#363 (6/30/2009) Cook Out Without Pigging Out!

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11 Tips for Cooking Out Without Pigging Out

By Joe Wilkes

It's summertime, which means it's time to fire up the grill and enjoy the great outdoors. It all sounds pretty healthy, until somebody shows up with a bowl of mayonnaise and potatoes, which, without a trace of irony, will be announced as a salad. It's like calling a stick of butter a nutrition bar. A few side dishes like this, combined with some fatty hot dogs, hamburgers, potato chips, and ice cream, and bathing-suit season can become caftan season before you know it.

Meat and Vegetables on Grill

But if you only invite the neighbors over for celery sticks and tofu kabobs, you can count on getting the stink-eye from everyone next time you're out mowing the lawn. The secret to throwing a great barbecue is to find ways to eat healthily without making it seem like last call at fat camp. Fortunately, with so many great foods available during the summer months, it's easy to plan a menu that will include great-tasting food and let you keep your P90X®, Slim in 6®, or ChaLEAN Extreme® figure.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when planning your outdoor culinary excursions, so you can picnic without the pounds, still enjoy good food, and keep yourself and your family and friends healthy.

  1. Veg out. The cookout doesn't need to be a celebration of the weather being so good that the unhealthy foods we used to eat in front of the TV can now be eaten in the backyard. It's summer! The time of year when all the best fruits and vegetables are at their peak. And grilling vegetables is a great way to get tons of flavor without tons of calories. Delicious on their own or as a complement to another dish, grilled veggies are a must-have for a healthy cookout. Use them in salads, on burgers, or by themselves. Check out what's fresh at your local farmers' market.

    Vegetable PlateGood veggies for grilling include peppers, asparagus, artichokes, eggplant, zucchini, squash, scallions, and onions. Just brush them with a little olive oil, some fresh herbs, and a pinch of salt and pepper, and you're serving something healthy that you and your guests can load up on guilt free.

  2. Herbal remedies. Only the worst chefs need to rely on fat and salt for seasoning. Now's the time to stock up on fresh basil, oregano, tarragon, dill, rosemary, thyme, cilantro, etc. Or even better, grow your own. Oftentimes, a pot of living basil from the nursery costs less than a handful of leaves from your produce section. Use fresh herbs liberally in all of your recipes, and you'll be replacing fat with flavor.

  3. Hold the mayo. Nothing lays waste to the best-laid plans for a healthy barbecue like mayonnaise. A main ingredient in picnic staples like potato salad, macaroni salad, and coleslaw, mayo loads up enough fat and calories that your only hope of weight loss is that the dishes stay out in the sun long enough to cause salmonella poisoning. Try using healthier ingredients, like yogurt or low-fat ricotta cheese, and adding fresh herbs. Instead of mayonnaise, use yogurt and fresh dill in your potato salad. Make a whole-grain pasta salad with cherry or grape tomatoes, fresh basil, and a balsamic vinaigrette.

  4. Don't be so starchy! There's no law that says every picnic "salad" needs to begin with potatoes or pasta. There are plenty of salad recipes out there that are so delicious, no one will miss their starchy, fatty counterparts. How about making that old-time favorite, three-bean salad! Or if you want something a little heartier, lentils mixed with a light vinaigrette, a little onion or garlic, some fresh herbs, and a sprinkling of feta cheese will fill you up and give you enough energy to play more than horseshoes and lawn darts later.

    Make some simple, fresh vegetable salads. Slice up some tomatoes or cucumbers, and toss them with a bit of vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice, fresh herbs, and onions or garlic, and you have a refreshing side dish that will fill you up without filling you out.

  5. Know your cuts of meat. It's not just a game on Letterman. While of course substituting skinless chicken or fish for your rib eye would be the BEST nutritional decision, we know you're not made of stone. Sometimes it doesn't feel like a barbecue without the scent of grilled steak or pork in the air. But not all cuts are created equal. For beef, the best rule is to look for cuts with the word loin or round. Other great lean cuts are flank steak, skirt steak, tri-tip, and London broil. With pork, the leanest cuts are the tenderloin and loin chops.

