How to Host a Healthy Cookout

Rethink your Drink

Often beverages make up a surprising percentage of our daily calories. Think about providing some zero- or low-calorie options for your guests at your next bbq. Some ideas include carbonated water infused with fresh fruit and/or herbs, unsweet tea, and non-alcoholic spritzers made with tonic water and light fruit juice. Remember that alcohol counts, and the calories add up quickly. A single regular beer has at least 125 calories, and a hard lemonade has 220 calories!

Pick your Protein

If you plan to grill, chances are meat will be involved. To air on the healthier side, make sure you choose lean cuts for your meat of choice. Safe options are chicken, pork tenderloin, fish, shrimp, sirloin/round steak, 93% lean ground beef and turkey sausage. These cuts provide a low amount of artery-clogging and cholesterol-raising saturated fat. If you see a lot of white marbling on the raw meat, this indicates that it is high in fat. Also consider offering vegetarian options like black bean burgers.

Go Heavy on the Veggies

There’s something about grilling that seems to infuse vegetables with an abundance of flavor. Use a veggie pan to grill squash, peppers and onions or broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower. All you need is a drizzle of olive oil and some seasonings, and these veggies will speak for themselves. If you want to branch out a bit, make veggie kebobs.

Be Selective with your Apps

Even if you provide that creamy buffalo dip or indulgent spinach/artichoke spread, make sure to offer other nutritious alternatives when planning appetizers. Raw vegetables with a Greek yogurt dip or hummus hit the spot. You could also try pretzels with a low-calorie honey mustard dip.

Spread Thin

Condiments can often make or break the calorie bank at a meal. Choosing low-calorie options like mustard, ketchup, bbq sauce, salsa, horseradish, pickles, lettuce and tomatoes will provide harmless and tasty choices. Mayonnaise, aioli, butter and cheese all tend to be much heavier.

That Sweet Spot

Dessert is often a staple at a cookout. Try having options like fresh-cut watermelon, berries, fruit popsicles and angel food cake with whipped cream as alternatives.

Steps to Stay Safe this Summer

Summer is a time for cookouts, picnics, and fun by the pool. Usually, all of these events involve food. As the temperature rises, it’s important to be mindful of the increase in risk of foodborne illnesses. It’s easy to forget how long food has been sitting out when you’re enjoying the cool water or catching up with friends. Below are some tips to keep the guess work out of it and keep you healthy this summer.

Welcome to the Danger Zone

Food left out at temperatures between 40-140 degrees fahrenheit for more than two hours should be thrown away. This is the prime temperature range for bacteria to thrive. If food is meant to be hot, it needs to be kept warmer than 140 degrees if not consumed in less than two hours. If food is meant to be cold, it needs to be chilled at a temperature lower than 40 degrees if out for more than two hours or if leftovers are to be salvaged.

Ice, Ice Baby

If you plan on transporting food to a destination, purchasing a reliable cooler is one of the first steps to stay safe. The cooler should fasten tightly, keeping its contents cold inside. Add ice or ice packs to keep food at the appropriate temperature inside. Clean the inside of the cooler after every use, as spills or stray food that stick to the sides can be a breeding ground for bacteria.

Spoiler Alert

Use special care with items that contain ingredients that spoil easily, such as mayonnaise and eggs. Keep these items closest to the ice in your cooler, and do not leave them out longer than necessary.

Wash Up

Good old-fashioned soap and water is the gold standard for germ eradication, but if there is not a bathroom on the premises, bring anti-bacterial handwipes and/or hand sanitizer. If you are sharing the same bag of chips or container of cookies, you don’t want to be exchanging germs, too.

Judge a Fruit by its Cover

If you plan to serve watermelon, avocado, or anything else with a peel/skin, remember to wash it thoroughly before you pack it. One of the easiest ways to spread germs is by dragging a knife through a piece of fruit with a dirty peel. All those germs from the skin will end up on the flesh of the fruit and in your mouth.

Perish the Thought

If you plan to travel far or have no way to keep food climate controlled, consider packing things that are non-perishable. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, crackers, grapes, granola bars, trail mix, and bananas are all safe choices.

When in Doubt, Throw it Out

If you are ever unsure about how long food has been sitting out in the sun, dispose of it. It’s not worth the risk of spending the rest of your weekend sick.

Come visit us in Lebanon!

