Backyard barbeques and impressive firework displays define America’s favorite summertime celebration. Now with our ever-growing waistline and an ongoing push to try to get us all to eat a little bit better, it seems fitting to offer a few tips for a healthier Fourth. Here are five ways to spice up your barbeque without sacrificing taste or good times.
1. Put a little color in it. The new MyPlate food guidelines recommend that the American plate be at least half filled with fruits and vegetables. This is fun and easy to do with a summertime barbeque when some of the best fruits and vegetables are in season. Light up your grill with a vegetable skewer to include a colorful array of veggies like peppers (red, green, orange, and yellow), zucchini, eggplant, cherry tomatoes, and onions. Meanwhile grill some corn on the cob and offer up some fresh cut watermelon and your guests are pretty close to their goal fruit and vegetable consumption for the day.
2. Serve up something lean. Lean meat and meat-free entrée options can taste just as good as the full-fat version without a ton of calories and artery-clogging saturated fats. Opt for 90%+ lean meat for your burgers and substitute chicken sausage for Italian sausage. Offer veggie burgers as an option and your guests can’t go wrong.
3. Grill healthy. While grilled foods are among the healthiest types of foods to eat, the benefits can be outweighed with the harmful polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) that form when fat from meat drips on a hot coal and heterocyclic amines (HCAs) that form when meat undergo high-temperature cooking. These compounds may potentially contribute to the development of cancer. The good news is that grilled fruits and veggies don’t seem to form these compounds. And, if you cook lean meats, you’ve got a lot less fat dripping on the coal and decreased formation of these harmful compounds. You can further reduce exposure to PAHs and HCAs by marinating meats in lemon juice, vinegar, and spices prior to grilling.
4. Keep presentation and positioning in mind. Beautifully arrange the healthy stuff like the veggie trays and summer fruit bowl and place nearby the hungry crowd to encourage consumption. Place the well-intentioned but perhaps not so healthy or appealing dishes in a less visible or less frequented location of your home or party venue.
5. Get moving. Include games and physical activities like pick-up basketball, volleyball, swimming, or Bags/Cornhole Bean Bag Game/Baggo depending on the space and equipment available to keep guests having fun, as well as to keep them occupied with something active rather than continuously grazing. Plus, they can burn some serious calories in the process, depending on the activity and its intensity.
Ultimately, the Fourth of July is a much-anticipated celebration that can easily fit with your plans for a healthy and active summer.
Looking for a healthy dish to serve up at your barbeque, or to bring to someone else’s party? Try one of these tasty options.
Natalie Digate MuthContributor
Natalie Digate Muth, MD, MPH, RD, FAAP is the Senior Advisor for Healthcare Solutions for the American Council on Exercise, a board-certified pediatrician and Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, a Diplomat of the American Board of Obesity Medicine, registered dietitian and board-certified specialist in sports dietetics, and ACE Certified Health Coach. She is the author of "Eat Your Vegetables and Other Mistakes Parents Make: Redefining How to Raise Healthy Eaters" and the textbook "Sports Nutrition for Health Professionals." She has been ACE certified since 1998.
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