    With both pork and beef, try to avoid anything involving the ribs (including rib eyes), which have the fattiest cuts of meat. And those baby back ribs will make you look like you're having the baby. Because of their low fat content, most of the lean cuts will need to be marinated for a couple of hours before grilling. Read on for marinade ideas.

  6. SaucesLay off the (store-bought) sauce. One of the main ingredients in most store-bought barbecue and teriyaki sauces is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Even the most casual Beachbody reader knows how we feel about HFCS. Instead, bust out those herbs you bought or grew (see tip #2), and make some gourmet marinades and sauces that won't send your blood sugar into a tailspin. Using ingredients like fresh herbs; citrus juices; olive, sesame, and canola oils; wine; low-sodium soy sauce; and various vinegars, you can liven up your meat dishes and save the sugar for dessert. And when you're planning your marinades . . .

  7. Go global. Since the U.S. is one of the most obese nations in the world, maybe it's worth checking out what those in slimmer nations are grilling. How about a Cuban marinade for your chicken, or pork with citrus juice and garlic? Or Indian tandoori-style skinless chicken thighs marinated in yogurt and spices like turmeric, curry, or cardamom? Try making your own Japanese teriyaki with sesame oil, ginger, soy sauce, and honey, and skip the corn syrup from the store brands. Try out Greek kabobs, Korean barbecue, or Jamaican jerk-rubbed meat—whatever catches your eye or your taste buds. And throwing a barbecue with an international theme sounds a lot more appetizing than a barbecue where "we're watching our weight."

  8. Good dogs. Of course, not everyone is going to be keen on vegetables and treats from foreign lands. Kids, for example. So you're probably going to need some kind of hot dog for these less adventurous eaters. Pretty much anything can end up in a hot dog, but in most cases, hot dogs are tubes full of fatty meat and carcinogenic nitrates—yum! This is where it really pays to read the label. A regular hot dog runs over 200 calories and 18 grams of fat. A turkey frank has half of that. The fat, calorie, and sodium contents of various brands and types of dogs vary wildly, so choose carefully. For the less fussy, there are also several varieties of chicken and turkey sausages with gourmet ingredients that are delicious and low in fat and calories.

  9. Better burgers. A friend of mine who is highly phobic of meat-borne illnesses like E. Coli and mad cow disease had the great idea of asking the butcher to grind up a piece of sirloin or top round that she selected from the meat case for hamburgers. This limits your exposure to contaminants, as there's only one cow involved in the making of a steak, where there could be hundreds involved in a package of ground beef. This also allows you to control the fat content that's in your hamburger. If you have a decent food processor, you could even grind your meat at home and blend in spices, garlic, or onion to enhance the flavor.

    Burgers on GrillIf all this talk of cows and contaminants has put you off beef, you might give a turkey burger a try. But again, read the label. Many packages of ground turkey contain ground-up skin and other fatty pieces, resulting in a fat and calorie content not much better than ground beef. Try looking for extra-lean or ground turkey breast. And if you're worried about the bird flu, it might be worth giving veggie burgers another try. If you haven't had one in a few years, you may remember them as I do—some sort of reconstituted cardboard patty that smelled like feet. But there have been great strides in veggie burger technology. In fact, there are a couple of brands a vegan friend of mine refuses to eat, because they taste too much like meat. Try a couple of different brands. You may be surprised.

  10. Topping it off. When you're putting together the topping trays for your grilled delights, you can also save a few calories. The traditional lettuce, tomatoes, and onions are great, but skip the cheese, mayonnaise, and corn-syrup-laden ketchup. Instead, try putting some of those grilled veggies you made on your burger or chicken breast. Or add a slice of avocado if you miss the creaminess of melted cheese. Put out a variety of mustards, hot sauces, and salsas, which are low in calories and fat, and don't usually contain corn syrup. Don't forget to look for whole-grain buns for your dogs or burgers, or try eating them open-faced or bunless, if you're trying to cut carbs.

