5 Tips for a Healthy Independence Day Party

Contributors: Jessica Cox, RD
Outdoor Grilling with Friends - 5 Tips for a Healthy Independence Day Party


From fireworks to cookouts and all things red, white and blue, Independence Day is all about celebrating. Keep it fun, festive and healthy with these simple tips.

Fire Up the Grill

For many people, there's nothing more American than a backyard barbecue. Grilling can be a healthy cooking method that adds flavor without adding extra fat.

  • Choose a lean protein. "If you're planning to grill out, try chicken breast or fish, including salmon, mahi mahi or catfish," suggests Sarah Krieger, MPH, RDN, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Other lean options include center-cut pork chops, pork tenderloin, flank steak or lean ground beef, or turkey for burger patties.
  • Make lean meats more flavorful by marinating before grilling. A homemade marinade is easy to prepare and will have less sodium than most bottled versions.
  • Throw some vegetables on the grill. Krieger suggests zucchini, eggplant or yellow squash simply seasoned with salt and pepper.
  • Get guests involved by creating a "kebab bar," suggests Sara Haas, RDN, LDN, Academy spokesperson. Cut pieces of meat and vegetables in one-inch pieces, and allow guests to build their own "meal-on-a-stick."
  • Grill fresh fruit, such as pineapple, mango, peach and plum halves, to bring out the natural sweetness and add an unexpected side dish or dessert.

Make a Smart Side Dish Swap

  • Trade creamy mayonnaise-based salads for green salads with vinaigrette dressings.
  • Make a healthier version of your favorite potato or macaroni salad by using a light mayonnaise in place of regular mayonnaise to reduce fat and calories. Boost nutrition even more by using whole-grain macaroni or red potatoes with the skin and stirring in extra chopped fresh vegetables.
  • Serve a vegetable tray with a yogurt and fresh herb dipping sauce.

Create a Naturally Red, White and Blue Spread

"There are so many delicious fruits and vegetables in season to create a healthy patriotic table," says Krieger.

  • Serve red and blue fruits, including cherries, watermelon, raspberries, blueberries or blackberries, with a white dip made with non-fat vanilla yogurt and ground cinnamon.
  • Layer sliced tomatoes with fresh mozzarella cheese and basil leaves, and drizzle with balsamic vinegar for a caprese salad.
  • Toss cooked whole-wheat couscous or quinoa with blueberries, sliced strawberries and an orange vinaigrette.

Be Prepared with Refreshing Beverages

  • Haas suggests serving water infused with citrus for a hydrating sipper with no added sugar.
  • Serve pitchers of unsweetened flavored iced tea, such as mango, blueberry, lemon or orange, says Krieger.
  • Sparkling water is a good alternative to soda for those who prefer something carbonated.

Keep it Safe

As you celebrate, don't forget about food safety. "It can be easy to get wrapped up with friends and family, but we need to make sure we take care of them by being safe with our food," says Kristi King, MPH, RD, Academy spokesperson.

  • Don't leave perishable foods out for more than two hours. If it's warmer than 90°F outside, food will only be safe outside for one hour.
  • Keep food indoors until ready to serve, or store in a cooler filled with ice, says King.
  • Separate raw meat for grilling from produce and prepared foods to prevent cross-contamination.
  • Provide a hand washing facility or hand sanitizer for guests to use before eating.

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