A Memorial Day Grilling Treat: Stuffed Turkey Burgers

Memorial Day cookouts should be a little more special this year as families become fully vaccinated and so gather again. You can grill and eat relatively low-salt, low-fat and low-sugar, just check some of the recipes on my recipe page. Or try this new recipe I found recently for stuffed turkey burgers.

This burger is basically healthier take on the Minnesota classic jucy Lucy, which is two burger patties squished together around a center of cheese.

For the turkey burger, the creator (she has a video you can watch) suggests lean ground turkey and part-skim mozzarella. I go farther and get either fat-free mozzarella or reduced fat mozzarella which has even less fat than the skim kind.

Your turkey meatloaf ready to cook
Two of my ground turkey recipes, meatloaf and meatballs.

You stuff your turkey burgers with mozzarella and roasted red pepper, seal them, and then grill like you would any other burger. The full recipe is here, just click.

Lean ground turkey is a great substitute for ground beef. I use it in meatballs, tacos and even meatloaf, as well as for burgers.

Summer cookbooks to help you stay low-salt, low-fat and low-sugar

One of 17 cookbooks available from the American Heart Association.

With summer just around the corner, I’m cleaning out my in-bin of several cookbooks sent to me over the past year that can help you eat healthier.

The first is The Clean & Simple Diabetes Cookbook by Jackie Newgent, which is backed by the American Diabetes Association. As the name implies, it uses simple, whole ingredients to crate a full menu of dishes that avoid or minimize sugar.

Secondly, check out the American Heart Association cookbook page for 17 cookbooks aimed to provide heart-healthy recipes. I thin the AHA often doesn’t go far enough in eliminating salt, fat and sugar from many of the produces and recipes it endorses, but these recipes are a good starting point, modify them further to eliminate more of the evil big three as you cook. I reviewed one of these books, Cooking in Color, just click here to read what I said about it.

A taco primer: tacos can be low-salt, low-fat, if you watch the ingredients you use

Taco Tuesday has become a regular thing, especially during the pandemic, when members of various online food groups were all posting pictures of their latest taco creations. But like most ethnic foods, tacos also can be quite unhealthy for you — high in salt (in the shells) and fat (in the meats used).

But you can control all that in tacos you make at home. This piece, Are Tacos Healthy? Ingredients, Calories, and Serving Sizes, provides a great overview of tacos and the ingredients you should be using. Unfortunately, it doesn’t include salt content for some of the options it provides, but it does warn against high salt, high-fat shells.

I’ve written about how you should seek out low-salt and no-salt corn soft tortillas for your tacos. I’ve also highlighted using Mrs. Dash salt-free taco spice mix, a fixture in my kitchen.

I normally make tacos with ground turkey to get a lean protein option. Recently, though, I used shrimp for a change pf pace. The shrimp I bought were precooked, so they jsut needed some warm in a frying pan with Mrs Dash taco spices mixed with water. I had first made some peppers and onions in the same pan to flavor it, eventually cooking everything together.

We did splurge that night with some hard taco shells I found which were low in salt. They remain relatively high in fat (7 grams each), so most of the time, I’d opt for the soft ones instead.

The ‘Cookbook of Healthy Living & No Regrets’ — handy for those cutting sugar

Jayne J. Jones went through a harrowing health crisis before being diagnosed with diabetes. It prompted her to change how she eats and to create the Cookbook of Healthy Living & No Regrets and to dub herself the No Sugar Baker.

If you can’t eat sugar but crave baked goods of all sorts, this book will interest you. The baking section is extensive. Actually, you could say two sections are devoted to baking — one for brunch baking and another just to baked goods.

As someone who doesn’t bake, I was most interested in the sections entitles Salads, Sides & Soups and Family Dinner Time Treats.

Those sections are a reminder of how difficult it is to cut, salt, fat and sugar from recipes you love and still have something you love. The recipes in those sections cut the sugar, but include butter, bacon, pork rinds and other ingredients that are high in salt and fat (specifically bad fat).

