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Make dad’s Father’s Day feast a heart-healthy one


June 5, 2014
SPRINGFIELD – This Father’s Day, give Dad a BBQ celebration from the heart.

Eating a healthy diet can help reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, the No. 1 and No. 4 leading causes of death of men in the U.S. Studies show that up to 90 percent of cardiovascular events can be prevented with simple lifestyle changes, like making healthier choices at mealtime.

The American Heart Association wants you to give Dad the gift of a heart-healthy meal at his Father’s Day BBQ celebration, and throughout the summer season.

Meat, poultry and fish
• Go for grilled fish more often. The healthiest types include salmon, trout and herring, which are high in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.  The AHA recommends two servings of fish per week.

• Buy chicken breasts – and remember to remove the skin before eating – instead of the fattier dark meat (legs and thighs).  Grilling breasts on the bone will help retain moisture.

• Or try grilling up chicken or turkey burgers using breast meat, and add diced onions for another layer of flavor.

• If Dad wants red meat, which ones should you buy?  Choose “loin” and “round” cuts of red meat and pork.  And buy “choice” or “select” grades of beef instead of “prime” which have more fat.  Also, don’t forget to trim visible fat when you get home. Aim for portion sizes of 3-4 ounces or less, or the size of a deck of cards.

Veggies on the grill
Grilling veggies adds flavor to vegetables and variety on your menu. Eggplant, asparagus, Portobello mushrooms, red peppers, zucchini make for great veggie-based meals or side. Radicchio, endive and romaine lettuce can be grilled then dressed lightly with olive oil, fresh herbs and balsamic vinegar for that gourmet touch.

Use cut up veggies on skewers, alternating with lean meat or fish. Cut them of equal size to ensure even cooking. Lightly brushing them with olive or canola oil helps with the browning.

Top grilled sandwiches with baby spinach, sliced tomatoes, watercress and lettuce to add more veggies to your meal.

Side dishes, drinks and desserts
Serve green leafy salads or fruit salads (or combine baby spinach with strawberries or mixed greens with orange slices) instead of mayonnaise-based salads.  Add some crunch – and healthier fats – with some toasted walnuts or almonds instead of croutons.

Skip the high fat potato chips, and instead serve raw veggies with a low-fat dip made from thick, fat-free Greek yogurt, not mayo.

Serve water, fruit juice spritzers or unsweetened teas.  Regular sodas have no nutritional value are loaded with sugars and calories.

Cut back on commercially baked dessert that are high in saturated fat and/or trans-fat. 

Try fruit for dessert! Grill fruits like pineapple slices, nectarines, peaches or plums – the natural sugars caramelize with the heat and give them great flavor and top with low-fat vanilla yogurt.  Fruits are loaded with vitamins, minerals and fiber – and they’re low in calories.

Oils, dressings, seasonings and more
Multi-task with one bottle; use reduced-fat, low-fat, light or no-fat salad dressings (if you need to limit your calories) on salads, for dips or as marinades.

Watch the salt – cut back on salty seasonings and condiments like teriyaki, soy and barbecue sauce or choose the low-sodium versions.

Choose low-fat, reduced-fat or fat-free cheese for your sandwiches and hamburgers.

Choose whole-grain, high-fiber breads and crackers, such as whole wheat, oats, oatmeal, whole rye, whole-grain corn and buckwheat.  In addition to being good for you, they add more flavor and texture to your meal.

Buffet style service?
Behavioral psychology studies have shown that you can influence eating habits with a few easy changes. Use smaller plates to control portion sizes. Place the vegetables and salads in a prominent location on the buffet, that people will consume more of them. Displaying fruits in colorful bowls also leads to increased consumption. Remember the USDA food plate, recommends that half your plate be filled with fruits and vegetables.

To complete your heart-healthy Father’s Day BBQ, go out for a family walk after dinner.

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