Patient Testimonial: Alyson Mitchell

patient testimonial

 

If you feel as though your life is on hold because of your weight, you’ll want to read Alyson Mitchell’s weight loss journey. It may just inspire you to make the commitment to stop waiting for a better life and start living the life you deserve now.

Alyson’s Story

Prior to her gastric sleeve surgery with Dr. Dirk in July 2016, Alyson had been battling her weight since she was in high school. Later, as a wife and mother, she found that being overweight was negatively affecting her mood and keeping her from being outgoing with her husband and kids. “The best way to describe my life before surgery was it was on hold,” she says. “Looking back, I wasn’t myself — at least not to my full potential.”

Alyson also found that much of day-to-day life was a challenge. She was hindered by her constantly worries about what she should wear, how she looked and how she felt. Even the activities she loved — like going to the beach, swimming and shopping — became sources of stress rather than enjoyment.

Although Alyson had been able to lose weight on her own, it always managed to creep its way back, and then some. One of the last times she had lost the weight was after her dad passed away. Within about six months, she had gained at least 50 pounds or more. “I didn’t even recognize myself anymore. I knew that I could try to lose it again, and that I would be able to, but I was just tired! Tired of gaining it all back.”

 

That was the turning point for Alyson. She talked to her husband and met with Dr. Dirk to schedule gastric sleeve surgery. She says the first week or so after surgery was extremely hard, but that she eventually began to feel better. Her biggest challenges following surgery have been learning her new limits regarding how much to eat, what to eat and how often to eat.

Now, she feels truly amazing and is thankful to Dr. Dirk for helping her to finally change her life and feel truly happy and confident. Prior to surgery, Alyson weighed 207 pounds. She currently weighs around 130 pounds.

“I am so happy that I chose to have this procedure done. I have energy, I feel happier and healthier. Going to the beach is way more fun, and my two girls and husband get the happy version of me back — the one that is not self-conscious about every little thing.”

Her advice to anyone considering weight loss surgery? “Do it for yourself, nobody else. Take the time to decide if it is right for you without telling everyone. If you do decide to do it, do it 100 percent. Follow the rules and guidelines, and you will have truly successful results!”

Read more inspirational success stories from Dr. Dirk’s patients here.


Why Giving Up Diet Soda Should be Your New Year’s Resolution

soda

 

With 2018 right around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about making New Year’s resolutions. While it can be tempting to commit to as many positive changes to your lifestyle as you can imagine, it can be overwhelming to try and address too many areas of concern all at once. Instead, set manageable goals, stay focused and take one resolution at a time. Doing so will be of benefit whether you’re someone who gets excited by the idea of making resolutions — or someone who lowered your New Year’s expectations a long time ago.

A Great Resolution to Get Started

If getting healthy is one of your main goals for 2018, we suggest starting with a New Year’s resolution to give up soda — specifically, diet soda. While diet soda may appear to be a healthy choice on the surface, it’s actually quite the opposite. Below are some of the main reasons you should remove diet sodas from your diet.

Artificial Sweeteners Have Negative Effects on the Body

Artificial sweeteners possess a greater intensity of flavor than real sugar. Consuming products that contain artificial sweeteners, such as diet soda, can gradually dull our senses. The result? Naturally sweet foods, such as fruits and vegetables, stop tasting as appetizing.

Additionally, artificial sweeteners have been shown to have the same effect on the body as sugar. Like sugar, these artificial sweeteners trigger the release of insulin, sending your body into fat storage mode and leading to weight gain.

Drinking Diet Soda Can Lead to Weight Gain

Just because diet soda is calorie-free doesn’t mean it will help you in your weight loss efforts. In fact, researchers from the University of Texas found that, over a 10-year period, diet soda drinkers experienced a 70 percent greater increase in waist circumference compared with those who didn’t drink diet soda. Even worse, study participants who drank two or more diet sodas a day experienced a whopping waist circumference increase of over 500 percent.

