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Our Health

June 11, 2013

Barbecue season: Serve up some tasty (and healthy!) new dishes

The month of June ushers in summertime, and that means it’s time to fire up the grill. Many of you may use your grill all winter long, but ours is generally buried in snow on our open deck, so we look forward to weekly grilling this time of year.

Consider these five easy tips for healthy grilling:

- Trim visible fat from meats to reduce calories, fat and burn-factor on the grill.

- Choose your favorite meats, but consider eating smaller portions of them and balancing the plate with low fat, fiber-rich side dishes.

- Include veggies during every grill fest and use the grill to cook them. Grill veggies first, then set them aside while meat cooks. Cut zucchini or eggplant into quarter-inch planks, brush with olive oil and herbs, and grill on both sides until tender. Grill quartered, seeded, bell peppers or thickly sliced onions. Grill fruit too — halved freestone peaches or pineapple slices are delicious accompaniments to chicken or beef.

- Make kabobs. This is a great way to stretch your dollar by using less meat and adding in small chunks of veggies.

- Marinate. Not only can this help your budget — using a less expensive cut of beef, for example — but it also has been shown to reduce carcinogens by 57 to 88 percent. A marinade is a mixture of oil, vinegar, herbs and spices.

A nutty twist on summer sides

Most of you probably have the meat portion of the meal down, but what about those side dishes? Side dishes are a great way to balance out a meal and add more nutrients and fiber. Why not try something new?

A recent large study — 7,447 participants, ages 55 to 80 — showed that a Mediterranean diet that includes nuts could reduce risk of cardiovascular disease. Participants were at high risk for heart disease (but without disease) and were placed on one of three diets:

- A Mediterranean diet with extra virgin olive oil;

- A Mediterranean diet with mixed nuts; or

- A control diet — they were only told to reduce dietary fat.

Each group received individual and group education each quarter over the study period of 4.8 years. The study found a relative risk reduction of approximately 30 percent among high-risk people who were initially free of cardiovascular disease.

This study shows that diet is indeed a factor in reducing heart disease risks and incidents related to heart disease — hypertension, heart attack, stroke. Diets such as the Mediterranean Diet and the DASH Diet are both proven to improve heart health.

Adding foods to your diet such as small portions of nuts can help. Rather than just thinking about nuts as a snack, consider learning to cook with them and add them to recipes. Nuts like walnuts are high in omega-3 fatty acids, but they are also high in calories, so portion control is important.

I loaded up on walnut snacks from the California Walnut Board at my spring conference, and with that I received lots of tasty recipes that incorporate these heart-healthy nuts into your diet. Crunchy and tasty, they bring great texture and flavor to dishes. For something different to try, our pasta with zucchini yogurt sauce with walnuts from our Hypertension Cookbook incorporates a small amount of walnuts.

To find more walnut recipes, visit for recipes like this blueberry, watermelon and walnut salad — it’s a fresh addition to your summer picnics.

Blueberry, watermelon and walnut salad


1/4 cup lime juice

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons honey

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 cups seedless watermelon, cubed

1 cup fresh blueberries

1 cup California walnuts, chopped

1 large yellow bell pepper, cut in bite-size pieces

6 cups mixed baby greens

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (about 4 ounces each), grilled or sautéed until cooked through (see note below)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and spread walnuts in one layer on baking sheet. Bake until just toasted and aromatic, about 8 minutes; remove and let cool.

To prepare vinaigrette, in a small bowl, whisk together lime juice, oil, honey, salt and pepper.

For the salad, in a medium bowl, combine watermelon, blueberries, walnuts and bell pepper; add half of the vinaigrette; toss to coat. In a large bowl, toss greens with remaining vinaigrette. Divide greens among four plates; top with fruit and walnut mixture. Slice each chicken breast diagonally and serve with the salad.

Nutrition Information

Calories: 535. Total fat: 35 g. Saturated fat: 4 g. Monounsaturated fat: 14 g. Polyunsaturated fat: 16 g. Trans fat: 0 g. Choles-terol: 66 mg. Sodium: 378 mg. Total carbohydrate: 29 g. Dietary fiber: 5 g. Protein: 32 g.

Rust, a local registered dietitian and author, can be contacted via her website,, or by emailing her at

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