It’s officially summer time and cookouts, picnics, and barbecues with family and friends are in full swing. Even though these cookouts are a recipe for fun, the food that is typically found at these gatherings often lack good nutrition. While we still want to enjoy the parties without compromising healthy habits, there are many swaps you can make to turn low-nutritional food into a delicious and nutritious meal.
Appetizers are a classic start to any meal to consume while the main courses are still being prepared and cooked.
- Instead of Chips: Try sweet potato fries or regular fries that could be easily prepared and seasoned to your liking. Potato chips are full of refined oils and extra unnecessary calories, where roasted sweet potato fries offer high doses of fiber, vitamins, minerals and slow-digesting carbs. When roasting the fries in the oven or air-fryer, choose healthier oils such as avocado oil, coconut oil, or olive oil.
- Instead of a Store-Bought Veggie Tray: Try swapping this tray out for a homemade vegetable platter. This will allow you to incorporate more variety in vegetable options such as radishes, purple cauliflower, and snap peas. Instead of pairing with ranch dressing, which has numerous additives, try a classic hummus or beet hummus dip.
Sides are a great complementary food item to pair with the main course at summer cookouts.
- Instead of Traditional Potato Salad: Try making your own so that you can incorporate either low-fat mayonnaise, avocado or coconut-oil based mayonnaise. Another option would be to take out the mayonnaise altogether and substitute it with mustard. These condiment swaps will make your potato salad be filled with healthier fats. If creating the salad homemade, you can consider adding in vegetables instead of bacon, such as green beans, olives, or peas.
- Instead of Buttery Corn on the Cob: Try swapping out regular butter for olive oil, which is a healthy fat. If you still are looking for the classic buttery taste on your corn, you can swap out regular butter for low-fat butter.
Most people cook similar meals at cookouts, including the classic hamburgers and hot dogs. Some meals may even have grilled chicken, which is a relatively healthy option because it is low-fat.
- Instead of Hot Dogs: Try making chicken kabobs. Add veggies such as peppers and onions along with chicken pieces on a stick and throw them on the grill.
- Instead of a Beef Burger: Try a grass fed beef burger or turkey burger. Grass fed beef burgers offer a diverse amount of vitamins and minerals and a healthier ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids. Conversely, making your own veggie burgers allows you to add your own ingredients, such as mushrooms, black beans, quinoa, and corn.
- Consider: Skipping the bun and just eating the meat patty which would be a healthier option. Or, you could consider swapping out a white bun that is highly processed with sugar and refined flours, for a gluten-free whole grain bun. If you choose to consume the bun, be mindful of how many carbs you have on your plate.
Since barbecues are always a time to gather and unwind, alcoholic beverages usually always come into play. Be mindful of how much you are consuming and what is mixed in each drink.
- Instead of Sugary Beverages: Try swapping out processed fruit flavored syrups for whole fruits when creating your cocktails.
- Instead of Soda: A healthier swap would be drinking iced cold water. To enhance the flavor of regular water, try infusing it with fruits such as lemon, strawberries, or kiwi.
Everyone loves dessert, but if you are looking for healthier options, a sugary dessert may not be your best option.
- Instead of a Sugary Dessert: Try swapping out any dessert for a fruit salad with a mix of your favorite fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, watermelon, and oranges. These fruits will give your body more vitamins, minerals, and fiber than any baked good you may consume.
While attending your social gatherings this summer, be mindful of the food and beverages you consume throughout the day. These simple, healthy food swaps for common picnic and barbecue foods can help you maintain a healthy diet, even on a holiday.