Healthy Options for Your July 4th Celebration

One of the mainstays of our all-American, July 4th celebrations is the picnic or barbecue with family and friends. Like similar holiday celebrations, it might be difficult to stay on track when it comes to eating healthy.
Instead of surrendering to recipes full of extra calories and fat, use these tips to provide healthier options for your Independence Day celebration!

Go With Your Gut
Favorite recipes for your July 4th celebration may be difficult to change, especially as they’ve been passed down through families. However, this is a wonderful opportunity to experiment with old favorites. Instead of following recipes to the letter, focus instead on flavor. If the pasta salad recipe calls for green peppers but these aren’t your favorite, substitute vegetables that you’ll actually enjoy in the final dish. Instead of using full-fat mayonnaise, try for a similar texture and less fat and calories using a nonfat plain yogurt, including Greek-style yogurt, which offers a slightly different but rich flavor.

Don’t forget to add some much-needed green into these festive dishes of red, white and blue for your July 4th Celebration. Jazz up a bowl of spinach leaves or cut green leaf lettuce with slices of strawberries and a handful or two of blueberries, along with a flavorful shredded parmesan or asiago cheese. Pair this patriotic salad with a strawberry vinaigrette that will dazzle your family and friends.

Keep It Lean
Eating meat fresh from the grill is as American as apple pie, especially for your traditional July 4th celebration. Keep the meat choices healthier by choosing to use lean cuts of meat. Instead of pre-made hamburger patties, use ground beef that is 90% or 93% lean. Make your own works of hamburger art by adding spinach, mushrooms, and cheese before forming patties and cooking them up on the grill. Ground turkey is a wonderful alternative to lean ground beef, as well as ground chicken.

This July 4th barbecue doesn’t have to be limited to hamburgers. Grill up chicken pieces, removing the skin before cooking, or lean cuts of beef. Offer your guests a variety of barbecue sauces for dipping, or combine chunks of meat with vegetables or fruit on skewers for additional flavors and textures.

The Spice Advantage
Spices aren’t just about adding salt and pepper. There are many kinds of herbs and spices available that can punch up the flavor of any dish without added fat or calories. Some of these options include:

• Parsley
• Chives
• Dill
• Cilantro
• Rosemary
• Nutmeg
• Cinnamon
• Chili Powder
• Lemon peel

Experiment with using these herbs and spices in your favorite recipes for your July 4th celebration, choosing your favorite flavor combinations. For example, fresh sprigs of cilantro can give a refreshing zing to a pasta salad that contains halved cherry tomatoes, cubes of fresh mozzarella, and spinach.

There are many other useful options that are probably already in the kitchen. Try lemon juice and nonfat condiments like Dijon mustard to add flavor to your favorite dishes. These flavor explosions will provide extra fun for your July 4th celebration with family and friends!

About the Author

Kelly Wilson is a busy mom and freelance writer. Contact Dr. Todd Beck, a dentist in Portland, Oregon for more information about how eating healthy can keep your smile strong and white.

*Image: manostphoto / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.*