By Gretchen Powell
Independence Day is quickly descending upon us, bringing with it a tidal wave of fireworks, quality time with friends and family, and, of course, lots of cookouts. My family loves busting out the grill on the Fourth of July and partaking in a hearty meal of traditional cookout foods: burgers, dogs, potato salad, roasted corn – the whole shebang!
Since my tastes have shifted (or, at least, since I’m trying to shift them) into craving somewhat healthier things, however, I’ve made it my mission this year to maintain all the traditional Fourth of July cookout feelgoodery … just with hopefully less sluggishness and guilt following on the fifth.
Thankfully, grilling is already a fantastic way to cook food that is both relatively lean and full of flavor. It’s just about choosing better foods to toss onto the grill in the first place! So instead of traditional hot dogs and hamburgers this year, why not try some of the following easy and healthy grill ideas instead?
Grilled salmon: Marinate salmon (or another hearty fish) in a mixture of soy sauce and brown sugar for at least 20 minutes, then toss on the grill.
Barbecue chicken: Marinate chicken breasts in barbecue sauce (try to find one that doesn’t have boatloads of sugar in it!) and grill, basting on additional barbecue sauce throughout the cooking process.
Kabobs: Skewer up cuts of seasoned chicken or pork with sliced onion, bell pepper, and mushroom in between each piece. My favorite tip is to also add pieces of pineapple for an extra zing of flavor and sweetness!
And, of course, we can’t forget all those delicious sides we tend to enjoy with grilled eats that pump up our calorie counts. Yep, I’m talking bags of chips, bowls of macaroni salad, and other such calorie-laden cookout staples. So let us attempt to alleviate that post-cookout bellyache by preparing some sides on the lighter side. Here are some ideas:
Potato salad: Mix with a mustard vinaigrette dressing (mustard, lemon juice, honey, olive oil, salt, and pepper) instead of dousing in mayo, and include some crunchy chopped veggies like celery and red bell pepper!
Red, White, and Blue salad: Romaine or baby spinach with sliced strawberries, blueberries, and some crumbled goat cheese. Top with a drizzle of your favorite vinaigrette!
Brussels sprouts chips: If you simply must have something crispy and crunchy to munch on, at least make your chips out of veggies! Chop the ends of off each Brussels sprout to reveal the individual leaves, then toss in olive oil, salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lemon and bake in a 325 degree oven for 15 – 20 minutes. You won’t believe how crispy and delicious each little leaf gets! You can easily do this with kale or spinach leaves as well.
You know I’d never forget to mention dessert, but luckily a big ol’ bowl of watermelon is already a pretty common cookout staple, and that’s exactly what I would recommend! Watermelon is a great fruit choice, since it’s full water count and refreshing nature should help combat the blistering heat!
Armed with these healthy cookout options, hopefully we can all enjoy an especially happy – and healthy – Fourth of July this year. Happy Independence Day!