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Weekend Grilling + Diet Soda News

Posted Jul 07 2011 9:03am


There is something about warm weather that makes me want to grill.  Or more specifically, makes me want to prepare foods that my husband will grill.  This past weekend was a two-fold excuse to grill because it was warm AND it was a long 4th of July holiday weekend. 


After perusing Bon Appétit’s “Grilling Issue” I found a winner: “ Yogurt-Marinated Grilled Chicken ,” a marinade filled with yogurt, cilantro, onions, garlic, olive oil, lime juice, and garam masala. 


I like to get creative in the kitchen, especially when it comes to my tools.  While I swoon over kitchen gadgets the reality is you can do most (although I wonder how I lived without my food processor) anything with everyday house items.


Exhibit A: Behold my meat tenderizing mallet that work wonders pounding my chicken breasts to 1/2 inch thickness:




Ingredients were prepped and thrown into the food processor.


chicken sauce   garam masala


And out came the most vibrant green, fragrant marinade that I wanted to eat with a spoon.  But I held back and added the marinade to my chicken in a resalable plastic bag and let it marinate for 3 hours in my fridge alongside another bag of Wild Alaskan Salmon marinating in pineapple juice, orange juice, olive oil and smoked paprika.


We grilled in aluminum foil to preserve the moist, juicy flavors.




Fresh asparagus from our CSA was also grilled with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  We also grilled some fresh pineapple rings to chop and serve over the salmon.




After about 30 minutes we had a tough choice to make: what should we eat first?  We purposely made more than we needed so we could enjoy leftovers the following day.


Naturally I had a little taste of everything.


grilled chicken


But saved most of the chicken and focused on the salmon.


Grilled Salmon


Nutrition News


Last week two new studies were presented at the American Diabetes Association Sessions suggesting that artificial sweeteners may actually be linked to metabolic changes and weight gain. 


Study #1


  • The Background: Study #1 examined elderly Mexican and European Americans to see if individuals who drink diet soda have larger waist circumferences than those who do not.  The researchers adjusted for diabetes status, leisure time activity, location, age, smoking, sex, ethnicity and years of education.  This means that essentially there should be no differences between groups for these variables.  Height, weight and waist circumference were measured at the beginning of the study and three more times over the next ten years.


  • The Conclusion: Diet soda drinkers had a 70% greater increase in waist circumference as compared to those who did not drink diet soda.  Further, those who drank two or more diet sodas per day had increases in waist circumference that were 500% greater than non-diet soda drinkers.


Study #2


  • The Background: Study #2 looked at the relationship between intake of aspartame (a popular artificial sweetener found in most diet sodas) and fasting glucose and insulin levels.  This study was conducted on two groups of mice: group 1 was given chow with aspartame and corn oil (yum!) and group 2 was given chow with only corn oil.  The animals followed this diet for three months.


  • The Conclusion: The aspartame eating mice had higher fasting blood sugar (glucose) levels as compared to the non-aspartame mice after three months.  Insulin levels remained the same or any differences were non-significant.


My Thoughts:


  • I’m not a fan of artificial sweeteners.  I realize it is nice for people to have options when sugar is not a healthy choice (ie: diabetes) but I support real food over chemicals any day.  There is little science-based evidence indicating that artificial sweeteners such as aspartame are bad for you but again, my gut is to go with real food.  I previously wrote a post on the history of artificial sweeteners that you can find here .  That being said I will admit to a weakness for an occasional diet coke and crushed ice specifically at Mexican food restaurants. 


  • There are a lot of gaps in these studies (ie: we don’t know what other foods each group of diet versus non-soda drinkers were eating as it does not appear that researchers were adjusting for these variables; does aspartame act the same way in our body as in mice; were the mice eating much higher concentrations than we would normally eat), but they are intriguing.  Waist circumference is worth paying attention to as more and more research tells us that the extra weight around our middle is much more dangerous to our health than fat dispersed throughout the rest of the body.  And diabetes is one of the great health travesties of our time so any research that helps us understand possible contributing factors is a good thing.


  • Further research is needed on the subject.  So what to do in the meantime if we don’t know the true risks to artificial sweeteners: eat real food.  This means vegetables, fruits, lean meats, whole grains with the occasional treat.  It’s really that simple.
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