Cardiac Tips for July 4th


This summer, we have come up with several heart-healthy picnic entries even you cardiologists would approve of, that are good both on the grill and in the oven to serve either hot or cold.

The Fourth of July weekend is upon us. All your neighbors are looking to grill and have picnics. Or, if you are going to the beach or nearby lake, cookouts are almost always part of the day’s agenda.

Following my heart attack, as I have mentioned, regular hot dogs, burgers and the like were eliminated from my diet. Finding low-fat alternatives to such are easier than you might think, but we all crave variety. This summer, working with some classics we tried last year, we have come up with several heart-healthy picnic entries even you cardiologists would approve of, in our house that are good both on the grill and in the oven to serve either hot or cold. Fish and vegetables are the key to our outdoor edible celebrations and, the last time we checked, nobody was sorry.

Salmon is a favorite. Grilled for just a few minutes on each side on a simple attachment, the flavor can’t be beat. What a way to eat healthy. Sockeye and King are our favorites, but there are plenty of other varieties. We try to buy wild-caught instead of farm-raised salmon and fish that have not been artificially colored.

Another summer favorite has been catfish, which, for some reason, is much better on the grill than done in the broiler. We like to season it with cajun-type spices and the meat, if grilled to perfection, has a sort of sweet taste to it. Those salmon hot dogs are also fit for the grill. Make sure they are not overdone. One can also go the chicken route, with the suggestion being to remove the skin. That cuts down on fat and allows the meat to pull in all the flavors of the grill.

Shrimp are also tasty, either grilled or broiled, served either hot or cold. Days which feature heat and humidity beg for a chilled outdoor supper featuring shrimp or crab with a salad. This time of year, a pasta salad made with the whole-wheat variety, fresh local vegetables, a bit of low- or no-fat cheese and other healthy condiments is as filling and satisfying as the old edition we used to make with salami and the like.

In many areas, local corn is making its appearance in both farmers markets and the grocery store. Corn is superlative grilled, as are many other vegetables. My favorites off the grill in this category are peppers, onion and eggplant. Portabello mushrooms are also quite tasty. Speaking of corn, another summer favorite is charred corn relish, featuring thecharred kernels of several ears of corn, onions, peppers and vinegar. Chilled, it is an excellent side dish.

And what of desserts? Local blueberries are in season in many areas, while fresh blueberries are available in just about all others. These contain pterostilbene, which many feel is a key to lowering cholesteral,an important facet to fighting heart disease. Mix the blueberries with others of the season — raspberries, blackberries, you name it. It’s a great way to finish off a healthy summer meal.

So if a patient asks if he or she can still picnic after a cardiac event, the answer is both a resounding "yes" and "have a great time."

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