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  • Sophia Kamveris, MS, RD

Fire up the 4th!

Let’s face it. Grilling food has been around since man figured out how to start a fire. Since then, barbequing has evolved from cooking over charcoal briquettes to lighting up super-duper, gas grills that can cost more than a used car!

In today’s busy lifestyle, grills are used all year round, but backyards across America will be blazing like the fireworks on the 4th of July. But a day of celebration can add up in calories but smart swaps and portion control can especially keep the high fat calories in check. So, unfurl the checkered tablecloths and get ready to serve up an all-American, healthy cookout that’s bursting with red, white and blue!

Hot off the Grill:

Substituting ground turkey for beef makes for a healthier burger, but it may lack some flavor, since it is minus the gooey fat. Try adding a handful of low fat, shredded cheddar cheese to the raw turkey mix and make into patties. Not only does this lend flavor and juiciness to the burgers, but you also won’t have to worry about melting cheese oozing all over your grill.

If you can’t disappoint the beef lovers in the crowd, choose leaner cuts of beef, such as tenderloin, sirloin tip, or 95% ground beef. For added zest, mix a few tablespoons of barbecue sauce in with the uncooked, beef pattie, and watch the burgers sizzle on the grill. Black bean or Portobello mushroom burgers will be a big hit with the vegetarians in the group.

And what’s a burger without all of the yummy toppings? Serve them up tomatoes, red onions, grilled peppers, avocado/guacamole, or tzatziki. Cranberry sauce and peach salsa make sweet accompaniments for the turkey burgers. And let’s not forget the mustard, pickles, and ketchup, of course!

Sides that Sizzle:

Corn on the cob is always a big hit at summer shindigs but there’s a lot of versatility with corn “off” the cob, as well. Adding diced mango and raisins to cooked, corn kernels adds a natural sweetness and cuts down on fats (aka butter). Gazpacho soup is low in calories, is easy to make, and is full of the anti-oxidant, lycopene. It’s the perfect soup to cool off with on a hot, steamy day. Grilling vegetables in foil is another way to keep it healthy at your cookout. Mix together a medley of cut-up broccoli, cauliflower, onions, mushrooms, zucchini and peppers. Drizzle some olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Crimp the foil and cook on the grill for about ten minutes.


Serving refreshing beverages in Mason jars adds a hometown feel to summertime parties, while soothing parching thirsts. It’s important to stay hydrated especially on a hot summer day. All non- alcoholic beverages hydrate, so grab your favorites throughout the day. Lemonade, iced tea, soda, and fruit punches are summer favorites, along with fruit infused water. Your guests may also enjoy a mocktail. Fun and fizzy, mocktails are alcohol free, extremely flavorful, and low in calories. Whether you’re entertaining or simply stocking up on beverages, look for low-and no-calorie options, such as low-calorie fruit and vegetable juices, club soda, carbonated and naturally fruit flavored water, and diet soda. Don’t forget to garnish with fresh local produce and herbs.

Stars and Stripes Desserts:

Nothing says 4th of July better than the colorful stars and stripes. Serve up some red, white, and blue by alternating strawberries, coconut chunks, and blueberries on a wooden skewer, and place on a chilled platter for your guests to grab and go. A fruit trifle can also be a light and refreshing dessert. In a deep glass bowl or trifle bowl, alternate layers of vanilla yogurt, blueberries, strawberries and top off with granola. My personal favorite is strawberry shortcake. Lady fingers or angel cake can be substituted for biscuits, and leave a can of light whipped cream handy for a dollop of fun on top! Or, if you want super easy, then just put out a big bowl of cherries. George Washington would be proud!

Happy Celebrating, America!


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