By, Amanda Wright
Texans do everything BIG and cookouts are no exception, filled with BBQ, hamburgers, creamy potato salad, adult beverages and desserts galore. (My mouth is water just thinking about it!) Traditional recipes for these staples can wreak havoc on your diet and waistline, undoing weeks of hard work in one day. But you can still enjoy your Fourth of July cookout while making healthy food choices that are fun and flavorful, simply follow these helpful tips and try some of these delicious recipes:
Choose a Lean Protein – Instead of choosing a hamburger or bratwurst packed with fat, opt for something low in fat and high in protein.
- Chicken on the grill can be made in a variety of ways, with barbeque sauce, marinated in chipotle seasoning or rubbed in Cajun seasoning. Cooking chicken with the skin on can prevent it from drying out but remember to remove it before eating.
- Grilled sirloin kabobs packed with fresh vegetables will satisfy your carnivore craving while still providing high nutritional value. One of my favorite combinations is sirloin with whole cherry tomatoes, purple onions and bell peppers, all marinated together in a vinaigrette.
- Veggie burgers have come a long way in recent years but another great alternative to a traditional hamburger is a salmon patty burger. There are lots of great recipes out there, just keep in mind fresh salmon is much healthier than canned and using vegetables and herbs for binders are better than breadcrumbs.
Lighten up the Salads – A cookout just would not be the same without potato salad, coleslaw, and pasta salad, small changes to these sides can make a big difference in calories and fat.
- As you may know potato salad, coleslaw and most pasta salad recipes call for full-flavored mayonnaise. Swapping out the full-flavored mayo for a low-fat version, like Miracle Whip, will cut the calories and fat in half!
- Greek yogurt can be substituted in many recipes including salad dressings and coleslaw. You can even add a packet of ranch dressing to some greek yogurt instead of sour cream for a healthy dip full of protein.
- Choose healthier versions of ingredients like red potatoes with the skin still on versus russet or whole grain pasta for those salads.
Add a Healthy Side Dish – You have to be careful when choosing your side dishes, a bowl of green beans may sound healthy but a lot of southern recipes calls for them to be cooked down with bacon and still add butter! Don’t be afraid to ask your hostess how things were prepared or what ingredients might be hiding in the dish.
- In the Texas heat, fresh fruit is always a good idea! You can toss strawberries, melon, grapes, and pineapples together in a bowl or for a fun presentation try fruit kabobs!
- Make a beautiful array of grilled vegetables and serve warm or at room temperature.
- Try corn on the cob with grated parmesan instead of butter, it’ll add a little saltiness without the extra fat and calories.
- Guacamole is a great source of healthy fat, try serving it with baked tortilla chips next time.
Light Drink Options – If you have ever tried to lose weight, I’m sure you’ve been told to avoid alcoholic drinks all together. As delicious as they may be, a margarita can pack more calories than a cheeseburger!
- The best advice to stay on track with your diet is to avoid alcohol all together so try a sparkling water with fresh fruit juice. You’ll still feel like you’re drinking a fresh cocktail.
- If you are committed to having a drink, try a white wine or vodka with a fresh fruit mixer. Try mixing your own sangria combination with red or white wine and your favorite fresh fruit and a splash of juice!
Cookouts should be enjoyed in the company of family and friends, and not create a stressful environment that compromises your health goals. Enjoy trying the variety of substitutions provided, and don’t be afraid to make healthier changes to your family favorite recipes!
Photo credit: Richard Topalovich, Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/richiepooh/2634930267