So if you need to cut sugar, this could be a cooking guide for you (I’m actually sending my copy to a friend who was recently diagnosed with diabetes and is scrambling to change how he eats). If you want to cut sugar, fat and salt, check my recipe page as a start, and also look at some of the other recipe sites I have here.

Sugar — good or bad? A debate actually exists

After I had my first angioplasty, I consulted with three nutritionists about what I could eat going foreword. Their recommendations differed a great deal, but all seemed to agree I should cut salt, fat and sugar out of my diet.

Of those, I have found sugar the hardest to give up. There’s no question that when I do give it up, I lose large amounts of weight. But I also become severely depressed and listless.

One of my favorite sugar carriers.

So I’d love someone to come along and say it’s ok to eat as much candy, cake and other sugary treats as I want. That’s not happening just now, but there is some debate going on about sugar, as this piece I found on stack.com outlines.

The piece is aimed at athletes and summarizes a study  published in the Journal of Progressive Cardiovascular Disease on the topic. Sadly though the link given for the article is a dead-end.

“Lack of physical activity, more so than sugar, is a greater threat to our health. Given that so many people are overfat and underfit, a diet low in sugars and starches is likely a good idea for them. But for sports-active, fit people—who are at lower risk for heart disease, diabetes, and obesity—sugar and carbs are not toxic but rather a helpful way to enhance athletic performance. The one-size diet does not fit all,” the piece states.

I doubt that at my age I could ever be active enough to balance out all the sugar I’d like to consume, so I’ll just keep trying to limit it.

A quick primer on low-sodium, reduced-sodium, et. al.

This blog is all about eating less sodium (and less fat and sugar). Cutting back on salt helped lower my blood pressure over the years and can do the same for you. We write about low-salt foods and recipes so much, we assume everyone knows how much salt they should be eating every day. But of course that’s not true, so here’s a quick primer we found recently on tylerpaper.com.

“The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams a day of sodium and moving toward an ideal limit of no more than 1,500 mg per day for most adults. On average, Americans eat more than 3,400 milligrams of sodium each day,” writes Claudann Jones Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

Looks promising, lots of protein too.
Read every label for salt content!

The author talks about where to find salt content on food labels and also includes this handy primer of all the terms food processors use about salt, most designed to make you think the products have less sodium than they actually do:

• Sodium-free – Less than 5 milligrams of sodium per serving and contains no sodium chloride

• Very low sodium – 35 milligrams or less per serving

• Low sodium – 140 milligrams or less per serving

• Reduced (or less) sodium – At least 25 percent less sodium per serving than the usual sodium level

• Light (for sodium-reduced products) – If the food is “low calorie” and “low fat” and sodium is reduced by at least 50 percent per serving

• Light in sodium – If sodium is reduced by at least 50 percent per serving

She also reminds readers to think about how many servings of a given product they would normally eat. The label lists salt for one serving but who really eats only one serving of anything?

Sadly no surprise here, people pin healthy recipes but cook unhealthy ones

The road to healthy eating is paved with good intentions, at least when it comes to Pinterest. A new study by George Mason University’s College of Health and Human Services found people are pinning healthy recipes on Pinterest. But when it comes to what they’re actually cooking and eating, unhealthy recipes win out.

“It’s an interesting discrepancy between what pinners posted/liked and how users actually consumed the information,” said Hong Xue, PhD, who led the study.

“Pinners are more likely to post recipes that are socially rewarded with likes and repins. They are more likely to adhere to an elite social norm set by celebrities and influencers promoting healthier, low-calorie, clean eating. But when it comes to the recipes users are more interested in making food high in fat, sugar, and high calories. We see a very different picture. They’re commenting on and posting finished dish photos of the less healthy recipes.”

This disconnect might have shocked naïve university students, but those of us who have been writing about food a long time are not surprised. People talk a good game when it comes to healthy eating but few actually carry through on it consistently.

