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Published June 27, 2009, 12:00 AM

A lighter picnic basket: Dietician modifies summer potluck staples

Summer potlucks can prove downright unlucky for your arteries. Although we love to nosh on picnic staples like fried chicken or salads slathered in mayo, these summertime favorites can be rife with saturated fats, cholesterol and sodium.

By: Tammy Swift, INFORUM

Summer potlucks can prove downright unlucky for your arteries.

Although we love to nosh on picnic staples like fried chicken or salads slathered in mayo, these summertime favorites can be rife with saturated fats, cholesterol and sodium.

We asked Abby Gold, nutrition specialist for the North Dakota State University and University of Minnesota extension services, to “make over” a few of our high-fat favorites.

“We want to encourage health for our guests, not overindulgence, to show we care about them,” Gold says.

She shares several tips to streamline your summer potluck recipes:

- When people ask what they can bring, coordinate it so that only two mayo-based salads will be served, along with a large fruit salad and a green salad filled with veggies at their peak of in-season freshness.

- Replace some of the sodium in recipes with fresh herbs.

- Use the highest-quality, freshest ingredients possible for best results.

- Train your tastebuds to focus on the fresh, natural flavors of the ingredients: earthy, whole-wheat pasta, the sweet bite of red bell peppers rather than fatty dressings or sugary syrups.

- Mayonnaise dressings can be “lightened up” by substituting some of the dressing with light sour cream.

- Think visual. Try to incorporate color – red bell peppers, carrots, red cabbage – into salads for maximum health benefits and eye appeal.

- Be conscious of portion sizes. Hosts can encourage healthier eating by providing smaller plates and serving utensils.

Regular deviled eggs are devilishly hard on the diet, averaging about 4.5 grams of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 60 calories and 110 milligrams of cholesterol per half-egg serving.

Gold cut down on the egg yolks and reduced the mayo considerably to slim down this savory summertime starter.

Not-So-Devilish Eggs

8 hardboiled egg whites, separated from yolks

6 hardboiled egg yolks, separated from whites

6 tablespoons fat-free mayonnaise

1½ teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon prepared horseradish sauce

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons fresh chopped parlsey

1 teaspoon paprika

Place the eggs in a saucepan in a single layer and fill with water to cover the eggs by 1 inch. Cover the saucepan and bring the water to a boil; remove from the heat and let the eggs stand in the hot water for 15 minutes. Drain the hot water and cool the eggs under cold running water in the sink; peel the cooled eggs.

Cut the chilled eggs in half lengthwise. Place half of the yolks into a mixing bowl and set the whites aside. Mash the yolks with a fork until smooth; stir in the mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, horseradish sauce, salt and pepper.

Spoon the yolk mixture into a heavy plastic bag; snip a corner off the bag to create a ½-inch opening. Pipe the yolks into the egg white halves. Garnish with chopped parsley and paprika.

Nutrition information per serving (½ egg): 35 calories; 2 grams (g) fat; 0.5 g saturated fat; 55 milligrams cholesterol; 160 mg sodium; 1 g carbohydrates

Fried chicken is synonymous with summertime and picnics. It’s also synonymous with cholesterol and saturated fat. One large piece can be loaded with 360 calories, 14 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 135 milligrams of cholesterol, 660 milligrams of sodium and 14 grams of carbohydrates.

Gold remedied this coronary culprit by baking the chicken rather than frying it. She also reduced the sodium in the original recipe, relying on the salt in the crispy saltine coating.

Oven ‘Fried’ Chicken

2 tablespoons all-purpose unbleached white flour, sifted

2 tablespoons instant mashed potato flakes

½ teaspoon black pepper

1 large egg

30 saltine crackers

6 (6-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, uncooked

2 teaspoons garlic powder

2 teaspoons dried rosemary

2 teaspoons dried tarragon leaves

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Lemon wedges, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and generously coat bottom of cooking sheet with olive oil.

Cut chicken breasts in half to make 12 (3-ounce) servings. Flatten each piece with a tenderizing mallet. Place crackers in a large resealable plastic bag; seal bag and crush crackers until they are coarse crumbs. Add flour, potato flakes, garlic powder, dried rosemary, tarragon and pepper to bag and mix well.

Beat egg in a shallow dish.

One by one, dredge chicken pieces in egg, then place in bag with crumb mixture, seal bag and shake to coat.

Place on pan and drizzle with 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Bake 60 minutes or until center of chicken reaches 165 degrees.

Serve with fresh lemon wedges to drizzle on top of chicken.

Nutrition information per serving (1 3-ounce piece): 180 calories; 7 g fat; 1.5 g saturated fat; 65 mg cholesterol; 135 mg sodium; 8 g carbohydrates

The full-fat version of this decadent salad is a cardiologist’s nightmare. Packed with mayo, dressing and fried pork bacon, a single serving contains 390 calories, 21 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 20 milligrams of cholesterol, 43 grams of carbohydrates, 580 milligrams of sodium, 28 grams of sugar and 43 grams of total carbs.

