Hosting a Healthy Cookout

Heather Reese Health Guide
  • Summer is officially here and with it comes picnics, cookouts and parties. And while those events are full of fun, they are also full of high calorie, high fat foods like greasy burgers, fried chicken, potato salad and coleslaw.


    These foods may be traditional and tasty, but they aren’t bathing suit friendly.  Fortunately, with some simple recipe substitutions and small changes to your menu you can host a cookout with food that is traditional, tasty and healthy.


    I don’t think it can officially be called a cookout if there aren’t burgers on the grill!  But it’s not written in stone that they have to be beef burgers. Consider substituting ground turkey for ground beef.  Turkey burgers have the same cookout feel and taste of beef burgers but with less fat. Still not sure your guests will go for turkey burgers?  Try adding diced onion, herbs and spices before grilling and then serve with lettuce and tomato. I doubt your guests will know the difference.  Don’t forget the whole grain bun for added flavor and fiber. You may find that you have a new summer staple!

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    It’s not often that I go to a summer cookout and don’t see fried chicken on the buffet.  Fried chicken is full of added fat and calories.  This year, consider serving grilled chicken instead.  If you just can’t bear to abandon the crunchy coating of fried chicken, try using whole grain bread crumbs and bake the chicken in the oven.  This way you still have the crunchy fried chicken feel without the added calories and fat.


    Potato and pasta salads along with coleslaw are traditional high fat summer fare that can easily be prepared in a healthier way.  Consider using low fat mayonnaise, sour cream or yogurt instead of full-fat mayonnaise.  This gives you the creamy feel of a mayonnaise-based salad without all the fat.  Better yet, prepare your potato or pasta salad with healthy olive oil instead of mayonnaise this year.  Olive oil is rich in healthy monounsaturated fats and you don’t have to worry about the salad spoiling in the summer heat.  For coleslaw, consider using canola oil and vinegar in place of mayonnaise for a light and healthy alternative.


    Don’t forget the dessert!  Instead of cakes, cookies and brownies try serving fresh fruit and berries or angel food cake for dessert.  There are a lot of ways to serve fruit for dessert.  In fact, you don’t have to turn the grill off when the burgers are done.  You can put many kinds of fruit right on the grill, especially stone fruits like peaches, plums and nectarines. Other kinds of fruit that can stand up to grilling include apples, bananas and pineapple.  Consider ending your picnic with a bowl of berries and light whipped cream or low fat ice cream or yogurt.  A low-fat yogurt dip  also goes well with a bowl of cut up fresh fruit.


    It doesn’t take a lot of effort to make your traditional cookout foods healthier.  With just a few ingredient substitutions to your favorite recipes, you can enjoy your food and your bathing suit too!

Published On: June 21, 2007