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For Immediate Release: September 14, 2009

NW: Questions about tailgating choices, homemade hummus, garlic and medications

Week of October 5, 2009
Contact: Alice Bender, (202) 328-7744

Nutrition Wise
Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN
American Institute for Cancer Research


Q: What do you suggest for healthy choices when tailgating?

A: Unfortunately, tailgate parties often encourage the kind of eating that has little to do with good health. Instead of providing plenty of plant foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans, these parties include foods so concentrated in calories that weight control becomes more challenging. If you grill, try chicken and include vegetable kebabs, a delicious way to add more vegetables to a meal. If you like make-ahead dishes, chili, sloppy joes, lasagne, and enchilada casserole can all be lean and healthy when prepared with lots of vegetables and beans. Try them with lean ground turkey if you don’t want them completely vegetarian, and if the dish includes cheese, limit the amount and use reduced-fat options. Or you can stir-fry some vegetables, with or without chicken, in advance and let tailgaters create their own fajitas by rolling them up in whole-wheat tortillas. If your tailgate parties tend toward sandwiches and subs, make them lean with turkey or a little lean roast beef and load them with vegetables. Then cut them up into small sections to make portion control easier for your guests. Since we often nosh through more chips than we realize, provide a range of vegetables instead; add some pita bread wedges and hummus, or pretzels and mustard for you and your guests to enjoy. Grapes, pineapple and melon chunks on skewers or toothpicks make a healthy way to finish off the tailgate with a sweet note. Since drinks can add so many unwanted calories, make sure to offer one or more calorie-free selections, like plain or sparkling water and unsweetened or lightly sweetened ice tea (or hot chai-flavored tea when the weather gets cool).

Q. Is homemade hummus dip much healthier than the pre-made versions available in the grocery store?

A. Hummus, whether commercial or homemade, can be a great choice as a dip for vegetables, a filling in sandwiches and in a variety of Middle Eastern-type mixed dishes. Commercial and homemade versions vary somewhat in the proportions of their ingredients, but a two-tablespoon serving of either typically contains 45 to 60 calories depending on amount of added fats and whether the dip contains lower-calorie ingredients like red pepper or other vegetables. Two tablespoons also usually contain two to three grams of fat from healthy sources including olive oil and tahini (sesame seed paste), one to three grams of protein (depending on the amount of beans) and up to 3 grams of dietary fiber. Making hummus at home allows you to keep sodium around 100 milligrams (mg) by using beans canned with no added salt or cooked from dried beans; commercial varieties may be nearly that low or contain about twice that amount. Overall, both homemade and commercial hummus are nutritionally sound choices. If you go the commercial route, remember that small differences between brands become more significant as your portion size increases, so comparing nutrition information on labels is worthwhile.

Q: Is it true that garlic can interact with medications?

A: Enjoying typical amounts of cooked or raw garlic may provide health benefits and is unlikely to cause problems for most people. However, garlic in large daily doses – garlic supplements - can interfere with some medications. Garlic and garlic extracts can also interact with blood thinner medication, reducing blood’s clotting ability too much. Make sure you tell your healthcare provider and pharmacist if you use garlic supplements or eat large amounts of garlic daily so you can check that this won’t interfere with any medications you take. Avoid garlic supplements and be cautious about dietary garlic for a week before surgery, since these compounds have potential to interfere with anesthesia and increase risk of bleeding problems.


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