April 5, 2007

Expert offers simple tips for healthy and tasty summer eating

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Summer may bring to mind outdoor picnics with hot dogs and chips, but a Purdue University expert says the season also provides the perfect opportunity to plan delicious, healthy meals.

"I think it's almost easier for people to eat healthfully during the warmer months than it is at any other time of year," says Laura Palmer, a Cooperative Extension Service specialist in foods and nutrition and a registered dietitian. "The abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, combined with the chance to grill foods, offers many tasty alternatives to the high-fat foods we might associate with summer."

Palmer offers the following suggestions for making the most of summer with foods that are both appetizing and nutritious:

*  Be meat savvy. Choose lean cuts of beef, including round, sirloin and loin cuts. Tenderize the meat to increase flavor and texture without adding fat. Marinate in salsa, low-calorie salad dressing, wine or citrus juices.

"Grilled chicken breasts, turkey tenders and lamb kabobs also make great alternatives to high-sodium hot dogs and hamburgers," Palmer says.

*  Aim for variety. Kick up the health factor of grilling with vegetables and fruits. Cooking vegetables on the grill adds flavor. Make kabobs with fruit and grill on low heat until the fruit is hot and slightly golden. These healthy snacks also make consuming the recommended daily fruit and vegetable intake simple.

*  Don't forget to stay hydrated. Summer heat can cause dehydration. "Water is the best option when temperatures soar, but you can add slices of lemons or strawberries for natural flavor," Palmer says.

*  Make eating healthy a priority this summer by focusing on simple snacks that don't take much prep work. Keep fresh berries in the refrigerator to add to salads, yogurt and ice creams. Wash fresh green beans to dip in yogurt or low-fat cottage cheese. Keep healthy extras, like lettuce and tomatoes, in your produce bin. Try homemade popsicles by freezing 100 percent juice. Cut up raw vegetables to serve with low-fat dips.

"Fruit smoothies are a snap to make. Just toss some fresh fruit, yogurt and milk in your blender," Palmer says. "Your options for healthy summer eating are limited only by your imagination."

The Department of Foods and Nutrition is part of Purdue's College of Consumer and Family Sciences. More than 250 undergraduate and 50 graduate students are enrolled in the program.

Writer: Tanya Brown, (765) 494-2079, tanyabrown@purdue.edu

Source: Laura Palmer, (765) 496-2626, lpalmer@purdue.edu

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu

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