The Relationship Between Stress and Weight

Stress

Everyone deals with stress at some point their lives, but people who experience high levels of perceived stress or long-term stress often end up suffering real physical and emotional consequences. Stress can negatively impact mood and cause people to make poor decisions, including unhealthy eating choices.

April is Stress Awareness Month, so today we’re digging into the reasons why it can be so hard to lose weight when you’re chronically stressed.

The relationship between stress and weight

When we’re under a lot of pressure or have been experiencing a certain amount of stress, our bodies go into fight-or-flight mode (a.k.a. survival mode). This often results in overeating, because our bodies think we’ve used calories to deal with stress and falsely thinks those calories need to be replenished.

Stress causes the levels of cortisol (the “stress hormone”) in our bodies to increase. Higher levels of cortisol can lead to higher insulin levels, resulting in a drop in blood sugar and cravings for sugary and fatty foods. While eating these comfort foods can temporarily lower stress, it doesn’t last long. The stress-eating cycle continues, literally feeding an overeating habit that eventually leads to weight gain.

This connection between cortisol and weight has been examined in various scientific studies. One study performed by researchers from University College London analyzed longitudinal health data from more than 2,500 men and women older than age 54 and found a connection between cortisol and being overweight.

Other studies have shown that changes in appetite may cause weight fluctuations during stressful periods. One study of 1,355 people found that stress was associated with weight gain in overweight adults. While these studies show an association between stress and changes in appetite or weight, medications, hormonal shifts and psychological conditions could also be influencing these changes.

Healthy ways to cope with stress

If you’ve experienced weight gain as a result of overeating due to stress, use these are some helpful tips for handling stress in healthier ways.

1. Get some casual exercise. Take a brisk walk or go for a light jog. More high-intensity workouts can work against you by raising cortisol levels.

2. Establish a regular mindfulness practice. Incorporate prayer, meditation, breathing exercises or a yoga or tai chi practice into your day to help clear your mind. You’ll be able to handle stress better and avoid poor coping mechanisms, like overeating, more often.

3. Get support. It’s always good to have someone to talk to or lean on so that the stress you’re facing doesn’t continue to build up. Whenever you’re feeling tense, speak with a close friend or family member you trust and can rely on.

4. Read. Reading, especially works of fiction, can be a great distraction and help get your mind off your problems for a while. Next time you feel the urge to grab some cookies, grab a book instead and take it to a relaxing spot to unwind for a bit.

5. Listen to music. Music is a wonderful mood changer. Just be sure you listen to uplifting music that you can sing along with and/or dance around to rather than music that will get you into a deeper funk. The combination of listening to happy music, singing and dancing is one of the best ways to naturally relieve stress. Create some playlists that are ready to go when you need them!

Keep these healthy stress management tips in your back pocket and be prepared to use them the next time you have the urge to overeat. Before you know it, you’ll be more equipped to handle life’s stresses in ways that better serve you — and find yourself reaching for the chips or cookies less often.


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.


The importance of exercising after surgery

exercising after surgery

Whether you’ve undergone weight loss surgery or another kind of surgery, exercising after surgery is important for a quicker recovery and a more successful outcome. Exercise is a critical part of the healing process, and it has many benefits for people

Why it’s important to exercise after surgery

After surgery, it’s common for muscles to weaken and joints to become stiff from lack of use. For each week you don’t exercise after having surgery, it can take twice as long to regain strength in that area.

Additionally, the recovery time stated by your surgeon depends on whether you follow your post-surgery exercise program. Not exercising often results in a recovery period that’s longer than anticipated.

The benefits of exercise after surgery

Exercising after surgery provides numerous benefits for patients, depending on the specific surgery and the person’s unique situation.

While the following benefits are often seen in patients who exercise after having bariatric surgery, many of them are also seen in patients who exercise after having other types of surgeries.

  • Increased life expectancy
  • Reduced abdominal fat
  • Stronger muscles, bones and lungs
  • Reduced risk of disease
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduced triglycerides
  • Higher good cholesterol and lower bad cholesterol
  • Improved blood sugar control
  • Improved insulin control
  • Reduced risk of cancer
  • Increased energy
  • Improved balance
  • Improved appearance
  • Improved motivation and mental alertness

How to ease into exercise following surgery

Before beginning any type of exercise after surgery, you’ll want to check with your doctor and ask when it’s safe for you to start, what types of exercises are safe and how much exercise you should begin with.

While the appropriate time to begin exercise following surgery will vary, a walking regimen is the best place to start once you get the OK from your doctor.

When you first begin, your walks don’t need to be long or intense. Start with a short, casual stroll around the block. Do this every day and gradually increase the amount of time you spend walking each day, whether by increasing the distance you walk or the amount of time spent walking. In addition to increasing the duration of your walks, you’ll also want to slowly increase your speed as your fitness level improves.

The main point is to start walking as soon as your surgeon says it’s safe to do so and then start slowly, working your way up gradually.

Types of exercise to do after surgery

All exercise programs should include components that focus on endurance, flexibility and strength. This is also true for post-surgery exercise.

1. Endurance

As mentioned above, walking is a safe bet following most surgeries. As the walking gets easier, increase the length and intensity of your daily walks. Eventually, you can check with your surgeon about incorporating riding a stationary bike and/or swimming into your exercise regimen.

2. Flexibility

Stretching is an important part of an overall exercise program and offers many benefits. Stretching helps to improve flexibility and coordination, as well as increase blood flow to your muscles, which results in less soreness and more energy.

Begin with basic stretching exercises provided by your surgeon. You could also try a beginner’s yoga class, which is great for increasing flexibility, in addition to building strength.

