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Outdoor grilling is a regular activity during the summer months and its hard to deny the wonderful flavor a barbeque adds to meat, fish and veggies.  Yet, you can boost that flavor even more by marinating your meats or veggies.  A variety of herbs, spices, vinegars, wines and citrus juices bring out and complement the flavors of your food, while giving you a different spin on your grilling experience.  Here are a few easy marinades to try:

 

The first is a Basil Maple Marinade for grilled vegetables.  Other than the basil and maple syrup, this marinade also contains lemon juice, garlic and dijon mustard among other basic ingredients.  After letting your favorite vegetables to sit in the marinade for a few hours, simply place on your grill over medium-high heat until tender.

 

basil maple marinade

 

A marinade that works for chicken, fish or vegetables is this Sunkist Lemon Marinade.  Lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, garlic and herbs like thyme, rosemary and oregano give it a great flavor.  If using this marinade on chicken or fish, marinate for several hours so the flavors are fully absorbed.

 

lemon marinade

 

 Finally, I’ve selected a marinade that’s a little more “robust” than the others–Red Wine Marinade.  This marinade uses red wine, balsamic vinegar, lots of garlic and Worcestshire sauce and is best used for steaks and chops.  It requires justs a few hours of marinating, but for best results poke “holes” in the steaks so the marinade can better penetrate the meat.

 

red wine marinade

 

You’ll find there are plenty of ready-made marinades available at your supermarket, but as you can see it’s really easy to make your own.  The plus side of making your own (besides the fact it will taste much better!) is that I can promise your version will have much less sodium than the store brand and no preservatives.  Enjoy!

 

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Side dishes are designed to complement your meal.  Since summertime meals are traditionally lighter fare due to the warmer temps, try to keep your sides simple so they won’t overwhelm your main entree.  A lot of cooking is done on the grill and when you can, use this method to prepare your side dishes as well!  Most fruit and vegetables can be cooked easily on the grill as long as you keep a close eye on them–remember they cook must faster than meats.  Grilled Onions topped with Warm Gorgonzola & Balsamic Vinegar require a minimum or prep work and are ready in minutes.

 

Grilled onions (2)

 

While potatoes are a common side dish for fall and winter, don’t count them out for the summer months.  Yes, you can always rely on the standard potato salad, but check out these Grilled Potato Kebabs w/Lemon Herb Drizzle for a different twist.  Cook them alongside your main course and select your favorite veggies to include on the kebab.

 

grilled potato kebabs

 

Corn and tomatoes are two veggies that are plentiful during summer.  Stop by your local farmer’s market or roadside stand and pick up local variety–you’ll be getting the freshest and best tasting selection possible!  Tomatoes are great sliced, topped with some fresh basil and drizzled with a little balsamic vinegar.  Corn can be boiled or wrapped in foil and placed on your grill for about 12-15 minutes–rotate them every few minutes and stick a fork to check for tenderness.  This Roasted Corn & Tomato Summer Salad combines both delicious flavors in one perfect side dish.

 

roasted corn tomato salad

 

Just remember when you’re preparing a side dish this summer to use produce that’s in season, it will be at its peak of flavor and keep your selections light.  Think about fresh, healthy options like salads, quiches or veggie tarts.  Save the heavier, comfort-type foods for the cooler weather and minimize the time you have to spend in the kitchen.  Visit Fruits & Veggies–More Matters’  Summer Favorites Board on Pinterest for more ideas.

 

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Summer days are for trips to the pool, park or beach and any parent knows snacks are a must.  Before you reach for a bag of salty chips, package of cookies or drop money at your destination for whatever calorie and sodium laden choices they have available, try some healthy yet tasty options instead.

 

The main goal is to make your snack choices appealing and the best way to do this is through:

 
  • Color
  • Texture
  • Variety
 

If you make your snack packs look and taste interesting, your family won’t even realize they’re eating healthier options!  And, kids like fun sizes and shapes, which means getting a little creative.  For example, instead of packing regular sandwiches, try using whole grain tortillas, making a wrap and then cutting them into individual “pinwheel” shapes.  You can also use cookie cutters to make fun shapes out of melon slices.  I like to freeze them to keep them extra cold.  Here are more healthy snack options:

 
  • Pack salsa or hummus and serve with cut veggies like baby carrots or celery or whole grain pita wedges.
  • Serve sliced fruit with applesauce as a dip–try different flavored applesauces like peach or berry for a twist.
  • Guacamole with baked corn chips is always a hit.
  • Dried fruit and nuts are a terrific alternative to salty chips.
  • String cheese and fruit like grapes or berries are a good combo.
  • Try peanut butter and apple slices or spread on celery and top with raisins (ants on a log).
  • Your Produce Man also has some smart snacking videos to check out.
 

watermelon

 

One thing to keep in mind when packing your snack items is to keep everything at the proper temperature.  Use ice packs and I’ve found you can freeze water bottles and/or 100% juice boxes ahead of time to pack around your fruit/veggies.  The beverages will melt slowly, keeping your snack items cool and be ready to drink for “snack time.”  Smart snacking takes a few extra minutes of prep time and a little planning, but it’s a much better pay off for your body.  Plus, you and your family will need all the energy you can get for those fun summer activities!

 

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Two years ago this month, USDA introduced MyPlate, replacing MyPyramid as the visual for the U.S. Dietary Guidelines.  Why should we celebrate this milestone?  Well, for the first time consumers were provided with a clear idea of what a balanced diet should look like!  I mean seriously–who eats off a pyramid??  With the launch of MyPlate, moms everywhere could explain easily to their children what they should be eating and show them what that healthy meal looks like and just as easily children can replicate it themselves.

 

myplate

 

The basis of MyPlate is easy-to-follow, common sense meal planning.  Half your plate should be fruit and vegetables–all forms count too!  This means fresh, frozen, canned, dried and 100% juice.  Next make 1/4 of your plate grains and try to make 1/2 of those grains, whole grains like oatmeal and brown rice.  The last 1/4 of your plate should be reserved for lean protein like fish, chicken breast, beans, nuts and soy.  MyPlate also allows for a dairy serving to provide for calcium.  This is a 1 cup amount per meal (3 cups daily) and it should be from low-fat sources.

 

Since its launch two years ago, MyPlate has expanded to include many useful resources for consumers like its popular tool SuperTracker, which allows users to sign up online and track their food choices and physical activities to see how they progress over time.  The online tool also provides tips, nutrition info and allows users to set both weight and activity goals while getting support from their virtual coach.  Most recently, MyPlate added Sample Menus and Recipes under their Healthy Eating Tips section, which features numerous Fruits & Veggies–More Matters Healthy Plates that follow the MyPlate guidelines.  These easy-to-make, healthy recipes can also be found under the MyPlate on Campus section, designed especially for college student to keep them eating healthy while away from home.

 

If you frequent Pinterest, you may have stumbled across the very popular MyPlate board.  Here you’ll find a variety of boards all featuring MyPlate recipes from popular sites and magazines like Food Network, AllRecipes.com and Diabetic Living.  Choose from kid-friendly meals, vegetarian dinners, healthy casseroles and more.  Since we’re in the midst of grilling season, I chose this recipe for Grilled Turkey Gyros from Diabetic Living.  Spiced turkey patties are wrapped in a whole wheat pita with cucumber, tomato and topped with a cucumber-yogurt sauce.  This is perfect for the summer!

 

gyros

 

Celebrate MyPlate’s birthday this month by treating yourself and your family to some of these MyPlate inspired recipes.  They’re so delicious you won’t even realize you’re also eating healthier!

 

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