May 14, 2019 Ribbon-Cutting & Business After Hours Event @ Associates in Gastroenterology, Lebanon (920 South Hartmann Drive, Suite 310, Lebanon, TN 37076). From Left to Right: Dr. Kevin Finnegan, Dr. Sue Lee, Nurse Practitioner Kim Carver, Dr. Jocelyne Miller, Dr. S. Raj Patil, and Dr. Don Lazas. Photo credit to Lebanon Wilson County Chamber of Commerce.

May 14, 2019 Ribbon-Cutting & Business After Hours Event @ Associates in Gastroenterology, Lebanon (920 South Hartmann Drive, Suite 310, Lebanon, TN 37076).
From Left to Right: Dr. Kevin Finnegan, Dr. Sue Lee, Nurse Practitioner Kim Carver, Dr. Jocelyne Miller, Dr. S. Raj Patil, and Dr. Don Lazas. Photo credit to Lebanon Wilson County Chamber of Commerce.

You’ve Got...

...the GREEN Light to Add COLOR!

You may have heard the cliché, “eat the rainbow,” but what does this really mean, and why is it important? It turns out that different fruits and vegetables (and other foods) have unique profiles of vitamins and minerals. While eating pounds of broccoli is certainly beneficial to your body, if this is the only vegetable you eat, you end up missing out on a plethora of rich nutrients. What do the different colors provide?


Lycopene is a vital nutrient found in many red foods, especially tomatoes and tomato products. Lycopene has been found to reduce some cancers and has many heart benefits. Red fruits and vegetables like watermelon, grapefruit, and cranberries are rich sources of flavonoids, an antioxidant.


Orange and yellow foods are packed with Vitamin C and beta-carotene, an anti-oxidant. Beta-carotene is converted to Vitamin A by the body and is used to boost immune function and eye health. Examples are cantaloupe, carrots, winter squash, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, orange/yellow bell peppers, mangos, and apricots.


These lighter hues of green are sources of lutein, which plays a large role in enhancing vision and preventing macular degeneration. They are also good sources of Vitamin C . Examples are avocado, kiwi, spinach/leafy greens, and pistachios.


Green vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, greens, kale, and spinach contain high amounts of
Vitamin K and potassium. Vitamin K plays a large role in blood clotting, and potassium has been linked to lower blood pressure.


These fruits and vegetables are high sources of anthocyanin, an anti-oxidant that has many heart-protecting benefits. Examples of this are eggplant, blueberries, blackberries, prunes, plums, and pomegranates.


Foods like peanut butter, brown rice, tofu, soy beans, nuts, seeds, and oatmeal are rich sources of magnesium, which aids in bone health, better blood pressure control, and stroke/diabetes prevention.

Your springtime challenge: eat something of each color daily!

Source: Today’s Dietitian

March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month - Schedule Your Screening TODAY!

Colon cancer is a leading cause of cancer related deaths, but WE CAN CHANGE THAT STATISTIC!

When colon cancer is found in the early stages, most patients can be cured. The problem is that most patients have NO symptoms in these early stages. Routine screening can find these early stages, curable cancers, and may even prevent some colon cancers from developing.

Talk to your doctor about which colon cancer screening test is right for you, then spread the word to friends and loved ones.


Getting to the Heart of the Matter

We often take for granted the incredible actions of our most important muscle. Did you know the heart beats more than 100,000 times per day? Similar to an engine in a car, our heart needs special care and attention.

The engine of a car is responsible for powering a vehicle while undergoing considerable stress. Oil in our car keeps the engine well lubricated and cool and prevents junk and particles from accumulating in the engine. If we go too long without changing our oil, we may not see the effects immediately, but eventually our vehicle will start to fail.

The heart operates in a similar fashion. It powers all of our actions and is resilient under stress. Without proper care like nutrition and exercise, the heart will eventually start to fail. How do we take care of this organ that does so much work under the hood?

1. Kick Tobacco to the Curb!

The lungs are not the only organ affected by cigarette smoke. Tobacco damages blood vessels and puts us at risk for high blood pressure, heart attacks, and strokes. This is not only true for smokers, but those who inhale second-hand smoke are also at risk. One in three deaths each year from cardiovascular disease is caused by smoking (CDC).

2. Get Moving!

The heart is a muscle, and like every other muscle, it needs proper training. Challenge your body with exercise like walking, dancing, aerobics, cycling, and strength training. Aim for 30 minutes, 5 days per week. Pick something you like and commit to it.

