The 4th of July is the official kick off of summer, weekend packed with friends, family, laughter, memories, and plenty of food. While the weekend may start off with a bang, by Tuesday, we are struck by the hangover of unhealthy food choices and guilt. Hey friends, it doesn’t have to be this way, we just need to make a few adjustments.
But first, let’s face the facts- food is the main focus of social gatherings, it’s a way to bring people together and create memories. Think of all the great times you’ve had in your life, between holidays, birthdays, and weddings, the menu is always important. That being said, there is no need to equate guilt and stomachaches with the holiday cheer. Let’s give this 4th of July a little facelift with some healthy options.
Surviving the BBQ
Ditch the bun– The 4th of July would not be complete without a sunny barbecue. Turn on the grill and toss on some of your favorite meats. Whether you are a fan of the sausages, hamburgers, hot dogs, or chicken, the problem is not in the protein, but rather with the fixings. Look around the table, the condiments take up more room than the meal itself! Let’s start with the bun. These processed breads cause huge spikes in our insulin levels and contribute to weight gain and inflammation. The spikes in our blood sugar levels lead us straight to the lounger for an afternoon nap.
This holiday, let’s skip the “sugar” buns and the nap, and spring for some fresh lettuce wraps instead. I know this may sound un-american, but the juicy burger is delicious between two huge pieces of crispy iceberg lettuce! Before no time, you will be asking for lettuce wraps at your local burger joint.
Grill More Veggies– Let’s face it, it doesn’t take much to throw a couple of burgers and chicken breasts on the grill, but once you make room for the veggies, you are suddenly fully committed and named the seasoned grill master. Veggies are too often overlooked on the grill, but let’s change up the flavor to your spread this holiday. While a variety of vegetables are enjoyable on the grill, I highly recommend portobello mushrooms, zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, onions, eggplant, and squash. To grill the veggies, simply season with salt, pepper and olive oil and grill until tender and a little charred. A whole new world to BBQ’ing!
Sub out the slaw– A classic side dish to all cookouts is the mayo filled cole slaw that someone has generously picked up from the local deli. Tasty, yes, but the heavy mayo weighs us down. Try subbing out the creamy dressing for something light and fresh this season. Simply use a bag of cole slaw mix and add your own twist with this dressing:
3 tbs. rice wine vinegar
1 lime, squeezed
1 tbs. honey
2 tbs. tamari or soy sauce
3 tbs. sesame oil
1 tbs. fresh ginger
1 tbs. olive oil
fresh black pepper
Add some sweetness– We can’t talk about cole slaw without mentioning its partner in crime, potato salad. Comfort food to say the least, but let’s kick it up a notch by adding some color and nutrition with sweet potatoes rather than the basic white potatoes. Sweet potatoes are rich in beta carotene, giving them that vibrant orange color which is important for keeping your immune system strong. While the barbecue is going, try grilling the potatoes before tossing them in some Dijon mustard, honey, and balsamic. Not only is this dressing more flavorful than simple mayo, but it will also add some nice color to the plate. Always eat your colors.
Changing of the chip– Before the feast begins, it is common to pick on some snacks to hold you over. With the classic potato chips, you can’t just have one, and before you know it, without realizing, you have taken down half a bag to yourself. As innocent as this may seem, many of your favorite chips are laden with cheap canola and hydrogenated oils.
Between the oils and sugar, chips are addictive! This beach season, let’s upgrade the chip to other crunchy foods such as sliced carrots, cucumbers, and celery. If you are not ready to give up the chip, find brands that use quality ingredients such as coconut oil or olive oil and avoid the cheap stuff.
Add in the dip– What’s a chip without the dip? Fresh is always best, so show off those host skills by serving a freshly made salsa or guacamole. These dips are a great source of healthy fats and some colorful veggies. If time is not on your side and you are trying to stay out of the kitchen, pick up a pre-made hummus or guacamole with quality ingredients and no added sugars or preservatives.
Rather than sacrificing your health this 4th of July, celebrate your country in style. Cheers to new healthy family traditions!