  11. Just desserts. Well, you've behaved admirably during the rest of the barbecue, so you deserve a little summer treat. Have a little bit of ice cream (although frozen yogurt would be even better, and plain yogurt better yet!), but heap a bunch of fruit on it, instead of a dollop of fudge or a side of pie. After all, what we said about vegetables goes for fruit too. This is the time of year where you can get your hands on the best fruit, at the lowest prices. Indulge in berries, peaches, oranges, melons, and all your favorite seasonal fruits. Make a huge fruit salad, or blend fruit with yogurt and ice for a smoothie. Or for those with ambition and an ice cream maker, try making your own fruit sorbet. You may decide to skip the ice cream after all!

Hopefully, these suggestions will help make your summer barbecue a huge success. And in the worst-case scenario that you end up being forced to partake in your neighbor's annual Salute to Mayonnaise, you can always use Beachbody's 2-Day Fast Formula® to minimize the damage before the next pool party!

Related Articles
"The Best and Worst Cocktails"
"7 Tips for Portion Control"
"7 Tips for Fast Food Survival"

Got something to say? Chat with the writers and other readers this coming Monday, July 6th, at 8:00 PM ET, 5:00 PM PT, in the Beachbody Chatroom!

Joe WilkesIf you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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Hungry for Change: The Beachbody® Film Review of Food, Inc.

By Denis Faye

So far, the American food industry has managed to escape the intense scrutiny endured by fellow dubious institutions like Big Tobacco and the health care industry. Sure, every once in a blue moon, a book like Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal or a film like Morgan Spurlock's Super Size Me captures the public consciousness, but it rarely has much impact. Sure, McDonald's might be persuaded to downsize its french fry servings, but this doesn't even scratch the surface of our dysfunctional relationship with the companies that put food on our plates. You can lessen the amount of potatoes you eat all you want—there's still going to be cow manure in your hamburger.

Food, Inc.

If you rolled your eyes at that last comment, you're probably about to stop reading, so see ya later. Enjoy your corn-based chicken nuggets and 32-ounce high-fructose-corn-syrup-packed Coke®. But if the idea that the meat packing industry allows animal waste laced with E. Coli—which sickens 73,000 Americans annually—to get into the meat you feed your family horrifies you, you probably want to see Food, Inc.

Directed by Robert Kenner, Food, Inc. is basically a series of loosely woven documentary vignettes blasting holes in various aspects of the food industry, covering topics like obesity, factory farming, genetic engineering, food-borne illness, and farm and industrial worker exploitation.

Fast Food Nation and Super Size MeSchlosser, who coproduced the film, and Michael Pollan, author of Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, figure prominently throughout the 90-minute film. In fact, many of the chapters are based on reports from the two journalists' successful books, so if you've read them, much of this documentary is probably old news. That said, if you've read both Fast Food Nation and Omnivore's Dilemma from cover to cover, your interest in the subject probably runs fairly deep, so it's worth checking out the film just to see the people you've read about in the flesh. For example, Pollan's book devotes several pages to Polyface Farms, a Virginia-based operation devoted to the sustainable raising of grass-fed livestock. Polyface owner/farmer Joel Salatin has a lot of screen time in Food, Inc., and his high-spirited pontificating is all the more entertaining on the big screen.

But Food, Inc. isn't just the province of Schlosser and Pollan. It serves as a primer for food industry activism in general. If a particular aspect of the movie captures your interest, there's probably another book or documentary that explores the issue in depth. If you're stunned by seed and pesticide supplier Monsanto's habit of suing independent farmers for patent infringement when their fields are accidentally overrun by the company's genetically engineered soybeans, have a look at Deborah Koons Garcia's documentary The Future of Food.

Or if the fact that the restaurant and snack industries have learned to make junk food addictive by using the perfect blends of saltiness, sweetness, and fattiness bothers you, read David A. Kessler's recent book, The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite (you can check out my review of this book in the Related Articles section below).