Drinking Diet Soda is Associated with an Increased Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

Researchers at the University of Minnesota have found that drinking just one diet soda a day can increase your risk of developing metabolic syndrome by 36 percent. Metabolic syndrome is the term used to describe a group of conditions — including high blood pressure and elevated glucose levels — that can lead to diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Diet Soda Has Zero Nutritional Value

In addition to not consuming any calories when you drink diet soda, you’re also not putting any nutrients into your body. And your body needs nutrient-rich foods to stay healthy and function optimally. Replace diet soda with beverages that offer actual health benefits, such as antioxidant-rich green tea and mineral water.

Conventional wisdom to the contrary, there’s nothing healthy about diet sodas. Stop relying on their empty promise to help you slim down and stay fit. Make avoiding diet sodas your number one New Year’s resolution. You’ll begin feeling better before you know it. And, with those improvements, you’ll be that much more prepared to take on your other resolutions — one by one.


Smart Healthy Eating Strategies to Get You Through the Holidays

healthy eating

 

The holidays are quickly approaching, which means it’s time to plan your healthy eating strategy for the season. Because most holidays are food-focused, they can cause a large intake of calories and throw your otherwise-healthy lifestyle off track.

Prevent the holidays from sabotaging your healthy lifestyle by putting a plan in place for handling all the extra food and drinks that will come your way during the season. Follow the tips below to celebrate guilt-free!

Plan activities that don’t center on food

Whether you’re hosting a holiday gathering or going to someone else’s house, keep some activities in your back pocket to take you away from the snack table. For example, bring a few favorite board games or set up some simple physical activities that children and adults can enjoy, like a bean bag toss or a relay race.

If you enjoy running or walking, sign your family up for a local 5K event. There are always a ton of turkey trots, jingle bell 5Ks and other holiday-themed races at this time of year. If you’ve never done one, you’ll be hooked after your first race!

Not only will these ideas get your mind off food, but they’ll give everyone something fun to do together. And isn’t that really what the holidays are about?

Avoid skipping meals

Many people make the mistake of skipping meals on the day of a holiday party to “save” their calories for the event. Skipping meals is unhealthy, however, as it leads to poor food choices and often results in overeating.

Instead, eat small meals and snacks throughout the day to keep your blood sugar levels stable and your appetite controlled. When you get to the party, you won’t risk derailing your diet because you’re starving.

Practice mindful eating

The most important thing to practice is being mindful about your food choices and portion control. When you’re mindful about selecting your food, you’ll choose a satisfying portion instead of piling your plate high. You’ll take a small amount of an “indulgent” food to enjoy and balance it out with healthier foods, rather than filling your entire plate with unhealthy choices.

The best part of mindful eating? When you pay attention to what you eat, you’ll actually taste and appreciate your food! Eating mindlessly, on the other hand, always results in the realization that you didn’t enjoy the ton of calories you just consumed.

Make food swaps

As you make your holiday cooking plan, choose your ingredients carefully to keep your dishes on the healthier side. For example, prepare traditional stuffing with whole wheat or whole grain bread rather than white bread. Make a cauliflower mash in place of the traditional mashed potatoes. Substitute whole-wheat flour in place of all-purpose flour in your favorite baking recipes.

Limit your cocktail consumption

The empty calories in alcoholic beverages add up. If you want to enjoy your favorite cocktail occasionally throughout the season without overdoing it, add some mineral water or seltzer to it to keep it light.

 

While food and drinks are certainly a great part of the festivities, holiday celebrations are not just about eating. Focus on the joyous, giving spirit of the season and enjoy spending time with your family, friends and colleagues.


Artificial sweeteners are not as sweet as they seem

artificial sweeteners

For years, people have used artificial sweeteners to lose weight. Once they begin a diet, they switch from consuming sugar to using products such as aspartame (Equal), sucralose (Splenda) and steviocide (Stevia) in hopes of satisfying their sugar cravings without interfering with their weight loss efforts.

