Healthy Picnics and Barbecues
First published Summer 2012
By Hope Ricciotti, MD
Nothing says summer like picnics and barbecues. And with just a few switches and substitutions, you can feature healthier fare beginning at your next cookout.
START THE GRILL!
Grilling is a low-fat cooking technique that is ideal during the hot summer months. Instead of charcoal briquets and lighter fluid, substitute hardwood charcoal. Hardwood charcoal is the pure residue of burned, seasoned hardwood. Free of additives, it burns hotter and more evenly than briquets, and does not require lighter fluid. Grilling not only improves the flavor of your food, it’s better for both your body and the environment.
For juicy-meat lovers: Instead of beef, satisfy your craving by skewering lean pieces of pork tenderloin with your favorite vegetables. Lean pork can be as low in fat as chicken.
Ideal for grilling, fatty fish are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are heart-healthy and can help develop a baby’s brain and spinal cord. However, note that some fatty fish can also be high in mercury, a contaminant that can harm a developing baby’s nervous system.
Salmon is a perfect pregnancy food, because it is both rich in healthy fats and low in mercury. Just brush it with olive oil, salt and pepper, and you’ll have a delicious, healthy dish from the grill.
Still craving that burger? Go for a lean fat percentage, such as 90 percent lean or more, and be sure the meat is cooked through well to eliminate the risk of foodborne bacteria.
Substitute wholewheat buns and breads for white bread. This adds fiber and slows the digestion, avoiding spikes of glucose, the breakdown product of carbohydrates, in your bloodstream. A more even release of glucose is better for both you and your baby.
SPICE IT UP!
Go for gourmet mustards, and feel free to use plenty of ketchup. Watch the mayo, though, which is high in fat. Small amounts are fine. Despite the reputation mayonnaise has for making people sick at picnics, commercially prepared mayo at a picnic is generally not a cause for worry. Mayonnaise is prepared from egg yolks, oil and acids, such as vinegar or lemon juice. Eggs used in commercial mayonnaise are pasteurized, which greatly reduces the chance that they are carrying salmonella. Foodborne illnesses associated with mayonnaise are probably due to contamination of the foods being mixed with it such as chicken, ham or potatoes that were improperly handled. Practice safe food practices: To avoid cross-contamination in the kitchen, wash cutting boards used for preparation of raw meats with hot soapy water before slicing vegetables that you’ll consume raw.
Instead of macaroni salad loaded with mayonnaise, prepare pasta salad. Toss pasta with healthy olive oil and veggies. Instead of dips laden with sour cream, try hummus. Made from ground chickpeas, hummus can be used as a dip for grape tomatoes, celery slices, baby carrots and your other favorite veggies. Hard-boil eggs, and eat two whites for every yolk to keep the cholesterol count lower.
Stay away from fruit juices, which contain as much sugar as soda. Instead, have seltzer with a splash of fruit juice, or a slice of fresh floating fruit for flavor.
Dessert is easy: Try summer fruit melon, grapes, strawberries, peaches, plums, nectarines and cherries. Delicious!
Hope Ricciotti, MD, is an Associate Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology at Harvard Medical School, and practices obstetrics/ gynecology at the Dimock Community Health Center and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, MA. She is the Interim Chair in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, where she is also the Residency Program Director.