Food, Inc.Just pick a topic and go exploring.

While there is a definite doom-and-gloom aspect to Food, Inc., it also offers solutions. The plight of food safety advocate Barbara Kowalcyk, whose toddler son Kevin died from eating E. Coli-laced meat, offers viewers a chance to contact their local representatives and push for the reintroduction of the food industry reform bill Kevin's Law.

The film's Web site, FoodIncMovie.com, offers many opportunities to get involved.

It's hard to say why the food industry isn't held as accountable as other industries. Perhaps it's not as obvious an evil as Big Tobacco. Perhaps there are more of us who prefer access to cheap, highly caloric, nutritionally void foods over healthy produce and clean meat. But if you're in the second camp and you're "hungry for change," Food, Inc. is a good place to start.

Related Articles
"The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite"
"Burger Buddies: Fast Food Nation's Richard Linklater and Eric Schlosser"
"Nutrition 911, Part II: What to Eat"

Got something to say? Chat with the writers and other readers this coming Monday, July 6th, at 8:00 PM ET, 5:00 PM PT, in the Beachbody Chatroom!

Denis FayeIf you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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Test Your Ice Cream IQ!

By Monica Gomez

July is National Ice Cream Month. Break out those spoons, bowls, and napkins! Actually, just get a few spoons, no bowls or napkins necessary. What do you know about these delicious and refreshing ice creams? Rank these from highest fat content to lowest fat content. (Serving size for all is 1/2 cup.)

  1. Ice Cream ConeHäagen-Dazs® Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough - 20 grams of fat. Along with those 20 grams of fat, you get 12 grams of saturated fat (and those 12 grams make up 60 percent of your Recommended Daily Allowance [RDA]).* A half-cup of this ice cream contains 310 calories (180 of them from fat). When you indulge in this dough, you'll also get 85 milligrams of cholesterol, 125 milligrams of sodium, 29 grams of carbs, 24 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein. All right, so maybe the "get a few spoons" idea isn't really that great, sadly.

  2. Baskin Robbins® Pistachio Almond - 19 grams of fat. At 9 grams of saturated fat (43 percent of the RDA), this is slightly better than the "dough". Half a cup has 290 calories (170 from fat). Other good-to-know tidbits before taking a bite: 50 milligrams of cholesterol, 85 milligrams of sodium, 25 grams of carbs (including 1 gram of dietary fiber and 23 grams of sugar), and 7 grams of protein.

  3. Ben & Jerry's® Chocolate - 15 grams of fat. This classic flavor has 11 grams of saturated fat, or a mere 53 percent of the RDA. Its calorie count is 250, with 140 of those thigh-"friendly" calories from fat. It also contains 40 milligrams of cholesterol, 50 milligrams of sodium, 25 grams of carbs (2 fiber grams and 22 sugar grams), and 4 grams of protein. Limit your intake, chocolate lovers.

  4. Cold Stone Creamery® Cake Batter Batter Batter™ - 11 grams of fat. That's a lot of Batter! With that half-cup serving, you're also getting 6 grams of saturated fat (29 percent of the RDA). You'll also serve yourself up 210 calories, 100 from fat. Batter yourself up 35 milligrams of cholesterol, 120 milligrams of sodium (mmm . . . salty goodness!), 27 grams of carbs (19 grams of sugar), and 3 grams of protein.

  5. Dreyer's Loaded Chocolate Chip Mint Brownie - 4 grams of fat. Ah! Your safest bet. A half cup only contains 2 grams of saturated fat—definitely better than the Dazs. It's nutritionally better at 120 calories (40 calories from fat). For a half cup, you get 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 35 milligrams of sodium, 18 grams of carbs (no fiber and 14 grams of sugar), and 2 grams of protein. If you must indulge, choose the "mint."

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

*Percent Daily Value based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be different depending on your calorie needs.

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