Monday, June 20, 2016

Is Grilling Safe?

The delicious smoky taste and tender juiciness that can’t come from anywhere else keeps us grilling all summer long. Gas or charcoal, there are some great health benefits to grilling, but also some documented health concerns you should be aware of.

Health Benefits: Grilling helps excess fat drip off, which is particularly beneficial when cooking high fat meats such as steak, sausage, and burgers. The high heat provides a shorter cooking time helping vegetables to retain more vitamins and minerals. The heat also seals in moisture helping your vegetables stay tender and decrease the use of added fat and sauces.

Health Concerns: High temperature cooking over gas or charcoal can produce Heterocyclic Amines (HCAs) which are documented carcinogens. These can cause cancer in animals and could increase the risk of cancer in humans. Inflammatory substances called Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs) are also created which speed up oxidative damage to cells. This can lead to or make worse degenerative diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, kidney failure, and Alzheimer's. The smoke that comes off a grill, particularly from fat drippings, creates toxic chemicals called Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) which can damage your lungs.

Protect Yourself: There are lots of ways to enjoy grilling while minimizing your exposure to HCAs, AGEs, and PAHs. Coat your meat with a rub or marinade. This can significantly reduce the buildup of carcinogens. Be mindful of the salt content if you are watching your sodium intake. Precook your meats inside to limit the amount of exposure they have on the grill. Reduce the heat by cooking over an indirect flame; the higher the temperature the greater the formation of carcinogens and toxic substances. Finally grill vegetables, they do not develop HCAs or PAHs and their healthy antioxidant properties can help counterbalance your meat intake.

Balsamic Grilled Portobello Burger Recipe
Serves: 8
190 calories per serving

˜½ cup balsamic vinegar
˜½ cup olive oil
˜¼ cup lemon juice
˜2 tbs Dijon mustard
˜2 garlic cloves, minced
˜2 tsp minced thyme
˜8 Portobello mushrooms
˜Salt and pepper to taste
˜8 whole grain buns
˜8 kale leaves
˜1 red onion
˜2 large tomatoes

Remove stems and gills from mushrooms (a spoon works well for this) and wash clean. In a small bowl whisk together vinegar, oil, lemon juice, mustard, garlic, thyme, and a small amount of salt and pepper. Place mushrooms in a resealable plastic bag and pour marinade over top. Seal bag and toss to coat. Leave at room temperature to marinate for 30 minutes, toss occasionally.

Place mushrooms on a medium heat grill for 5 minutes each side until fully cooked. Serve on a whole grain bun with kale, red onions, and tomato. 

Balsamic Portobello Burgers with Grilled Eggplant
Serve with a side salad

Balsamic Portobello Burgers 

Monday, June 13, 2016

Philadelphia's Sugary Drinks Tax

Upon amending the soda tax proposal, a City Counsel committee voted Wednesday and approved a 1.5 cent-per-ounce tax on sugary and diet drinks. The proposal will go through a final vote on June 16th, and if approved Philadelphia will be the first major city to tax sugary drinks.

Applying a 1.5 cent-per-ounce tax would help discourage people from drinking soda which could help reduce risk of obesity. The tax would also generate an estimated $91 million to fund expanded prekindergarten, establish community schools with social-service hubs, and fix up parks and recreation centers.

Over 30 cities and states have failed to implement soda tax proposals over the past decade. Currently Berkeley, California is the only U.S. city to approve a 1 cent-per-ounce soda tax which went into effect in 2014. Their population of 112,000 compared to 1.5 million people in Philadelphia means passing a soda tax in our city would be historic. Many other cities are expected to follow should the proposal get approved.

The American Beverage Association has been lobbying and spending millions of dollars campaigning against the tax. The group insists taxing sugary drinks would hurt small businesses, reduce jobs, and hurt lower-income families who tend to drink more soda than higher-income families.

Politicians have also weighed in on the issue. Hillary Clinton supports the soda tax “I’m very supportive of the mayor’s proposal to tax soda to get universal preschool for kids” “I mean we need universal preschool. And if that’s a way to do it, that’s how we should do it.” Bernie Sanders opposes the tax stating “A tax on soda and juice drinks would disproportionately increase taxes on low-income families in Philadelphia.”

Stay tuned for voting results on June 16th to see whether the soda tax proposal becomes approved, and when it will take effect in Philadelphia.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

It’s Greek to Me

They might come in similar white tubs, but all yogurt is not created equal, and consumers are catching on. Greek yogurt sales have skyrocketed, and for good reason. The straining  process removes whey, sugar, salt, and lactose from the yogurt which makes it more thick and creamy. For about the same amount of calories, Greek yogurt has less sugar and twice as much protein as regular varieties which makes it very nutrient dense. For people who are lactose intolerant Greek varieties might be better tolerated as well.

6 ounces of Greek yogurt has 15-20 grams of protein which is similar to 2-3 ounces of meat. Protein keeps you feeling full longer which can help keep your appetite controlled. Greek   yogurt is also very appealing to vegetarians and people seeking more protein in their diets. In comparison 6 ounces of regular yogurt has around 9 grams of protein.

Going Greek reduces carbohydrates, but only if you are cautions about the added sugar. Plain Greek yogurt is best for you (try sweetening it with fresh fruit). Many sweetened Greek yogurts can be very high in added sugar with total carbohydrates of 15-30 grams. Read the food label and select plain as often as you can.

Be cautious of Greek yogurt’s fat content, which can be much higher in saturated fat than regular yogurt varieties. Substantial evidence-based research continues to encourage low saturated fat intake to reduce heart disease and diabetes risk. Eating healthier unsaturated fats in moderation is better for you. Select nonfat or 1% dairy products and pair them with healthier fats such as chopped nuts, flaxseeds, or chia seeds.

Whether you select Greek yogurt or regular varieties, both contain probiotics which promote a healthy digestive tract and a healthy immune system. It is encouraged to eat probiotics regularly, making Greek yogurt a wonderful addition to your daily routine.

Healthier Chicken Salad Sandwich

Serves: 2

300 calories per serving



3/4 cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt              1/2 tsp garlic powder

1 tbs Dijon mustard                                      1/4 tsp salt

2 tbs finely chopped celery 1/2 tsp ground black pepper

2 tbs finely chopped scallions 6 oz cooked chicken, chopped

2 tbs finely chopped basil 2 whole grain Sandwich thins

2 tbs finely chopped dill 4 lettuce leaves


Directions: Stir together yogurt, mustard, celery, scallions, basil, dill, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Add chicken and stir to combine. Divide chicken mixture into each sandwich thin and top each with two lettuce leaves. Cut in half before serving.