With the Fourth of July right around the corner, Americans are stocking up on fireworks, gearing up for patriotic Independence Day parades, and breaking out their backyard grills for one of the greatest of all American pastimes: the cookout.
What’s better than relaxing outdoors with friends and family, watching the kids play, and grilling up a tasty meal? But somewhere between the burgers and hot dogs, chips and dips, beer and margaritas, it’s easy to rack up more than your fair share of daily calories in one afternoon without even realizing it.
The good news is, with just a few substitutions, it’s easy to serve lighter, healthier versions of all-American fare your whole family will love! Upgrade your menu this year with these five healthy July 4th cookout ideas:
- Turkey – it’s not just for Thanksgiving
Turkey is a simple and healthy way to lighten up a burger without giving up this traditional family favorite. You can find varying percentages of lean ground turkey, and there are numerous ways to add flavor with seasonings and veggies without overloading on calories and fat.
Try this grilled turkey burger recipe with onions and peppers for a Southwestern flare, or sneak a little spinach into your family’s diet with spinach-feta turkey burgers. This Food & Wine recipe even includes a zesty pickle sauce topping for an extra zing.
- Grill your veggies
Grilled vegetables are perhaps the most underrated options for summertime cookouts, and are so much better for you than staples like potato chips or potato salad (I’m noticing a trend, here).
For a little bit of everything for everyone, try these veggie skewers. The classic grilled corn on the cob is always a hit with kids—even babies! And who could pass up simple-yet-delicious grilled zucchini?
Miss having a little potato on your plate? Sub grilled sweet potatoes for french fries or chips. If you’re feeling especially patriotic, try your hand at this Pinterest-worthy American flag veggie tray.
- Suns out, buns out
Not all breads are created equal, so make sure you choose healthy whole grain buns. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, why not opt for alternative bun ideas like sandwiching that turkey burger between tomatoes, lettuce or even grilled pineapple? A lettuce wrap even works for hot dogs!
- Fun fruit desserts
A celebration just isn’t complete without something sweet, so serve fresh seasonal fruit to satisfy your craving. These rainbow fruit kebabs are crowd-pleasers great for on-the-go eating. For July 4th-themed desserts, try a patriotic red, white and blue fruit salad or gluten-free yogurt granola cups. And let’s not forget the most all-American dessert of all: apple pie! This light version cuts the calories in half while doubling the nutritional value.
- Guiltless cocktails and mocktails
What is a summertime cookout without a refreshing beverage in hand? Health.com features four light cocktail ideas for the Fourth of July, and this special berry sangria is super festive without all the added sugar. For the young ones and non-drinkers out there, these healthy mocktail recipes from PopSugar are sure to please.
Here’s wishing you and your loved ones a healthy, happy and delicious Independence Day!