3. Strength

Strength exercises are the third part of a well-rounded exercise routine. However, these exercises should not be started until you have been doing your endurance and flexibility exercises for a while and your surgeon approves adding them to your routine. Speak with your doctor about using exercise balls or weights.

Keep the post-surgery benefits above fresh in your mind so they’ll motivate you to stick with your exercise routine on the days you’re tempted to skip it. Making physical activity part of your daily routine will become easier and easier over time and will eventually become a habit that you won’t have to think twice about.


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.


Feeling nervous before surgery? Try these 6 tips

surgery anxiety

It’s totally normal to feel stressed or nervous before having weight loss surgery. If you’re feeling a little surgery anxiety — or if you want to prepare for potential anxiety about your upcoming weight loss surgery — the following tips may be helpful in the days and weeks before your surgery.

Here are six simple and effective ways to help ease some of the fear and anxiety you may feel as your weight loss surgery gets closer.

1. Do your research

Get lots of information about your surgery as early as possible. The more you know about what to expect, the better you’ll feel about it. Pay close attention to information about success rates and the steps you can take to make your experience more positive before, during and after surgery.

2. Talk to your doctor about your fears

Talking to your doctor about your fears is a great way to learn more about the surgery and get further details on anything you’ve come across in your research. This open communication will also increase your level of trust in your doctor and help ease your worries.

3. Take care of pre-surgery tasks

Focusing on what you need to do to prepare for your surgery will keep you productive and give you a more positive outlook about your surgery. Tasks can include packing your bag, arranging for rides to and from the surgery and making sure you have friends and family around to help with daily chores and activities as you recover.

4. Keep a written list of questions and fears

Sometimes just the simple act of putting your thoughts and fears on paper can help you feel better. Your mind will be free to focus on more positive thoughts and actions. Keeping a list also allows you to keep track of things you want to discuss with your doctor.

5. Get support

Remember, you’re not alone! You can find support from family, friends and co-workers. If you’re feeling especially anxious — or want to talk to someone who can relate more — it might be a good idea to talk to other people who have already gone through the surgery. Hearing about their experiences and getting tips from them can lessen your worries. If you don’t know anyone personally, see if your doctor knows of a local support group or a former patient who would be open to talking to you.

6. Find a calming activity

Spend time each day doing something that helps you to relax. This could be reading, walking, meditating, listening to music or something else. If you aren’t sure what works for you, try different activities until you find the one that suits you best. If possible, take some time doing this activity on the day of your surgery to help you feel as relaxed as possible.

Try these suggestions to combat surgery anxiety and feel more at peace on the day of your procedure. Before you know it, you’ll be on the other side and others will be asking you for support!


The importance of teaching your kids healthy habits from a young age

healthy habits

Today, about one in three American children is obese or overweight. While these numbers are sad, the truth is that parents can turn this epidemic around by teaching their kids healthy habits while they’re still young.

It’s important to teach your kids about eating healthy and getting lots of physical activity from an early age. This is because people who learn healthy habits as children are more likely to live a healthy lifestyle for the rest of their lives.

If you teach your child to live a healthy lifestyle when they’re young, they are less likely to grow up to become overweight or obese. It can also decrease their risk of health issues that can develop due to being overweight. These include type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, certain types of cancer and more.

How to be a healthy role model for your child

Here are six simple but powerful ways you can be a strong role model for your kids and teach them to live a healthy lifestyle.

1. Be physically active together

Regular physical activity is important for your kids’ growth and overall well-being. Encourage them to get moving by changing how your kids spend their free time. Instead of letting them spend hours watching TV or surfing the web, get the whole family moving! Ride bikes together, go for a daily walk after dinner or simply head into the yard to kick a ball around or play a game of tag.

2. Drink lots of water

Water — not soda, fruit juice or sweet tea — is the best thing you can drink to quench your thirst, and our bodies need lots of water each day to run smoothly. Plus, water doesn’t have added sugars like fruit juice and soft drinks do.

Make sure your children see you drinking water throughout the day, and give them plenty of opportunities to drink water too. Get everyone their own special water bottles in different colors and patterns to make it more fun.

3. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables

Eating fruits and vegetables every day helps children grow and develop, and it can reduce their risk of many chronic diseases. Always keep fresh fruit on hand for a quick, healthy snack, and include fruits and vegetables with every meal.

4. Introduce new foods often

It’s important to introduce your kids to new foods and flavors regularly. Offer your kids the new food along with something they already like, and encourage them to at least try the new food. If they don’t like it after tasting it, they don’t have to finish it — but it’s important that they at least try.

Be sure to keep serving the foods your kids have tried and don’t like over and over. It can take as many 30 tries for your child to develop a taste for the food! This is a great way to get your child to try out all types of vegetables.

5. Eat healthy snacks

Healthy snacks help kids get all the nutrients they need, but not all snacks are created equal. The healthiest choices include fresh fruits and vegetables, reduced-fat dairy products and whole grains. Stock your fridge with things like apple slices with peanut butter, baby carrots with hummus, low-fat string cheese and hardboiled eggs. Limit or avoid snacks that are high in sugar or saturated fats, like chips, crackers and snack cakes.

6. Plan activities that don’t revolve around food

Instead of making eating out at a restaurant your main family outing, try to plan an activity that isn’t focused on food. Go bowling, take a painting class, go to the library and take out a bunch of books or go see a family-friendly play. The options are endless.

Not only will this create strong family bonds, it will also help your children appreciate things other than food, helping them to become well-rounded adults with a healthy relationship with food.

Starting a healthy lifestyle early in life is critical to giving your kids a shot at becoming healthy adults. Use the tips above to put your children on the path to living a healthy life in the long run.


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.


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.