Three Tips for a Healthy Summer Cookout

From Memorial Day to Labor Day, one of my favorite activities is to gather a group of friends or family to enjoy a meal together outside. Keep your summer cookout or picnic fun, festive and healthy with these simple tips.

Make a smart choice with side dishes

When choosing a side dish, go for one that includes a serving of vegetables. Instead of serving chips with burgers, whip up a simple fresh green salad with a vinaigrette dressing or try this healthier version of potato salad with green beans and carrots, all tossed in balsamic vinegar. For creamy salads, replace the mayonnaise with nonfat yogurt. By substituting yogurt and decreasing the amount of mayonnaise, you’ll not only decrease fat and calories, but you will increase healthy nutrients, including protein and bone-building calcium, potassium and magnesium. This fresh and crunchy Layered Broccoli Salad would also be a colorful and nutritious addition to any summer spread.

Choose fruit for a sweet treat

Summer is the perfect time to incorporate seasonal, naturally sweet fresh fruits in place of traditional desserts. Adding fruit to your menu will provide a dose of vitamins, minerals and fiber while contributing fewer calories and saturated fat than more traditional desserts, like cakes and cookies. Try grilling fresh fruit, like pineapple and peach and plum halves, to bring out the natural sweetness, and top with yogurt or ice cream. For a no-cook option, layer your favorite chopped fruit with nonfat Greek yogurt to create parfaits that are a nutrient-packed finisher.

Keep it safe

As you celebrate, don’t forget to make food safety a priority. Be sure to keep any dishes featuring dairy or mayonnaise cold in an insulated cooler with plenty of ice, and don’t leave them sitting out for more than about an hour.

Jessica Cox, RDJessica Cox is a Wellness Dietitian at St. Vincent’s One Nineteen Health and Wellness in Birmingham, Alabama. Her passion is teaching people to enjoy healthy and delicious food for a happy life.