The Fourth of July is an American holiday dedicated to recognizing our independence both as a nation and a people. Celebrations honoring this day are typically spent amongst family and friends, surrounded by good food at picnics, cook-outs or other personal celebrations. While we are a nation of freedom, we are also one where more than one-third of our population is classified as obese — having a BMI (body mass index) greater than 30 (normal BMI classified as being between 18 to 25).
With this grim statistic in mind, I would urge all of us to consider ways to make this Fourth of July celebration not only one of joy but also of health by keeping in mind ways to make more nutritious choices when we celebrate.
Healthy Food Tips for Fourth of July
Here are some ways to make this year’s celebration both tasty and healthy:
Substitute chicken breast for hot dogs
Instead of hot dogs, which contain 130 calories and 14 grams of fat in just one dog, (not to mention sodium nitrate, which is known to increase colorectal cancer risk), try BBQ chicken instead. Three ounces of skinless chicken breast not only provides ample protein at 21 grams per serving but also has more than ¾ less fat than a hot dog (without the bun and toppings) at 3 grams of fat.
For added flavor, try this homemade seasoning (courtesy of Cooking Light magazine) which adds flavor without the fat and calories.
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
Choose grilled veggies instead of potato salad
Instead of potato salad, which is loaded with fat and calories from the mayonnaise and eggs, try grilled vegetables instead.
- Cut up potatoes, carrots, onions and summer squash into large chunks
- Toss with olive oil, garlic and rosemary, and place on the grill in a covered, foil-lined pan
- Cook for 20 minutes
Try healthier burger alternatives
Instead of burgers made with 80 percent lean / 20 percent fat ground beef, try burgers made with 3 ounces of 90 percent lean / 10 percent fat ground beef. The change in meat to one with the higher meat and lower fat percentage will decrease the total fat and calorie intake.
To add bulk to your burgers without sacrificing flavor or nutrition, consider these two options:
- Mix in 1-2 cups of finely chopped mushrooms (use a food processer)
- Or mix one 15-ounce can of low sodium black beans mashed in with one pound of the ground beef and form into patties. Not only will this decrease the total calorie and fat content, it will increase the fiber content and your family will not be able to taste the difference.
Replace pie with a yogurt parfait
Lastly, what is a Fourth of July celebration without dessert? Instead of diving into a thick slice of cake or pie, try a parfait made with Greek yogurt and colorful berries. You can feel both healthy and patriotic with this red, white and blue dessert that not only saves you calories and fat, but provides disease-fighting antioxidants and phytochemicals.
Here’s how you can make your own parfait at home:
- Layer the bottom of a glass bowl with a mix of raspberries and strawberries
- Then add a layer of plain Greek yogurt mixed with 1-2 tablespoons of honey for added sweetness
- Top with a layer of blueberries
To all who celebrate this year, whether by yourselves or with many, make it a safe, fun and healthy holiday!