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July 22, 2009 > Get Back to Basics With Healthier Foods This Summer

Get Back to Basics With Healthier Foods This Summer

Grilled Fruits and Vegetables are Easy, Delicious and Inexpensive

Summer is a time for outdoor barbecues and open air markets. Fresh fruits and vegetables are abundant, and there are farmers' markets held in nearly every community. So it's a good time to take advantage of the season and eat healthier.

"People are looking for ways to eat healthy for less, and getting back to basics with fresh fruits and vegetables is the way to go," said Kim Alvari, a registered dietitian at Washington Hospital. "Right now there are good deals on produce. During the summer, meals are lighter and easier to prepare, so this is a great time to make foods from scratch using simple ingredients."

Alvari encourages people to visit their local farmer's market and buy locally grown foods. "But don't expect them to look as perfect as they do in the grocery store. Fruits and vegetables may be imperfectly shaped and not as shiny. There is nothing wrong with it. Beauty is only skin deep," she said.

It's best to buy produce at different stages of ripeness, according to Alvari. The fruits and vegetables will continue to ripen, so they can be enjoyed in stages for several days.

"Be sure to mix it up when buying fruits and vegetables," she said. "Select a variety of colors to ensure you are getting a wide range of cancer-fighting nutrients. Pay attention to what's in season. For example, blueberries are in season, so they are very tasty and flavorful right now, and chocked full of antioxidants. Most farmers' markets have samples. Be sure to try things you've never had before."

Grilling Goodness

When you think about barbecuing, most people think meat. But grilled fruits and vegetables are tasty too, and much less expensive than most meats.

"Grilling is a great way to get back to basics," Alvari said. "It's really about changing the paradigm as far as how we look at our plate. Fruits and vegetables should take up most of the plate, with meat really as the small side dish."

She suggested spraying the barbecue with a nonstick cooking spray before placing fruits and vegetables on the grill.

"It's best to have the heat up high and then turn it down right when you put the fruits and vegetable on. It sears them, but with the heat down they won't have a tendency to stick. They don't need to be on very long, maybe three to five minutes," Alvari said. "I have a basket I put the fruits and vegetables in and then I set that on the grill. I really recommend getting one. It makes grilling fruits and vegetables much easier because they don't fall through the cracks."

Firm fruits and vegetables like peaches, pineapples, apples, peppers, eggplant, corn, mushrooms, zucchini and onions are great for grilling. You can make kebobs that mix and match different fruits and vegetables, and even include meat.

"There are so many easy and delicious ways to serve fruits and vegetables," Alvari said. "Grilling is great. Fresh, seasonal salads can serve as a main entrŽe. Fruit smoothies are refreshing on a hot summer day. It's just a great time to enjoy simple, healthy foods."

Try These Refreshing Recipes This Summer!

Fruit Smoothie
Makes 6 one-cup servings
* 1 cup fat-free vanilla yogurt
* 2 cups strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries (or your favorite fruit)
* 1/2 cup 100 percent fruit juice
Blend and serve...ENJOY!

Mediterranean Shepherd's Salad
Here is a colorful salad popular in many Mediterranean countries. In warm weather, it makes a perfect meal...
* 4 cups chopped romaine lettuce
* 1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
* 2 cups canned white beans (cannelloni), rinsed and drained
* 1/2 seedless cucumber, peeled and sliced
* 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1/2 inch rings
* 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
* 2 ripe tomatoes, each cut into 8 wedges
* 4 ounces crumbled reduced fat feta cheese
* 3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
* 1 tsp. dried oregano
* ground pepper
* 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

On a serving platter, arrange lettuce into flat bed. Sprinkle on parsley. Arrange beans, cucumber, pepper rings, onions separated into rings and tomato wedges over greens. Sprinkle cheese on top.

For dressing, in small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, oregano and pepper. Whisk in oil. Drizzle over salad and serve.

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