 1/2 inch thick slices or strips.
Brush with reduced-fat Italian salad dressing or balsamic vinegar.
Grill for 5 minutes until the vegetables are crisp yet tender.
Good for: asparagus, eggplant, spring onions, bell peppers, zucchini, summer squash, eggplant, mushrooms
Note: Use a grill basket or skewers for small vegetables on an outdoor grill to prevent them from falling through the grates.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Place your chopped veggies on a sheet of aluminum foil or parchment.
Add flavor by:
- Sprinkling with 1 tablespoon finely chopped basil, oregano or parsley
- Layering 4 lemon slices on top veggies or
- Adding 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Place on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes until the vegetables are tender yet crisp.
Good for: sugar snap peas, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, celery and mushrooms
This is a delicious chicken recipe that my family loves
Minutes to Prepare: 5
Minutes to Cook: 15
Number of Servings: 4
4 tsp brown sugar
12 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 clove garlic
2 Tbsp butter
Dash black pepper
This makes four servings, 3 oz per person
1. Melt the butter in a frying pan
2. Brown the garlic in the butter
3. Add chicken breasts to garlic and butter and cook thoroughly, adding pepper as you like it.
4. When chicken is fully cooked add brown sugar on top of each breast
5. Allow the brown sugar to melt into the chicken (about 5 minutes)
6. Serve with your favorite carb, and veggie or salad. We usually have rice or noodles and carrots or green beans.
Servings Per Recipe: 4
Amount Per Serving
Total Fat: 8.0 g
Cholesterol: 68.2 mg
Sodium: 87.7 mg
Total Carbs: 4.3 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.0 g
Protein: 19.4 g
Calories per Ingredient:
Here are the foods from our food nutrition database that were used for the nutrition calculations of this recipe.
Calories per serving of Garlic Brown Sugar Chicken
103 calories of Chicken Breast (cooked), no skin, (3 ounces)
51 calories of Butter, salted, (0.50 tbsp)
11 calories of Brown Sugar, (1 tsp unpacked)
1 calories of Garlic, (0.25 clove)
0 calories of Pepper, black, (0.25 dash)
If you’ve ever made a fruit salad, you probably know that squeezing lemon juice onto the apples, pears, and bananas will keep the fruit from turning brown. This brown color happens because of a process called oxidation—a reaction between the oxygen molecules in the air and the molecules in the substance the air meets.
A similar type of reaction happens inside your body all the time. Substances called oxidants, or free radicals, react with your cells, harming healthy tissue, weakening immunological functioning, speeding up the aging process, and contributing to chronic degenerative diseases. These free radicals are formed through normal body processes, as well as through environmental exposure to the sun, pollution, cigarette smoke, too much stress, and the intake of alcoholic beverages and unhealthy food. Antioxidants are substances that work like that lemon juice on the fruit, protecting healthy tissue by destroying free radicals before they do any damage. Antioxidants are believed to play a role in helping to fight and prevent cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and other chronic conditions.
So how do you get these magical antioxidants to work for you? Not surprisingly, a healthy diet full of a variety of fruits and vegetables will do the trick. But are all fruits and vegetables created equally when it comes to antioxidant benefits? Not necessarily!
In a study published in the July 9, 2004 issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, the USDA analyzed over 100 different foods and their antioxidant levels. Each food item was ranked according to its antioxidant concentration and its antioxidant capacity per serving size.
The results may surprise you. Topping the list were small red beans and wild blueberries. Cranberries, red kidney beans, and artichokes also ranked very high, and unexpected contenders included pecans and ordinary russet potatoes.
However, every study has its drawbacks. Researchers say that although the data can help guide consumers who wish to include more antioxidants in their diet, the health benefits of these foods may not be directly proportional to their antioxidant content. So, even though small red beans have the most antioxidants, they may not offer the greatest overall health benefits when you consider the other nutrients they contain (or lack). Keep in mind that the health benefits of antioxidant-rich foods depend on how the foods are absorbed and utilized in the body, and this varies depending on the food (and where it was grown, how it was grown, when it was harvested and more).
For reference, here are the top 20 antioxidant-rich foods in the USDA study, in order from greatest to lowest levels of antioxidants.