Gold dialed down the calories and fat by opting for much leaner turkey bacon and replacing some of the mayo-based dressing with olive oil. She also replaced the sunflower seeds with heart-healthy pecans.

Broccoli-Bacon Salad

Zc cup fresh celery, diced

Zc cup scallions, tops and bulbs, chopped

40 red seedless grapes, halved

1 large bunch of fresh broccoli

½ cup golden seedless raisins, cooked in hot water to soften (optional)

4 slices turkey bacon, cooked and chopped*

Zc cup unsalted, chopped pecans

Dressing: (See Note)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

3 tablespoons mayonnaise

In small bowl, whisk together vinegar, mayonnaise and olive oil.

In large bowl, combine first five salad ingredients. Chill for at least two hours. Fold in bacon and pecans right before serving.

*Note: This salad emphasizes the simple, fresh flavors of the fruit, veggies and nuts over the dressing. If you prefer a moister salad, try this still-light option: ¼ cup of mayonnaise, ¼ cup of light sour cream, 2 tablespoons of skim milk and a packet or two of low-calorie sweetener such as Splenda or the stevia-based Truvia. (Be aware this will bump up the fat content listed below.)

*Nutrition information per ½-cup serving (with turkey bacon): 240 calories; 13 g fat; 2 g saturated fat; 10 mg cholesterol; 250 mg sodium; 26 g carbohydrates.

Nutrition information per ½-cup serving (with pork bacon): 250 calories; 14 g fat; 2 g saturated fat; 10 mg cholesterol; 220 mg sodium; 26 g carbohydrates.

Classic macaroni salad is a staple at Midwestern potlucks and picnics. Unfortunately, it’s only a “salad” in the loosest sense of the word. A typical serving contains 290 calories, 9 grams of fat, 1.5 grams saturated fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 580 milligrams of sodium and 50 grams of total carbohydrates.

Gold amped up the nutritional value of this salad by replacing regular macaroni with its whole-wheat cousin and downsizing the gobs of mayo dressing.

Colorful Macaroni Salad

4½ cups whole wheat elbow macaroni, uncooked

¼ cup mayonnaise

½ cup light sour cream

Z,, cup white wine vinegar

4 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

¼ cup red onions, chopped

2 stalks fresh celery, chopped

1 sweet red bell pepper, chopped, seeds and ribs removed

1 sweet green bell pepper, chopped, seeds and ribs removed

1 cup grated fresh carrots

1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the macaroni, and cook according to package instructions until tender. Rinse under cold water and drain.

2. In a large bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, light sour cream, white wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper. Stir in the onion, celery, peppers, carrots and rinsed, drained macaroni. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving, but preferably overnight. Makes 13 1-cup servings.

Nutrition information per 1-cup serving: 170 calories; 3 g fat; 1 g saturated fat; 5 mg cholesterol; 350 mg sodium; 32 g carbohydrates.

Most rhubarb desserts are suffocated in sugar to offset the plant’s natural pucker power. One portion of this Cherry Rhubarb Crisp contained 350 calories, 11 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat and 60 grams of total carbohydrates. That’s not even counting the ice cream on top.

Gold cut the sugar and butter considerably to create a light, tart dessert that tastes just right with a scoop of vanilla-bean ice cream. (If you prefer a sweeter dessert, add a few teaspoons more of sugar or a couple of packets of low-calorie, baking-stable sweetener to the rhubarb.)

Slimmed-Down Cherry-Rhubarb Crisp

4½ cups fresh rhubarb, diced

2 cups sweet frozen cherries, thawed

2 tablespoons all-purpose white unbleached flour

Zc cup granulated sugar

1 cup rolled, old-fashioned oats

¼ cup unsalted butter

Zc cup brown sugar, packed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a 2-quart baking dish. Layer rhubarb and cherries on the bottom.

In small bowl, combine granulated sugar and flour. Add to fruit and toss.

To make topping, combine oats and brown sugar. With two knives or a pastry blender, cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over fruit.

Bake 55 minutes.

Nutrition information per serving (1/12 of crisp): 150 calories; 4.5 g fat; 2.5 g saturated fat; 10 mg cholesterol; 0 mg sodium; 27 g carbohydrates.

Many fruit salads are slathered in whipped topping, pudding or marshmallow crème.

Gold adapted this fruit salad to emphasize its fresh, pure flavors – fruit, mint, a hint of sweetness – rather than heavy dressings. It can be served as a side dish or a dessert.

Minted Fruit Salad

2 medium bananas, sliced

1 cup Thompson seedless grapes

1 small apple, cored and sliced

1 large pear, cored and sliced

1 cup canned peach slices, with light syrup or juice

1/2 cup fresh peppermint

2 tablespoons sugar

¼ cup water

Put peppermint, sugar and water in blender and grind. Toss fruit with mint dressing.

Nutrition information per serving (1/8 of salad): 90 calories; 0 grams fat; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 0 milligrams sodium; 23 grams carbohydrates.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tammy Swift at (701) 241-5525