But do artificial sweeteners really help with weight loss? According to a recent ABC News article, they don’t. In fact, studies show the opposite: Over time, artificial sweeteners are actually linked to weight gain.

Artificial Sweeteners and Weight Gain

Thirty studies from the Canadian Medical Association Journal that followed groups of people using artificial sweeteners over several years have recently been newly reviewed. The new analysis of these studies looked at the long-term heart health, stroke incidence and blood pressure levels of more than 406,000 people who said they use artificial sweeteners in place of sugar.

Instead of finding that consuming artificial sweeteners had positive effects, the analysis found that regular consumption of these sweeteners was associated with:

  • Modest long-term increases in weight and Body Mass Index (BMI)
  • Higher risk of obesity
  • Higher risk of Type 2 diabetes
  • Higher risk of hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Higher risk of stroke

Even people in studies that took place over a shorter period of time did not show any consistent weight loss after six months.

Why Artificial Sweeteners Don’t Help Weight Loss Efforts

In the ABC News article, Dr. Jennifer Ashton, ABC News’ chief women’s health correspondent, states that any sweetener can trigger the same response from the brain, whether it’s regular table sugar, honey or an artificial sweetener. Ashton says that all sweeteners trigger the reward centers in our brains, ultimately leading us to want more — so we end up eating more.

When people use “diet” products like sodas, food or sweeteners, they tend to eat more calorie-heavy foods as a “balance.” The medical world has known for quite some time that artificial sweeteners can lead to weight gain, and some experts believe that the chemicals in artificial sweeteners may create a reaction in the human body that causes weight gain.

What does this mean for people looking to lose weight? It’s pretty simple. Forget the “diet” foods and drinks and focus on learning proper portion control and eating a healthy, balanced diet.


Which vitamins and minerals does your body need?

vitamins and minerals

We all know that one of the most important parts of any weight loss program is diet. Eating healthy, whole foods in the right amounts is crucial to weight loss.

It’s very important to make sure your body is getting the vitamins and minerals it needs to function properly and stay healthy. Below are the top vitamins and minerals you need to maintain good health.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is extremely important to the health of your eyes, as well as red blood cell production, immune function, skin health and embryonic development.

Vitamin A can be found in fortified milk, organ meats, dark green leafy vegetables, sweet potatoes and carrots.

B vitamins

B vitamins include B-1, B-2, B-6, B-12, pantothenic acid, niacin, biotin and folic acid. These vitamins play a critical role in your body’s ability to create and release energy. B vitamins are also responsible for creating red blood cells, which allow oxygen to move throughout your body.

B vitamins can be found in leafy green vegetables, whole grains, yogurt, seafood and eggs.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is particularly important when your body is under stress, including the type of stress that can often come with dieting: food deprivation, calorie reduction and cravings. Vitamin C helps your body maintain a healthy immune system and correct any damage done to your body by stress. It also works as a disease-fighting antioxidant that keeps your cells healthy.

Vitamin C can be found in citrus fruit, orange juice, kiwis, guavas, red and green peppers, cabbage and tomatoes.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E helps maintain the tissues in your body, such as your liver, skin and eyes. It also prevents the pollution in the air from causing damage to your lungs and works with the B vitamins to create red blood cells.

Vitamin E can be found in egg yolks, sardines, nuts, seeds, wheat germ, almonds, peanut butter and some oils.

Calcium

Calcium is essential for bone health. As a matter of fact, 99 percent of its role is to keep your bones and teeth strong, supporting skeletal structure and function. Calcium is also important for cell signaling, blood clotting, muscle contraction and nerve function.

Calcium can be found in dairy products, dark leafy greens (such as spinach and kale) and some fish (like sardines, salmon and rainbow trout).

Magnesium

Magnesium helps develop and maintain bones, maintain normal nerve and muscle function, support a healthy immune system and maintain a steady heartbeat. It also helps regulate blood glucose levels and aid in the production of energy and protein.

