Holiday weekends are the perfect time to get together with the three Fs: Friends, Family, and, of course, Food! When you’re having a great time, with great people, it’s easy to absentmindedly nosh on all of the delicious offerings just sitting there for the taking. Ample food availability doesn’t have to derail your mindful eating habits, but at the same time, you also don’t want to be the person who brings their personal side salad in sad Tupperware and miserably nibbles away in the dark corner of the picnic table. We’re all about making better choices—not depriving ourselves of the yummy 4th of July food we’ve come to love over the years. And before you guffaw at the thought of “healthy BBQ,” give our suggestions a look. They’re easy and not that scary—think of them as 4th of July appetizers…with a twist.
Do I have to eat salad?
We’re celebrating Independence Day, here! You have the right to refuse all droopy romaine and squishy grape tomatoes. But don’t count ALL salads out! Just think a bit outside the box. A watermelon feta salad is only a handful of ingredients—watermelon, feta, red onion, and mint (if you’re fancy!)—but packs such a refreshing punch that it’s sure to be a hit at all outdoor festivities. Just chop everything up and throw it in a bowl. It doesn’t get much easier than that. No painstakingly measuring the salad dressing into proper serving sizes, no debating about whether or not you should forego the croutons.
Does macaroni salad count?
Nice try! While no nutritionist would consider this dish a proper “salad,” it’s a recognized barbecue staple. Unfortunately, this pasta-heavy side owes all of its creaminess to heaping scoops of mayonnaise. But don’t fret! Try any (or all) of these easy tips:
- Cut half of the mayonnaise your preferred recipe recommends and replace it with protein-packing Greek yogurt instead.
- Replace your usual elbow macaroni with a version made of high-protein, high-fiber chickpeas.
- Add crunch with tons of chopped veggies to add bulk without calories. Peppers, celery, and onions all work great!
- If you’re still craving some savory creaminess, hard boiled eggs make a great addition instead of spooning in more mayo. Not too terrible, right?
Speaking of macaroni…
Mac n’ Cheese may be one of the most ubiquitous side dishes for BBQs and potlucks across the country. Needless to say, pasta topped with butter and cheese is hardly any different than the pasta topped with mayonnaise we just tackled above. Luckily, the healthy substitutions are pretty similar, so we’re not even asking you to reinvent the wheel on this one! Just like for the macaroni salad, try chickpea pasta instead. And as for the cheese, it’s a simple as opting for readily-available reduced-fat versions. You don’t even need to sacrifice the velvety texture. Spreadable cheeses (like the ones that come in individually wrapped wedges) will add a fair amount of creaminess, and the light versions of these soft cheese spreads can be as little as 30 calories a wedge!
Please tell me I can still bring my 7-layer dip!
We’ll do you one better: a delicious, multi-ingredient, bean-based dip that is so nutritious, you can cram as much as you like on your tortilla chip and not feel nearly as gluttonous as you would funneling multiple layers of sour cream and melted cheese into your mouth. It’s often referred to as Cowboy Caviar and recipes vary, but the main stars tend to be black beans, black eyed peas, bell peppers, onion, tomatoes, and jalapeno. A bit of olive oil, some balsamic, and a few herbs and spices, and you have a simple, yet oddly satisfying dip that will truly surprise your taste buds. We promise you’ll be hovering over the serving bowl for “just one more” chip-dip in pure amazement that chopped vegetables could taste so good.
There you have it! Attempting healthy meals with traditional 4th of July recipes isn’t as daunting as it seems. Let us know which recipes you land on as you celebrate your safe and happy Independence Day!