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Summer should be the healthiest season.
With all the outdoor activity and garden-fresh produce, people have no excuse not to stay in shape.
But for many, a traditional summer wouldn't be such without grilling, and that often includes high-fat burgers with all the high-calorie trappings.
It doesn't have to be that way, though, according to Sonja Stolfa, a registered and licensed dietitian with St. Francis Hospital (OK).
Those wanting to cut calories should consider using leaner beef for their burgers, Stolfa said. Go with a 90 percent lean/10 percent fat option, or try turkey, lamb or buffalo burgers. You can also grill portobello mushrooms and veggie patties.
From there, be careful with condiments, Stolfa said. Try reduced-fat or fat-free mayonnaise.
Mustard and ketchup are safe, with one packet of mustard being just 3 calories, 0 grams sugar and 57 milligrams sodium, according to Self magazine's online nutrition data (check out ). The same amount of ketchup is 6 calories, 1 gram sugar and 67 milligrams sodium.
This may also be a great time to get a serving or two of veggies, such as onions and tomatoes. For an even healthier boost, trade lettuce for raw spinach. Concerned about sodium? Switch out pickles for cucumber slices.
Side dishes can be a diet-crusher. If you have to have chips, Stolfa advises doing baked ones with salsa, instead of heavy dips.
"It's better to just do grilled vegetables," Stolfa said. They're much healthier than mayo- and sour cream-heavy macaroni or potato salads.
Need dessert? Skip the ice cream and opt for fruit or frozen fruit bars, she said. Instead of a blueberry or blackberry cobbler, make a crisp with a little crumble topping instead of the heavier, buttery cobbler crust and syrupy filling.
And although beer and pop are popular in summer, the more waist-friendly options are sugar-free beverages, such as iced green tea with no sugar added.
Plus, sodas are high in phosphates, which have been shown to interfere with the absorption of some minerals, like calcium, Stolfa said.
"Everything in moderation, that's the key," she said.
In case you're contemplating a burger substitute, Stolfa shared this Better Homes and Gardens recipe for sliders with vegetables and a bean spread.
Healthy substitutions When a recipe calls for 1 cup whole milk, it's healthier to use 1 cup fat-free or low-fat milk, plus 1 tablespoon of liquid vegetable oil.
That's according to the American Heart Association, which provided these other healthy substitution suggestions:
--Instead of 1 cup heavy cream, use 1 cup evaporated skim milk or 1/2 cup low-fat yogurt and 1/2 cup plain low-fat unsalted cottage cheese.
--Instead of sour cream, use low-fat unsalted cottage cheese plus low-fat or fat-free yogurt; or just use fat-free sour cream.
--Instead of cream cheese, use 4 tablespoons soft margarine (low in saturated fat and 0 grams trans fat) blended with 1 cup dry, unsalted low-fat cottage cheese; add a small amount of fat-free milk if needed.
--Instead of 1 tablespoon butter, use 1 tablespoon soft margarine (low in saturated fat and 0 grams trans fat) or 3/4 tablespoon liquid vegetable oil.
--Instead of 1 egg, use 2 egg whites; or choose a commercially made, cholesterol-free egg substitute ( 1/4 cup).
--Instead of 1 ounce unsweetened baking chocolate, use 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder or carob powder, plus 1 tablespoon vegetable oil or soft margarine. (As carob is sweeter than cocoa, reduce the sugar in the recipe by 25 percent.)
For more healthy tips, visit tulsaworld.com/ahasubs
Turkey vs. veggie vs. beef Healthy Cooking magazine's July 2011 issue included the following comparison of three burgers, all averaged from selections at national-chain eateries:
Beef: 922 calories, 51 fat grams (17 saturated) and 1,630 milligrams sodium
Turkey: 795 calories, 47 fat grams (14 saturated) and 1,935 milligrams sodium
Vegetarian: 426 calories, 15 fat grams (3 saturated) and 1,113 milligrams sodium
1 (15- or 16-ounce) can Great Northern or cannellini beans, rinsed and drained 2 tablespoons olive oil 2 cloves garlic, minced 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning, crushed 1 yellow summer squash, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices 24 1/4-inch-thick slices baguette 2 medium Roma tomatoes, cut in 1/4-inch-thick slices 1 small cucumber, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices Small celery top sprigs, small tomato wedges and/or pickle slices (optional)
1. For bean spread, in blender or food processor, combine beans, 1 tablespoon of the oil, garlic and Italian seasoning. Cover; blend or process until smooth. Season with salt and ground black pepper.
2. To grill squash, toss squash slices with remaining tablespoon olive oil. Place in grill basket. Place basket directly over medium coals for about 5 minutes or just until squash is tender, turning once.
3. Spread one side of each bread slice with bean spread. Top half of the bread with tomato, squash and cucumber slices. Top with remaining bread slices, spread side down. Secure sandwiches with wooden picks. Top with celery sprigs, tomato wedges and/or pickle slices, if you wish.
Tips: Make the bean spread up to 2 days ahead; refrigerate, covered. Slice vegetables up to 24 hours ahead. Assemble sliders 2 hours ahead.
Nutrition: 120 calories, 6 grams protein, 23 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fat, 3 grams fiber, 289 milligrams sodium
Still have to have your beef? Here's a healthy -- and awesomely delicious -- recipe from Healthy Cooking magazine (July 2011).
BASIL BURGERS WITH SUN-DRIED TOMATO MAYONNAISE
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes (not packed in oil) 1 cup boiling water 1 cup fat-free mayonnaise 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning 2 garlic cloves, minced 1/2 teaspoon pepper 1/4 teaspoon salt 1-1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef (90 percent lean) 3/4 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese 6 whole wheat hamburger buns, split Additional fresh basil leaves, optional
1. In a small bowl, combine tomatoes and water. Let stand for 5 minutes; drain. In a food processor, combine mayonnaise and tomatoes; cover, and process until blended. Chill until serving.
2. In a large bowl, combine Worcestershire sauce, basil, Italian seasoning, garlic, pepper and salt. Crumble beef over mixture, and mix well. Shape into 12 thin patties. Place 2 tablespoons cheese on 6 patties; top with remaining patties, and press edges firmly to seal.
3. Moisten a paper towel with cooking oil; using long-handled tongs, lightly coat the grill rack. Grill burgers, covered, over medium heat, or broil 4 inches from the heat for 5-7 minutes on each side or until a meat thermometer reads 160 degrees and juices run clear. Serve on buns with mayonnaise mixture and additional basil, if desired.
Nutrition: 368 calories, 30 grams protein, 15 grams fat, 30 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams fiber, 816 milligrams sodium
The next Better Homes and Gardens recipe Stolfa shared is a fat-free drink that can double as dessert, with honeydew and kiwi.
1 1/4 cups light apple juice, chilled 2 cups chopped honeydew melon, frozen 1 kiwifruit, peeled, chopped Frozen honeydew and kiwifruit wedges, optional
1. In a blender, combine apple juice, honeydew and kiwi. Cover; blend until smooth.
2. Pour into 2 glasses. If desired, garnish with frozen honeydew and kiwifruit.
Nutrition: 106 calories, 1 gram protein, 25 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 39 milligrams sodium.
(c)2012 Tulsa World (Tulsa, Okla.)
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