Will you be marking the Fourth of July holiday with a classic summertime cookout?
Planning a holiday cookout? Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
Or will you be going vegetarian, vegan or even gluten-free at your BBQ? If that’s the case, here are some pointers for July 4 and throughout the summer.
If you feel the holiday just won’t be complete without firing up the grill, but you don’t want to down burgers and dogs, then check out One Green Planet’s 30 epic vegan-friendly grilling ideas, from grilled artichoke and quinoa lettuce wraps to red lentil burgers with kale pesto (which you can follow up with 30 vegan desserts, from grilled fruit kebabs to cardamom rose cupcakes (who doesn’t love cardamom?)).
Not sure that anything coming off the grill could taste as good as a cheeseburger? Read this recipe for grilled avocado with salsa and see if your mouth doesn’t water.
Ok, say you want a more traditional cookout, but you want to skip a lot of the fat, cholesterol and salt that accompanies burgers, chips, potato salad and other BBQ offerings. Take traditional picnic foods and put a healthy twist on it, such as swapping out a mayo-based macaroni salad with a Greek pasta salad with red wine vinaigrette, and deviled eggs with avocado stuffed eggs.
Choose a Lean Entrée
Try a healthy veggie burger. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
Instead of high-fat hamburgers and hot dogs, choose lower-fat proteins. It’ll be a great change-up from traditional cookout foods, and your guests will be delighted. Here are some tasty entrée ideas:
Fresh fish can be grilled whole, in steaks or filets, or on a kebob. Salmon, grouper, shrimp and tuna are great grilling options.
Whole chicken or chicken breasts can be made in a variety of ways, like marinating with chipotle seasoning, vinaigrettes, barbecue sauce, jerk sauce or Cajun seasoning. If using chicken with skin, remove the skin before eating.
Lean pork or beef tenderloin, trimmed of fat.
Vegetable-based burgers. Portobello, black bean, roasted vegetable or burgers made with textured vegetable protein are flavorful options.
Grilled vegetables make for a great entrée themselves, especially veggies with hearty flavors like portobello mushrooms, squash, onions and peppers.
Turkey or chicken burgers made with all-white-meat ground turkey or chicken.
Lighten up the Salad
How about a flavorful vinaigrette instead of a creamy dressing on your salad? Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
Liven up pasta and potato salad with these ideas to limit saturated fat:
Add grilled, raw or roasted vegetables. They’ll help bulk up the salad while lowering the calorie count.
Use a flavorful vinaigrette dressing instead of a creamy dressing. Try a mixture of extra virgin olive oil, an acid (such as lemon juice, red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar) and fresh herbs and spices.
If you just can’t do without the creamy potato salad, substitute full-fat mayonnaise with light mayo or light sour cream. Use small amounts of creamy toppings and add flavor with pickle juice, lemon juice or fresh herbs.
Try using spicy arugula pesto or traditional basil pesto sauce in your pasta salad for a refreshing, healthy change.
Choose whole wheat farfalle (bowtie), penne (tubular) or fusilli (spiral) pasta instead of enriched pasta. Or, make the salad using half enriched pasta and half whole wheat pasta.
Dijon mustard is a great addition to vinaigrettes, as are rice wine, balsamic and champagne vinegars. To give a southwestern pasta salad some kick, add some adobo sauce or chopped chipotle peppers.
Add a Healthy Side Dish
Cherry tomato, mozzarella and basil kebabs. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
Instead of high-fat potato chips and other unhealthy snacks, try some of these ideas:
Fresh fruit kebobs. Put fresh strawberries, melon, grapes and pineapple on skewers, or toss it all into a big bowl and enjoy!
Mozzarella, cherry tomato and basil kebobs are delicious! You can also layer the ingredients on a tray and sprinkle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar for a refreshing side dish.
Instead of fried chips, try serving veggie chips, but not the bagged kinds! Thinly slice jicama, carrot coins, zucchini and cucumber and serve with hummus.
Zesty corn and black bean salad.
Serve baked tortilla chips with fresh salsa or guacamole.
Make a beautiful array of grilled vegetables and serve warm or at room temperature.
Serve corn on the cob with a variety of toppings like lime juice and grated parmesan cheese.
Prepare a tricolor salad made with radicchio, endive and arugula. Toss with a red wine vinaigrette dressing.
Offer fresh whole wheat pita with olives, tabbouleh salad and hummus.
Go Light on the Drinks
Try some unsweetened iced tea with mint or lemon. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
Instead of high-calorie, sugary drinks, try offering these refreshing choices:
Ice water with cucumber and lemon slices.
Sparkling water “spiked” with a dash of 100 percent fruit juice.
Fresh squeezed lemonade with a small amount of sugar.
Black or green unsweetened tea.
What are some of your favorite healthy cookout dishes?
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Where Does the Deficiency Begin?<p>Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. The question of when a deficiency starts is correspondingly controversial. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular.Not only is the pseudo-scientific literature on the "sun vitamin" experiencing an upswing, but the number of published studies has also increased enormously in recent years. For example, in 2019 <a href="https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/40/4/1109/5126915" target="_blank">a study found that</a> Vitamin D is responsible for keeping the skeleton functional and is associated with cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer. <br></p>
An All-Rounder<p>Vitamin D levels in the body rise and fall according to sun exposure. If sufficient UV rays reach the skin, the body is able to produce the vitamin itself. However, the human body only derives an estimated 10 to 20 percent of its daily requirement from food.</p><p>The vitamin D that we synthesize from sunlight or food is not biologically active at first. Before the kidneys can produce the biologically active form of the vitamin, known as calcitriol, and release it into the blood, some metabolic processes must take place beforehand.</p><p>In addition, many organs have receptors to which the precursor of calcitriol binds. Further, this substance is also present in blood.</p><p>From this precursor, the organs then produce calcitriol themselves, which the body then uses for countless other processes in the body. This form of vitamin D thus regulates insulin secretion, inhibits tumor growth, and promotes the formation of red blood cells as well as the survival and activity of macrophages, which are important for the <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/7/2502/htm" target="_blank">immune system.</a></p>
Low Vitamin D, Severe COVID-19 Disease?<p>A research study carried out <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352364620300067?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">at the University of Hohenheim</a> has now established a link between vitamin D deficiency, certain previous diseases, and severe cases of COVID-19.</p><p>According to the study, "there is a lot of evidence that several non-communicable diseases (high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome) are associated with low vitamin D plasma levels. These comorbidities, together with the often accompanying vitamin D deficiency, increase the risk of severe COVID-19 events."</p><p>"This statement is completely correct," said Martin Fassnacht, head of endocrinology at the University Hospital of Würzburg. However, he qualifies that it is a pure association, "i.e. a mere observation that these events occur together.</p><p>Dr. Fassnacht is very critical of the hype surrounding vitamin D, but not because he denies the vitamin serves important functions. However, studies on humans have not been able to show that vitamin D has the healing powers many often propagate.</p><p>Fassnacht says, "If you take a closer look, the hopes that the administration of vitamin D has a healing effect have not been confirmed so far."</p>
Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
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