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Healthy Sides for Your Next Picnic or BBQ

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    Tired of greasy potato salad? Turn your traditional high-fat side dish salads into culinary treats you can actually eat and feel good about.

    You’re watching your weight – and trying to be more health-conscious. At your first summer barbeque, you grill up some shrimp and skinless chicken breasts along with the burgers and hot dogs, and mix up a nice green salad. You’re especially proud of yourself when you shun the potato and macaroni salad. “Too much fat and calories,” you say to yourself.

    But what if there was a way to turn traditional high-fat side dishes into culinary treats you could actually eat and feel good about?

    The truth is, not all salads have to be laden with fattening mayonnaise or dripping in pools of oil. All it takes is a little creativity and a few simple changes. Here are some suggestions.

    Think color. Experts agree that the more color you have on your plate when it comes to fruits and vegetables, the more vitamins and nutrients you will get.

    If your recipe calls for a bell pepper, use two or more peppers of different colors.
    Try to have several colors of the rainbow represented. Add chopped orange carrots, yellow peppers, green celery and parsley, plus red onions, radishes or tomatoes.

    Increase veggies. Double or triple the amount of vegetables called for in the recipe. Extra veggies not only up the nutrition in your dish, but also decrease the calories per portion.

    Use whole grains and beans. Don’t get stuck on just pasta and potatoes. Various whole grains and beans make excellent side dishes and are wonderful cold as the base for a delicious salad.

    Think outside the box with barley, bulgur, quinoa and brown or wild rice.
    Lentils, chickpeas, white, black or red beans are also great high-protein, low-fat options.
    Whole grains and beans also provide a host of nutrients and are a good source of fiber as well.

    Mind your dressing. High-fat dressings can ruin even the most well-intentioned salad.

    If your recipe calls for mayonnaise, exchange for a combination of Greek yogurt (thicker than regular) and low-fat mayo. Mix in a little brown or Dijon mustard for extra kick and flavor.
    Replace vegetable oils with healthy fats like olive, canola or coconut oil. Use smaller amounts. Up the vinegar, or use lime, lemon or orange juice for a citrus flavor.
    Consider using a spritzing bottle for oil-based dressings instead of pouring it. Use flavored vinegars; they have no calories and tons of taste.
    Just a simple dressing of olive oil, lemon juice and garlic with a dash of salt and pepper can perk up almost any grain or green salad.

    Putting it all together
    Here are some ideas for combinations of veggies, grains, beans, pasta and/or potatoes to get you started. Remember, use less pasta or potato than the recipe calls for, and replace them with equal or greater amounts of extra veggies and/or beans.

    Cooked pasta (small shells, elbows or corkscrew), a bag of shredded broccoli, chopped red onions and garbanzo beans in a reduced-fat creamy dressing or vinaigrette
    Cooked quinoa, barley or brown rice with chopped red and yellow peppers, red onions, carrots and celery in a lemon vinaigrette
    Chunks of red bliss potatoes, chopped large sweet onion, red pepper, parsley and cheap red viagra diced celery in a dressing of reduced-fat mayo, yogurt and mustard
    Brown rice with chopped tomatoes, yellow peppers, parsley, scallions and sliced water chestnuts in a dressing of olive oil, lime juice and chopped mint

    Side dishes do not have to be dietary minefields. If you are not hosting, offer to bring your own healthy pasta or grain salad. And don’t be surprised if yours is the most popular of all.

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