3. Increase the Rough Stuff!

Fiber is an important nutrient that performs many essential functions for our bodies. First, fiber adheres to bad cholesterol in the blood and transports it out of the body or prevents it from being absorbed into the bloodstream. Fiber also takes a lot more energy to digest, so it keeps us satisfied longer between meals, decreasing the need for empty-calorie snacks. Finally, fiber helps the good bacteria in our gut thrive. All of these functions benefit our heart! Fiber is found in foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and beans/legumes.

4. Pass on the Salt!

Are you tired of hearing this refrain? Sadly, it is true. Sodium is a magnet for fluid. Remember those old science experiments? Water will always move toward an environment that is more concentrated in sodium. The more sodium in your blood vessels, the more fluid is also present. As the pressure in your blood vessels increases, it puts stress on many of your organs including your kidneys, liver, and heart. Over time, this damage takes a toll.

5. The Good Kind of Fat!

Fat is not always a bad word. In fact, it is an essential nutrient, meaning our bodies need it to survive. Certain types can decrease bad cholesterol (LDL) and increase good cholesterol (HDL). Why is this important? Increasing good cholesterol helps prevent bad cholesterol from leaving damaging debris in our blood vessels. To increase your intake of this important nutrient, eat plenty of nuts, avocado, peanut butter, olive oil, seeds, eggs, salmon, and tuna.

10 Holiday Health Tips

1. Get your groove on

Staying active is one of the easiest ways to keep weight off in the colder months. Choose something you enjoy, whether it’s hiking outside, trying a new class at the gym, rocking out to Christmas music at home, walking at the mall with a friend, or working in the yard. Make a plan, and stick to it. Having a partner keeps you accountable.

2. Force the fluids

Do you have a harder time remembering to drink water in the winter time? Don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink – thirst is a sign of dehydration. Fluid helps your body regulate temperature, balance fluids, and keep skin and muscles healthy. Besides water, choose low-fat milk/milk alternatives, unsweet tea, and fruits and veggies (many are 90% water!).

3. Boost immunity with anti-oxidants

Unless you live in a bubble, germs are impossible to avoid. Give your body a fighting chance over the holidays by consuming more foods high in anti-oxidants like Zinc, Vitamin C, and Vitamin A. Vegetables rich in reds and oranges, citrus fruits, eggs, lean meats, and fortified grains are high in these immune-boosting nutrients.

4. Resist skipping meals

It’s tempting to skip breakfast (and maybe lunch, too) when you know you’ve got a big meal planned for dinner. The logic of “saving calories” makes sense, but research shows that people tend to overeat when they backload their caloric intake. Instead, choose lighter foods like lean proteins (eggs, turkey, chicken), low-calorie foods (fruits and vegetables), and foods high in fiber (beans and whole grains) before a big meal.

5. Beat the buffet

The first time through the line, fill your plate with low-calorie items like steamed/cooked vegetables, lean meats, and salad. When you’re done, go back for small amounts of dishes like casseroles, gravy, and stuffing. Remember, you can always enjoy leftovers tomorrow.

6. Think small

People tend to eat less when they downsize their plate. Using a salad plate or bowl in place of a dinner plate can save a lot of calories. The same rule applies for beverages – use a small juice glass when drinking sugary beverages, eggnog, or anything else caloric.

7. Food safety

Too many cooks in the kitchen can lead to a food safety disaster. To reduce the chances of foodborne illness over the holidays, remember to wash your hands, thaw meat in the refrigerator or under running water, use separate cutting boards for raw meat and produce, wipe countertops with bleach or germ-killing agent, and dispose of leftovers in a timely manner. When in doubt, throw it out.

8. Count your liquid

Remember that liquid calories and food calories are created equal. Liquid typically contains less fiber and does not fill you up. Limit consumption of caloric beverages like eggnog, sodas, peppermint mochas, and alcohol. Alcohol contains more calories per gram than sugar and almost as many as fat.

9. A carb’s best friend

Try adding something with protein to every meal and snack. Protein digests more slowly and keeps blood sugar levels more stable. It also keeps you satisfied longer between meals. Pairing a carb with a protein is an ideal snack. Some examples are: whole grain crackers + cheese; apple + peanut or almond butter; ¼ c nuts + dried fruit; 5 oz greek yogurt.

10. Don’t always skip dessert

Don’t pace back and forth by the pie table while salivating. Help yourself to a reasonable slice (width of two fingers, or one inch) and savor every bite. Try taking a walk after your meal to help regulate blood sugar.