How to Have a Healthier Fourth of July

July 4th Fireworks

Fourth of July is a time filled with fireworks, family, and of course, food. If anticipation of your July 4th BBQ leaves you feeling hot under the collar, don’t sweat. A BBQ doesn’t have to dish out the calories and fat.

BBQs invariably mean hot dogs, hamburgers, coleslaw, fresh corn on the cob, potato salad, and an array of cookies, brownies, and ice cream. Sound good? Well, with a little recipe magic you can whip up a lower fat, higher fiber BBQ that is satisfying, delicious, and healthy. Here’s how to make your holiday eating slightly on the lighter side.

The Main Event

The first place to start is the grocery store. There is a big nutritional difference between a regular hot dog and a lower fat, lower salt version. Applegate is a brand I love, with different varieties of hot dogs and meats, including beef, pork, chicken and turkey. I recommend springing for the organic and uncured versions of meats. Better for the environment and better for you, these wieners still make you feel like you’re standing at home plate. Of course, you can always throw a few veggie dogs on the grill for your vegetarian guests.

Same advice goes for hamburgers. Buy lean ground beef or turkey, and load up on the fixings. By adding a pile of lettuce, tomato, and some grilled red onions, you add a bit fiber to help fill you up faster. You can also try a veggie burger for variety. The Dr. Praeger’s line of faux meats is a sure home run, with classic, California, Italian and Southwest flavor options, plus a tasty gluten-free blend. Besides buying whole wheat buns.

On The Side

Trim your menu by slimming down your sides. Serve iced tea instead of sugar-laden soda, and upgrade your trans-fat, greasy-finger potato chips to an olive oil-crusted sweet potato chip, or bake your own sweet potato fries. Try a French style potato salad marinated with white wine, mustard, tarragon, and olive oil, or a Greek potato salad dressed in a low fat yogurt sauce with dill and mint. Both will save you the cholesterol and saturated fat of traditional egg and mayonnaise dressing.

Coleslaw can be a colorful, low saturated fat and fiber packed addition to any meal. Keep the coleslaw honest by dressing it with rice vinegar, toasted sesame oil, ginger, and a touch of sweetener. The Asian flavor will wow your guests with its authenticity. Baked beans are good, but can be loaded with added sugar. Go for a chick pea salad with fresh parsley, lemon juice, and garlic instead. Keeping beans on the menu means more fiber and a low fat source of protein. A colorful black beans salad with red pepper, corn, and cilantro will perk up any party table and keep you slim in your swimsuit.

What About Dessert?

Fresh fruit is a staple during summer months. Topping it with homemade whipped cream can be a delightful and healthier alternative to brownie a la mode. Focusing on fruit based desserts ensures a bit of nutrition even in dessert. Watch out for pre-made pie crusts filled with trans fats. Look out for a trans-fat free frozen pie crust that saves the time of making it from scratch, then fill with fresh berries and top with a dollop of whip cream for an update on the traditional July 4th pie.

Beyond the Food

If you're BBQ'ing outside all day, there's ample time to get in some activity. Set up some lawn games or family relay races to get everybody moving. Take food to the park for more room for a pick-up soccer or basketball game. Whatever you do to celebrate, I hope you have a healthy and happy Fourth of July! 

Heather Bauer, RD CDN
Heather Bauer, RD CDN


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