Magnesium can be found in nuts, seeds, beans, whole grains, milk, bananas, dried apricots, avocados, halibut and other fish.

Potassium

Potassium helps maintain healthy blood pressure, reduce the effects of salt and maintain regular digestive and muscular functioning. It may also reduce the risk of recurrent kidney stones and possibly decrease bone loss.

Potassium can be found in tomato paste and puree, white beans, yogurt, leafy green vegetables, whole grains, seeds, nuts, soybeans, bananas, potatoes and fish (such as flounder, sardines, cod and salmon).

Regardless of what type of diet you’re following, be sure you’re getting sufficient amounts of these vitamins and minerals every day to avoid deficiency and keep your body healthy and functioning at its best.

If your specific diet doesn’t allow some of the food sources mentioned for a specific vitamin or mineral, talk about taking supplements with your doctor.


Universal diet: Why there is no diet that works for everyone

v

Have you tried diet after diet, only to be disappointed when it doesn’t lead to the weight loss and better health you hoped for?

You are not alone. Most people have felt discouraged when the latest fad diet didn’t deliver on its promises. While there are many theories about which diet plan is the best, there is no one diet that works for every single person. Put simply, a universal diet just doesn’t exist.

Why one diet doesn’t fit all

Why can some people eat nuts or dairy products without any issues, while others need to avoid them due to allergies or other problems? It’s because genetically, every person’s body is different and we all react to food differently.

The same is true for diets. While one diet may work great for one person, it could be a complete flop for the next person. Don’t beat yourself up if your friend is seeing results on a certain diet plan and you’re not. Your bodies are different and don’t respond the same way to the same foods.

Supporting research   

study done by researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science found that even if people all eat the same exact meal, the way their bodies end up processing the meal is different from person to person.

The study found huge differences in the rise of blood sugar levels of different people who ate identical meals. Eran Segal, a co-author of the study, says that these research findings show why “personalized eating choices are more likely to help people stay healthy than universal dietary advice.”

Basically, what works for one person won’t work the same way (or at all) for another person.

So which diet is right for you?

Now that you know why diets you’ve tried in the past haven’t worked, how can you figure out which diet plan is right for you?

There isn’t one quick and easy way to find out. You can try one (or a combination) of these options:

Trial and error: You will need to experiment to find the right diet for you. Try starting with a high-protein, low-carb diet option, since this type of diet tends to have higher success rates for more people than some other types of diets.

However you decide to start, it’s best to stick with one type of diet plan for at least six weeks to find out whether it’s working or not. A shorter period of time isn’t long enough for your body to adjust to the new diet.

Consultation with a doctor: The number of calories you should eat is very personal and unique to you. A doctor can help you create a personalized diet plan for you based on this number, as well as other information like your medical history and current health status.

Work with a nutritionist: A nutritionist can also work with you to develop a personalized diet plan and coach you through the process, providing guidance and support.

Whichever path you choose, be sure to pay attention to how you’re feeling along the way and write down as much as you can in a log book or journal. A doctor or nutritionist can help you start one and show you what type of information you should track.

Don’t give up

You will learn a ton of information during this process. You’ll get to know your body and learn what works for you and what doesn’t.

Just remember that, no matter which type of diet you follow, it needs to be sustainable for the long-term for any changes to last. Don’t think of healthy eating as a temporary diet, but as a permanent lifestyle.

Keep at it and don’t give up!


Preparing yourself for surgery with 5 easy to follow steps

If you’re feeling nervous about your upcoming surgery, don’t worry — there are a few things you can do to get yourself ready for surgery and the recovery process. Going into surgery feeling relaxed and confident will help you have a better experience and an easier recovery.

5 helpful pre-surgery steps

Following the five steps below will help you prepare for surgery and the recovery process. Putting in this effort beforehand will be worth it when you’re feeling calm and prepared on the day of your surgery.

