Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Final “Fair” Days of Summer

Here in Tennessee, we continue to enjoy the final days of summer – including state and county fairs and nights at the ballpark.  Within the last couple of weeks, we’ve had multiple county fairs and local teams taking part in the Little League World Series.  I really enjoy these last moments of summer.  However, there are still a few things we need to be wary of.  Among these are a list of some frightful foods that can be found at cookouts, fairs, and ballparks.  I encourage celebrating and enjoying all things in moderation.  However, the following is a list of the foods we should avoid or limit whenever possible:
  • Deep-fried foods & snacks: You're at greater risk for high cholesterol and heart disease if you eat a diet that includes deep-fried or breaded foods, which are high in fat. Diets high in saturated fat and trans fats tend to raise cholesterol and blood pressure. When you fry foods that already contain saturated fat (like Twinkies at the fair), you simply add more fat to them. But even a fried veggie like the Bloomin' Onion has more than 800 calories, 58 grams of fat, 22 grams of saturated fat, plus 1,520 milligrams of sodium. These numbers don't include the dipping sauce, which is also loaded with fat, calories, and sodium.
  • Processed & refined carbs: Eating foods with fewer than three grams of fiber and more than ten grams of sugar (check the label to be sure) increases your risk for heart disease.  Stick with whole wheat bread, whole grain cereals, and brown rice or whole grain pastas.  If you’re at a location that doesn’t offer whole grain, enjoy an open-face sandwich (take off one piece of bread). 
  • Hot dogs & bologna: Processed meats are fat-&-salt bombs, and they also contain nitrates, which have been linked to several types of cancer.  Pick lean poultry or red meat, or even better, go for the seafood.  Opt for grilled shrimp wrapped in a whole grain tortilla over a greasy chili dog.
  • Artificial sweeteners: Five hundred times as sweet as sugar and zero calories?  Sounds pretty good, but studies show that those of us who use them are more likely to be overweight than not.  The reason is that the sweet taste tricks your body to making you crave even more food, especially sweet stuff.  Opt for natural sugars in fruit and veggies or add agave syrup to coffee or honey to your whole wheat toast.  Limit diet sodas by choosing water with lemon or lime juice and sweetened with agave.
  • “Fortified” junk food: Don’t be fooled by flashy nutritional claims on the front of a package – it’s the label on the back you need to study.  Avoid products that list sugar (or sucrose, fructose, etc) among the first three ingredients.  And remember that “enriched flour” is just a fancy way of saying “refined white flour” – it has to be enriched because the refining process destroys most of the nutrients.  Even kids’ snacks like granola bars or “fruit snacks” can be loaded with sugar and not contain an ounce of real fruit.  Choose real fruit and a handful of nuts over an energy bar or candy bar. 

Enjoy the final days of summer – celebrate, relax, and spend time with your family and friends.  Just make sure you also make smart choices to keep you healthy enough to enjoy many more in the future!  Use my personal recipes below for a healthful meal you can enjoy with your family in these final days of summer.  Now is the time to get the very best out of the final days of summer. This meal uses the most flavorful seasonal ingredients, like peaches, arugula, and raspberries. The best seasonal meals are made of the tastiest ingredients and prepared in simple ways. It’s delicious and nutritious. The following recipes serve four.

Grilled Pork & Peaches on Rocket
4 thick-cut (1-inch) bone-in pork chops (8 oz each)
4 firm peaches, halved & pitted
2 T extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
1 t salt, ½ t pepper
4 cups arugula (aka rocket)
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
¼ cup pine nuts
½ cup crumbled blue cheese
2 T balsamic vinegar + 2 T EVOO
Preheat a grill on high. Brush pork chops & peach halves with EVOO. Season pork with S&P. Grill pork for 4-5 minutes on each side. The outside should be slightly charred while still pink on the inside. Grill peaches flesh side down for about 5 minutes or until charred & softened. Note: if peaches are too ripe, they will turn to mush.
While pork & peaches grill, prepare rocket salad by tossing remaining ingredients in a bowl. Serve salad on a plate & top with a pork chop & sliced grilled peaches.
Pork compares favorably for fat, calories & cholesterol with many other meats & poultry. In fact, cuts from the loin, like pork chops, are leaner than skinless chicken thighs. Plus, pork rivals milk as a source of riboflavin. Riboflavin plays an essential role in the release of energy from food, promotes the growth & repair of tissues, & maintains healthy skin & eyes. Pick pork that is mostly pink (the white spots are fat). So many times chops are fried, but pork can be a good pick!
Arugula, also known as rocket, is slightly spicy & pairs perfectly with the sweet peaches. It is a leafy green that stands out as a rich source of many vitamins & minerals. Compared with iceberg lettuce, arugula contains about eight times the calcium, five times the vitamin A, vitamin C & vitamin K, and four times the iron. Plus it also contains the antioxidants beta carotene & lutein which are known for the prevention of diseases like cancer & macular degeneration.
Pine nuts are nature's only source of pinoleic acid, which stimulates hormones & helps diminish appetite. Pine nuts also contain oleic acid which aids the liver in eliminating harmful triglycerides which helps protect the heart.

Raspberry Tea
1 quart fresh brewed Black or Green Tea – chilled
1 T agave syrup
¾ cup fresh raspberries, plus a few for garnish
In individual glass or large pitcher, muddle (crush with end of wooden spoon) agave, raspberries, & ice. Pour chilled tea over mixture & serve with a few fresh raspberries on top! This tea is perfect any time of day. For a refreshing adult beverage, add a shot of whiskey or dark rum!
Tea contains healthful doses of antioxidants, or poylphenols that may ward off a range of diseases. Make sure to always brew your own – commercial bottled tea contains such small amounts of these antioxidants that you’d have to drink 20 bottles to get the polyphenols present in one cup of home-brewed tea. The fresh raspberries not only add sweetness, but even more nutrients & eye-appeal. Now that’s invigorating!

Peach Melba Parfait
2 cups fresh raspberries
2 T agave syrup
2 ripe peaches, thinly sliced
4 cups fat-free vanilla yogurt
Fresh raspberries for garnish
Combine raspberries & agave in a bowl. Mash with a large fork or potato masher until you get a chunky consistency similar to preserves.
In individual tall glass dessert dish or cocktail glass, layer vanilla yogurt, peaches, & mashed berries in at least two layers. Use glasses tall enough to see the colorful layers. Garnish each glass with a few raspberries or peach slice.
For this dessert, use peaches that are slightly riper than those in the pork dish since they aren’t being cooked.
Yogurt contains probiotics or "good" bacteria that aid in digestion & immune function. Just stick with lowfat or fat free versions that say "live & active cultures" on the label. Yogurt also provides a dose of protein & calcium, plus vitamin B-2, B-12, potassium, & magnesium.

I hope you are able to use this as an opportunity to spend some quality time with your loved ones.  If you want more recipes, meal ideas, or any help living a healthier life, go to to see all the ways I can help you and those you love.  Obesity is 100% preventable and we can start by savoring each moment…even these final “fair” days of summer. 

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