Food for Thought: Memorial Day

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I love this time of year! Memorial Day weekend is always the first beckoning of pool parties and grilling out. With the holiday (and really all holidays), can come a spread of foods, from sugary drinks and cupcakes to cheese and cracker spreads. That got me thinking – what about the other items that we’re eating that we think are our “safe meals” but can be packing on the pounds just as quickly as your favorite dessert?

This morning, I hit the grocery store like I do before the start of all my work weeks with the hope to incorporate some fun new foods to slap on the grill. My husband and I cut out red meat and pork from about 99% of our diet with the random cheat day here and there – so picking out meat is usually pretty simple – turkey, chicken, salmon, cod, shrimp. I decided to venture over to the sausage section to see if there was anything worth checking out that we can have without sacrificing our diets.

The first section was the traditional pork mixture sausages. Knowing my history with elevated cholesterol, I kept walking until I reached the chicken sausages. I’ve had them in the past and have tried a few good brands from Trader Joes before I really started paying attention to my macros. After examining a few flavor and brand options – feta cheese and basil, sweet italian, etc. I settled on Amylu’s Italian Chicken Sausage with peppers and onions. I figured that was the closest taste to a normal “italian sausage” that I would get – plus the ingredient list on the back was great – onions, green peppers, natural casing. I compared a few more labels (I always use sodium as a tie breaker) and was happy with my choice.

For the heck of it, I decided to pick up a similar flavor in the traditional pork sausage and compare the nutritional breakdowns and there was a HUGE difference (diagram below):

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The sausages I ended up going with broke down to 100 calories per link, 5 grams of fat, 2 grams of carbs, 13 grams of protein and 450 mg of sodium (although this would have been nice to be lower and a good example of why these are still a rarity in my home). To the left is Niman Ranch’s Spicy Italian Sausages coming in at 20 grams of fat per link, 190 calories, 1 gram of carbs, 13 grams of protein and a whopping 800 mg of sodium. As you can see – this option is almost double in calories and sodium alone with fat toping in at 4X the amount. This was a natural brand as well – with ingredients being simple with pork, water, sea salts, celery, parsley, etc. I like finding examples like this because although the packaging says “natural” that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily good for you. With just one EASY switch in your kitchen, you  can be cutting out unnecessary fat and sodium intake. For the average guy – they are going to have two of these – that’s almost your whole sodium intake for the day in just one meal alone. Even if you start off trying just one substitute a week – you will start to notice a difference in your waist line, but more importantly your inner health.

After grilling up the chicken sausages – we went ahead and did the taste test – I would give them a 4/5 – spicy, moist and great flavoring. The casing was a little tough – but overall, a great pick and an awesome substitute.

I hope everyone had a great Memorial Day and are putting some of these alternatives in to action!