The 4th of July is one of my favorite times of the year. I get a chance to go back “home,” where I grew up in western Michigan in a tiny resort town on Lake Michigan. I usually spend a week or two with my family, visiting friends I grew up with while I get to go to the beach, try out my paddleboards and do lots of CrossFit with my friends at Ludington CrossFit.
Another part of my vacation and holiday that I love is sharing healthier recipes with my family. I do a LOT of cooking and grilling. Last night, we had a light dinner of a fresh asparagus, mushroom and onion Frittata (adapted from this recipe), to take advantage of the fresh-picked asparagus we had on hand. Tonight, I’m doing a grilled Romaine salad with a light vinaigrette.
Fourth of July Healthier Menu Guide
With a few tweaks to your menu, you can cut the fat—and fire up the flavor—of your July 4th menu.
Appetizer calories (think creamy side dishes and sour-cream dips) can really pile up, so make sure you have a lot of fiber-rich and calorie-poor veggies with healthy dips, like black bean dip, hummus and Greek-yogurt based dips.
I’ll prepare grilled vegetables including corn on the cob, summer squash, bell peppers and eggplant are perfect appetizers. All you need to do is put in a plastic bag with a little olive oil and salt and pepper or your favorite seasonings.
For a better chip to go with your lighter dips, use our chip-buying guide.
To build a healthier burger, use the leanest ground beef possible (I often buy ground sirloin for my burgers as it’s leader) or use skinless turkey breast or Portabella mushrooms. If you use breast meat, be sure not to overcook and I find that they’re best when you add an egg and chopped onion and other veggies to them to lock in more moisture.
For dogs, refer to our guide for the hottest diggity dogs. In addition to myriad chicken or turkey based dogs, you can also find vegetarian dogs on the market that are extremely low in calories and saturated fat.
I’m having beef, turkey and salmon steaks with a soy-ginger glaze at my party because of all the special requests that my health-conscious friends will enjoy and feel good about.
For something sweet, go for in-season fruit like berries or watermelon. There’s all kinds of healthy desserts you can make when you start to incorporate sweet fruit into treats. Use star-shapped cookie cutters and cut watermelon into stars and put onto skewers with blueberries or make a fruit salad with pineapple cut into star-shapes.
It can be as simple as a fruit dessert topped with fresh mint sprigs or a Greek yogurt and fruit layered parfait or a cobbler.
Best Summertime Sips
If you want to enjoy an alcoholic beverage at a cookout, try a light or ultra-light beer. Some have as few as 55 calories now a bottle. Or, you can have an ounce of distilled spirits with a calorie-free mixer. I’ll have lots of still and sparkling waters available, light and regular beer at my party.
A great idea is to make a fruit-infused mixed drink. I have made this watermelon wine spritzer recipe and love them.