1. Learn about the surgery

As early you can, get good information about your surgery from reliable sources, including Dr. Dirk and his team. Make sure you understand the expected outcomes, success rates for the surgery, the risks that are involved and the average recovery time. The more you know about your surgery, the better you’ll feel going into it.

2. Get some exercise

People who are active tend to handle surgery better and are more likely to have less pain, fewer complications and a faster recovery.

Talk to Dr. Dirk to find out which specific activities you can do before surgery. Depending on your current health condition and activity level, Dr. Dirk may suggest activities like yoga, stretching or walking.

3. Eat the right foods

Talk with Dr. Dirk about which foods you should be eating as you get ready for surgery. You may need to stay away from certain foods or drinks before surgery. You may also need to fast (stop eating) for a certain number of hours before surgery.

For certain surgeries, including weight loss surgery, you will need to change to a healthy diet after surgery to get the best results.

4. Stock your pantry and freezer

Be sure to fill your home with plenty of healthy foods and drinks before the day of your surgery. Not only will this keep you from having to shop during your recovery, but it will also help you stick to your new healthy diet after surgery.

If you run out of time to do this step, don’t be afraid to ask family or friends for help. They’ll be happy to pitch in, and you’ll feel good knowing you have people in your life you can rely on.

5. Arrange for help during your recovery

Whether or not you end up needing help stocking up on food before surgery, you’ll definitely want to line up family and/or friends to help get you through the recovery process.

Depending on the type of surgery you’ll be having, you may need a ride home or help doing daily tasks, such as cooking and cleaning. It can also be very helpful to have someone stay overnight with you on your first night home after surgery.

Follow these steps, and you’ll be surprised at how positive and in control you’ll feel on the day of your surgery.


Are you getting enough vitamin B12?

vitamin b12

Remember when your mother told you to take your vitamins? Well, she was both wrong and right.

She was wrong because it’s actually best to get your daily vitamins by eating a nutritious diet. Nutritionists agree that vitamins are the most effective when we get them naturally through food.

But your mother was also right, because while a healthy diet is the best way to consume vitamins, most people can’t eat a perfectly healthy diet 100 percent of the time. That’s where vitamin supplements come in.

Today, we’re talking about vitamin B12. What is B12, and do you need to take B12 supplements? Here’s what you need to know.

What is vitamin B12?

The body needs vitamin B12 to perform many important functions. B12 is used to make red blood cells, nerves and DNA.

B12 is found naturally in animal products, including meat, fish, eggs and dairy. When you eat these foods, your stomach breaks down protein, releasing B12, which is then absorbed by your small intestine.

Why do some people not get enough vitamin B12?

For healthy adults, the recommended daily minimum of vitamin B12 is 2.4 micrograms.

People who tend to be deficient in vitamin B12 include people who are age 50 or older, people who have gastrointestinal disorders, people who are strict vegans and people who take medication for ulcers and gastric reflux.

Stomach enzymes play an essential role in helping your body absorb B12. Medical conditions that interfere with the release of those enzymes can cause vitamin deficiency.

What conditions can vitamin B12 deficiency lead to?

If you are vitamin B12-deficient, you may develop the following symptoms:

  • Anemia
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Soreness of the mouth and tongue
  • Constipation
  • Numbness and tingling in the hands and feet
  • Dizziness, light-headedness
  • Poor memory and confusion

It’s important to identify and fix B12 deficiency early. Otherwise, it can lead to severe neurological problems and blood diseases.

What can you do if you think you’re vitamin B12-deficient?

If you think you’re vitamin B12-deficient, be sure to talk to your doctor to find out if you really do have a deficiency.

After speaking with your doctor, you can take steps to boost your B12 levels, including taking B12 supplements, eating fortified foods (such as breakfast cereals and soy products), using fortified toothpaste and, if you’ve had weight loss surgery, taking B12 injections.

Eating a nutritious diet of lean proteins, complex carbs and fruits and veggies is the best way to make sure your body is getting the vitamins and minerals it needs to perform at its best.

