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Healthy Barbecue for Parents and Kids

Grilling season is going to be wrapping up in the next few months, but not before one of the biggest grill-out holidays of the season:  Labor Day! Summer barbecues are a time to celebrate with good food. You can still have good food and be healthy at your barbecue.

Parents with both of their children sharing food at the Barbecue

Here are some healthy barbecue pointers that I follow for myself and my family:

Choose organic meats. My picks:

  • Organic chicken breast or drumsticks (the drumsticks are only $3.00-$4.00 for 5 large pieces at Trader Joe’s)
  • Organic, local, grass fed ground beef from Fruitful Yield (at about $5.00 per pound, it doesn’t cost much more than non-organic)
  • Trader Joe’s 100% beef, nitrate- & nitrite-free hot dogs
  • Applegate brand organic hot dogs, which can be found in many grocery stores

Choose whole grain or 100% whole wheat hot dog and hamburger buns

You can find these at any grocery store, and really, they don’t taste different. Especially with all the yummy grill flavor coming through, and of course condiments.

Choose produce from the farmers market

Add some veggies to your grilling repertoire. Right now in season there is plentiful corn on the cob, eggplant, yellow and green zucchini, onions, potatoes, fennel, all colored peppers, mushrooms, and more. If your kids are old enough, ask them to help wash and even chop some of the veggies for you into large pieces. Toss the veggies in olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill them, turning them once. After removing from the grill, drizzle a little balsamic vinegar over them and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serve in a large dish- beautiful with all the colors!

Make fruit skewers with yogurt dip

Again, get your kids involved by having them help wash, portion, and skewer a variety of fruits. Be creative and make a rainbow of colors with different fruits. You can make a simple fruit dip with vanilla yogurt (or any fruit flavored yogurt really).

Try pasta salad instead of traditional potato salad

You can make a delicious, healthier version of pasta salad by using whole wheat pasta or quinoa, an olive oil and vinegar dressing, and plenty of veggies, olives, fresh herbs and spices to flavor it.

Manage portions

Of course, there will likely be a variety of not-so-healthy food choices at any barbecue. Make just one plate of food, and make it reflect the Healthy Plate Model:  half of the plate filled with fruit and veggies, the other half split between whole grains and protein. Have a small dessert and drink water instead of soda.

Very important

Avoid over-cooking or charring foods on the grill, as this results in formation of cancer-causing compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). You can avoid these by cooking on lower flame for longer, pre-cook the meat a bit to decrease time needed on the grill, and trim off any charred pieces you do get.

Happy grilling!

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Farmer’s Markets in the North Shore

It’s farmer’s market season! If you have ever tried farm-fresh fruits and vegetables, you know that you can taste the difference between them and those that are frozen, canned, or even sitting on produce stands in the grocery store. Going to a farmer’s market is a fun family activity that provides kids with a different way to experience fresh food. Often, farmer’s markets will have live music, arts and crafts, and of course, lots of tasty food to sample.

Mother at a Farmers Market location

I am often surprised at how affordable produce is at farmer’s markets. Taking just $20 out of the weekly food budget will buy a sack full of fruits and vegetables. My toddler loves coming to the farmer’s market with me. She can’t believe all the colorful fruits and vegetables within her reach.  I always let her choose one piece of fruit to munch on as we stroll along. I think there is something fascinating to kids about seeing all of that food outside on display under the sun, with so many people and kids and pets everywhere at the same time. It is really a great opportunity to get kids interested in fresh fruits and vegetables. The other perks are supporting local farmers, enjoying the community, and spending time having a healthy family outing.

Kids can learn so much about food and where it really comes from at a farmer’s market. I will never forget speaking to elementary schools with a basket of vegetables and quizzing kids on each one. Believe it or not, the kids often could not correctly identify a tomato, cauliflower, eggplant, and most surprisingly, a whole carrot with its leafy top. I realized that in today’s world, kids identify carrots as the little 2-inch long oblong orange things in a baggie. And they see tomatoes as ketchup or pizza sauce. And some never see cauliflower or eggplant at all.

Kids will grow up eating the kinds of foods they are exposed to and offered regularly. It is your choice as a parent what foods your kids are exposed to while they are in your care. Make trips to the farmer’s market a part of your summer routine. Maybe by fall, your kid will be asking for you to pack those fruits and veggies in their school lunch!

Some Farmer’s Markets in the North Shore Area:

Deerfield Farmer’s Market. Saturdays 7AM-12:30PM at Deerfield Road and Robert York Avenue.
Evanston Farmer’s Market. Saturdays 7:30AM-1PM at University Place and Oak Avenue.
Glenview Farmer’s Market. Saturdays 8AM-12PM at Wagner Farm, 1510 Wagner Road (Opens June 23rd).
Northfield Farmer’s Market. Saturdays 7:30AM-12PM on Happ Road across from New Trier’s freshman campus.
Ravinia Farmer’s Market. Wednesdays 7AM-1PM on Dean Avenue between Roger Williams and St. James Avenue.
Wilmette French Market. Saturdays 8AM-1PM at the Village Center.

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