Summer Eats: Patio food—the healthy way.

Every season has its distinct culinary highlights. Summer’s juicy burgers, hotdogs, fruit pies and ice cream are virtually synonymous with the season. Unfortunately, while these food faves are undeniably delicious, they’re all too often less than “good for you.” Don’t despair—you can enjoy these seasonal treats without derailing your diet. Here’s how.



Yes, burgers can be part of a healthy eating plan. The key is to watch portion size and make them from scratch, using quality meats with no more than 10 percent fat. If your budget allows it, opt for grass-fed beef. When compared to conventional beef, grass-fed beef not only tastes better, it also has less total fat, more heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and more antioxidant vitamins. However, you don’t have to rely solely on beef—or blow your budget—to create a healthy burger. Lean-ground turkey, lamb, bison, pork and fish all make tasty and nutritious patties. In addition, the Internet boasts a plethora of vegetarian burger recipes that even carnivores will love. To enhance the nutritional profile of your “lean-’n-luscious patty”, nix the mayo and top it with condiments such as salsa, grilled fruits and veggies and avocado slices. Serve your creation in a wholegrain bun and you’ve got a wholesome summertime meal. (For a healthy burger experience when dining out, I recommend The Pink Bicycle and Bubby’s Kitchen in Victoria.)


Hot Dogs

Forget those pseudo-meat supermarket hotdogs. There’s a new breed of dog on show at your local meat market, and while it may never achieve “superfood” status, it can be a healthy and reliable source of quality protein and micronutrients. Several local meat shops are meeting consumer’s demands for healthier fare and creating filler and preservative free hotdogs made from 100 percent lean beef, pork or poultry. Halal Meats and Deli, for instance, makes a superb version from organic, grass-fed beef. If beef doesn’t appeal, consider the free-range turkey dogs whipped up by the good folks at Slater’s. For traditionalists, there’s the 100 percent antibiotic, hormone and gluten-free pork wiener on offer at Choux Choux Charcuterie. Two exceptions to the supermarket rule: Island Bison’s “grass-fed bison dogs”and Yves vegetarian tofu dogs, provide outstanding nutrition without compromising on taste. Victoria’s top “restaurant dog”—a deliciously seasoned, grass-fed beef creation—can be had at Bubby’s Kitchen.


Fruit Pies

Sadly, in addition to succulent taste, the average slice of fruit pie delivers an abundance of calories, sugar and saturated fat. The antidote lies in giving your pies a healthy makeover. Start by replacing the butter or lard most crust recipes call for, with heart-healthy canola oil. To further enhance your shell’s nutritional profile, opt for fibre-rich whole-wheat flour instead of refined white flour. Alternatively, to really curb calories and fat, try whole-wheat phyllo dough. It’s light and airy but still lends pies a wonderful buttery “crunch.” And remember, whatever type of pastry you use, more crust means more calories and fat—so opt for a bottom shell only. When it comes to the filling, let the natural sweetness of summer fruit do the work. There’s no need to be heavy-handed with the sugar. In fact, there’s no need to use sugar at all. You can easily replace it with a healthier sweetener like honey, maple syrup or agave. Don’t fret if pastry making simply isn’t in your skill set—some of B.C.’s best bakers have you covered. I adore the healthy fruit pies (also gluten-free!) from Origin Bakery (downtown and Colwood) and from Wendell’s in Langley. (they supplies to stores all over BC!)

Ice Cream

Many people shy away from this summer favourite because of its saturated fat content. Their worry is misguided. Emerging research suggests dairy’s unique saturated fats are beneficial to human health—not harmful. That’s right—studies indicate these fats can help reduce blood pressure and lower the risk for cardiovascular disease and Type-2 diabetes. What is worrisome about ice cream, though, is the plethora of chemicals and additives found in most conventional tub ice creams. What’s an ice cream lover to do? I recommend reading labels carefully and choosing organic ice creams or, at the very least, ice creams without carrageenan or any unrecognizable ingredient. Local purveyors meeting this requirement include Cold Comfort, Salt Spring Island Gelato, Ottavio’s and Foi Epi.


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