Vitamin B12 is one of the important nutrients your body needs to work properly. If you think you may be B12 deficient, take action by making an appointment with your doctor.


Strategies for keeping your healthy lifestyle on track

It’s been proven over and over again that eating a good, nutritious diet and sticking to a daily exercise regimen is the most reliable way to lose weight and keep it off.

But committing to a healthy lifestyle is no easy feat. It’s a long journey, filled with speed bumps and occasional wrong turns.

So how do you keep up the hard work of living healthy? Here are some strategies to help you stay on track.

Lean on friends and family

Involving a few family members or friends can be crucial to finding the support you need on your journey. Find people who you trust, who you know love you and who will be non-judgmental about your new lifestyle.

Instead of eating a high-protein, low-carb dinner by yourself, invite your people over and share a dinner with them. Talk to your people about how you feel about your progress. Be willing to accept their support, and listen to what they have to say.

Bounce back from bad days

Discipline is key to a healthy lifestyle. But you will have moments of weakness, when you eat too much of something you shouldn’t or miss a few days of exercise. That’s OK.

The most important thing is to not beat yourself up about it. Just wake up the next morning and commit to eating your healthy meals and getting your exercise in. You’ll be surprised how much easier this journey is when you don’t blow your small mistakes out of proportion.

Keep a long-term perspective

On this blog, we’ve talked a lot about steering clear of “lose-weight-quick!” schemes and fad diets that promise fast results.

Here’s the truth: Losing weight and achieving your health goals will take time. Putting in the work over a period of time is the only healthy and effective way to lose weight and keep it off.

By looking at the long term, it’s easier to look past minor setbacks or seemingly slow progress. Keeping your expectations realistic means you won’t psych yourself out of a process that takes time.

Plan, plan, plan 

The sad fact is it’s easy to be unhealthy. When you’re busy with work, errands and family and friends, it can be simpler just to pick up fast food and veg out on the couch. Using your time wisely and getting ahead of daily stresses and tasks can help you keep your health commitments.

One example of this is meal planning. Instead of preparing entire meals every day, use the weekends to prep meals for the week. That can mean cooking enough chicken breast, salmon and/or tofu on the weekends to last you the week, and/or chopping all your veggies and packing all your salads for the week.

And the planning shouldn’t stop there. Always think ahead to make sure that, no matter what’s going on in your life, you can eat healthy and work out. Going on a vacation? Call ahead to find out if there’s a gym you can work out in. Having a dinner out with friends? Have a look at the menu beforehand to pick the healthiest item.

Be positive

Finally, stay positive and don’t dwell on negative thoughts. There will be lots of difficult moments on your health journey, but you’ll be surprised how much easier it becomes when you choose to be positive about it. You’re doing the hard work to improve your life — you have good reason to be happy with yourself.


Healthy summer BBQ recipe alternatives

 

Summer means one thing: backyard barbecues. Whether it’s a Fourth of July celebration, a no-frills get-together with family and friends or an all-out bonanza in the summertime sun, one thing is for sure: good food.

Summer can be a hard time for people trying to watch what they eat. Fortunately, there are ways to have your summer fun while sticking to your diet plan.

Here are our favorite healthy alternative summer recipes.

Spicy Yam Potato Salad

Instead of the traditional mayo and potato-heavy salad, this alternative version relies on Greek yogurt and sweet potatoes. Not only does this recipe deliver a sweet zing (and a kick!), it helps you keep your bad fats and carbs in check.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb yams, peeled and cut into eighths
  • 1 lb red potatoes, peeled and cut into fourths or eighths
  • 1/2 cup red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 2 tbsp chopped mint
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • 1 tsp harissa (or Sriracha if you can’t find it)
  • Salt and pepper

Add the cut-up yams and potatoes and a tablespoon of salt to a pot of room-temperature water. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 15-20 minutes or until tender (but not mushy). Drain the yams and potatoes and cool to room temperature.

Mix the spices, harissa and Greek yogurt. Set aside.

