HEALTHY FOURTH OF JULY PICNICS

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Fire up the grill! The Fourth of July is almost here, which means it’s picnic and backyard barbecue time. And the best part is, you don’t have to blow your diet in order to lay out a delicious spread.

Let’s face it; a lot of picnic food can be pretty unhealthy. Fried chicken…hot dogs…greasy hamburgers…and oh, all those mayonnaise-based salads. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your summer picnic. Try these healthy tweaks to old classics, along with a few tasty additions, at your Fourth of July picnic this year.

Main Dishes
Let’s start with the grill, since that’s the center of backyard barbecues. Marinade skinless chicken breasts or salmon and grill them to juicy perfection. Or try grilled fruits. Grilling just about any fruit deepens the flavor, leaving you with smoky, caramelized morsels that melt in your mouth. Portobello mushrooms, onions, peppers, and zucchini also taste great off the grill. Brush them with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper.

For picnics in the park, pick up a roasted chicken in place of a bucket of fried chicken. Or try one of these healthy sandwiches. Spread hummus on whole wheat pita bread. Then layer in avocado and fresh veggies. Or roll up roasted veggies (zucchini, peppers, and tomatoes) with low-fat mozzarella in whole-wheat tortillas. Cut into rounds.

Side Salads
Next step, healthy sides. You can still have your pasta or potato salad. Just replace the mayonnaise dressing with a vinaigrette or Dijon dressing. Replace white pasta with whole-grain pasta. And replace your usual potatoes with more colorful varieties. (They have more nutrients.) Try red, purple, or sweet potatoes. Add veggies like bell peppers and cucumbers, too. For coleslaw, try making a low-fat yogurt dressing.

Drinks
Bring plenty of water to drink. You can freeze it the night before. You might also want to try sparkling water or unsweetened ice tea. Or, try adding slices of lemon or cucumber to your water. It’s a cool, flavorful way to help you stay hydrated.

Dessert
No picnic is complete without fresh watermelon slices. You can also make a fruit salad using fresh, seasonal summer fruit. But for those who must have cake or cookies, serve small portions, like bite-sized brownies. Or top a light angel food cake with fresh fruit. Just be sure to enjoy these in moderation.

No matter how you dice it, top it, grill it, or slice it, there are plenty of ways to make this Fourth of July feast both healthy and delicious.