Take a look at our slide show and tell me which dishes appeal more to you, the healthy ones or the fried, unhealthy ones?

  • Splurge on the garlic fries at Safeco Field. They were a garlic-lover's dream.
  • My Chinese birthday dinner, egg rolls, crab rangoon, Mongolian beef. Not shown was the fried rice.

One-Pot Garlicky Shrimp & Spinach — leave out the salt and enjoy

Shrimp recipes are a favorite of mine but I have to keep in mind that shrimp are high in salt, 111mgs per 100 grams of shrimp, or about a fifth of a pound. Few people will sit down and eat a pound of shrimp, but half a pound isn’t all that much and it has about 244 mgs of salt.

One-pot garlicky shrimp

So with that in mind, you don’t need to add salt to a shrimp recipe. Take this one, called One-Pot Garlicky Shrimp & Spinach. It’s ingredients are fairly straight-forward:

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
6 medium cloves garlic, sliced, divided
1 pound spinach
¼ teaspoon salt plus 1/8 teaspoon, divided
1 ½ teaspoons lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 pound shrimp (21-30 count), peeled and deveined
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley

You can easily leave out the salt and still have a very tasty dish. For the entire recipe, click here.

The nutrition info for this, with the salt added is:

Serving Size: 1 Cup Per Serving: 226 calories; protein 26.4g; carbohydrates 6.1g; dietary fiber 2.7g; sugars 0.7g; fat 11.6g; saturated fat 1.7g; cholesterol 182.6mg; vitamin a iu 10760.1IU; vitamin c 37mg; folate 222.5mcg; calcium 195.8mg; iron 3.8mg; magnesium 131.4mg; potassium 962.8mg; sodium 444mg. Exchanges:
3 Lean Protein, 2 Fat, 1 Vegetable

Pandemic shopping: food prices continue higher, expect more of the same

We reported last year on predictions that food prices would be rising this year and data so far bear out that prediction.

U.S. food prices in April rose 0.4% as overall consumer prices were up 0.8% month-to-month.

“Food prices increased 0.4%, lifted by rises in the cost of fruits and vegetables, dairy products, meats, fish and eggs. Households also paid more to dine out. But gasoline prices fell 1.4% after accelerating 9.1% in March,” reported Reuters.

And before you start thinking about some conspiracy theory against your least favorite politicians for all this, maybe pick up a basic economics book first.

Demand for everything skyrocketed last year as people were forced to stay home and actually cook, or at least defrost and microwave, their own meals rather than going out. Higher demand ran into smaller supplies thanks to difficulties transporting and processing food during the pandemic. When demand rises while supplies remain stable or decrease, prices are bound to rise as well.

The answer in this environment is to be a bargain shopper. If you already look for deals start looking harder.

When you see expensive proteins on sale, stock up and freeze items for future use. Buy bulk packages and repackage into usable portions for yourself. And if your local supermarket has any kind of special contests or deals going on, take advantage of them

Glance as the receipt I have pictured here, you can see I save a sizable amount (46%) when I use all the deals I can find in any given week.

Make these chicken tenders a little healthier with some ingredient swaps

Americans eat way too much breaded, fried food, probably because we find it the tastiest food out there. But when you’re trying to eat healthier, you can modify some old recipes to get the worst of the worst out of them while not forsaking everything you love.

Seeing this BBQ Chicken Tenders recipe reminded me of that.

Ingredients for my barbecue garlic chicken.
Ingredients for my barbecue garlic chicken.

It calls for lots of barbecue sauce, which is normally high in salt and sugar, as well as seasoned bread crumbs which are also normally high in salt. These are barbecued, not fried, so they have that going for them.

I’d suggest you use Localfolks salt-free barbecue sauce, or another low-salt, low-sugar brand if you can find one, and panko breadcrumbs low in salt (check the package, not all panko is created equal when it comes to salt.

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