Add the remaining ingredients to the yams and potatoes. Then mix everything together and season with salt and pepper.

Cherry, Wild Rice & Quinoa Salad

Backyard BBQs are all about the sides. One simple yet delicious side is this salad that’s packed with complex carbs, nutrient-rich cherries, nuts and, most importantly, fresh flavor.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup wild rice
  • 1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed if necessary
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fruity vinegar, such as raspberry or pomegranate
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cups halved pitted fresh sweet cherries
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 3/4 cup diced aged goat cheese, smoked cheddar or other smoked cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Add wild rice and cook for 30 minutes. Add quinoa and cook until the rice and quinoa are tender, about 15 minutes more. Drain and rinse with cold water until cool to the touch; drain well.

Meanwhile, whisk oil, vinegar, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add the rice and quinoa, cherries, celery, cheese and pecans and toss to combine. Serve at room temperature or cold.

Baja-Style Rosemary Chicken Skewers

Instead of fatty and cholesterol-packed hamburgers and hot dogs, try a leaner protein that’s just as delicious. Grilled chicken kabobs can satiate your need for flavorful meat. Try whichever seasoning or marinade you prefer. One of our favorite recipes is this rosemary chicken kabob.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 small white onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 dried chiles de arbol, crumbled (or 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper)
  • 1 teaspoon minced rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast (or thighs), cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper
  • 8 sturdy 12-inch rosemary sprigs, leaves on bottom half removed
  • Lime wedges, for serving

​In a large bowl, combine the onion, garlic, chiles, minced rosemary, oregano, lemon juice and olive oil; set aside 1/4 cup of the marinade. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and add it to the bowl. Mix well, cover and marinate for 30 minutes.

Light a grill. Remove the chicken from the marinade and thread the pieces onto the rosemary skewers; discard the marinade. Oil the grate and grill the chicken over moderate heat, turning occasionally and basting with the reserved marinade, until golden and cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve with lime wedges.

Wasabi Salmon Burgers

If your backyard bonanza doesn’t feel complete only with chicken kabobs, then have your burger. But replace the fatty beef with lean proteins, like ground chicken breast, ground turkey or even wild salmon. In fact, one of our favorite burger recipes is this Japanese-inspired salmon burger.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce

1 1/2 teaspoons wasabi powder

1/2 teaspoon honey

1 pound wild salmon fillet, skinned

2 scallions, finely chopped

1 egg, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Whisk soy sauce, wasabi powder and honey in a small bowl until smooth. Set aside.

​With a large chef’s knife, chop salmon using quick, even, straight-up-and-down motions (do not rock the knife through the fish or it will turn mushy). Continue chopping, rotating the knife, until you have a mass of roughly ¼-inch pieces.

Transfer to a large bowl. Add scallions, egg, ginger and oil; stir to combine. Form the mixture into four patties. The mixture will be moist and loose, but holds together nicely once the first side is cooked.

​Coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium heat for 1 minute. Add the patties and cook for 4 minutes. Turn and continue to cook until firm and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Spoon the reserved wasabi glaze evenly over the burgers and cook for 15 seconds more. Serve immediately.

Frozen Greek Yogurt Fresh Fruit Bars

Lastly, dessert. Set yourself up with healthy dessert alternatives and you can eat as much as you’d like. Yogurt pops are an excellent substitute for full-fat ice cream, and adding fresh fruit, especially berries, can boost the nutrient profile.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh blackberries, blueberries, raspberries (or a mix of all three)
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 ½ cups plain Greek yogurt

In a large bowl, combine the berries, honey, lemon juice, water and Greek yogurt. Using the back of a spatula, lightly mash the berries to release their juices and stir until well combined.

Fill a popsicle mold with the yogurt mixture according to instructions. Freeze until the fruit bar is firm, 3 to 4 hours (or depending on instructions). Makes six popsicles.

Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean that your diet has to go on a break. Try these healthy recipes, and you can enjoy summertime with friends and family while staying true to your health journey.