Practically synonymous with Fourth of July are backyard barbecues featuring American favorites like hot dogs, potato salad and other foods of questionable nutritional merit.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
What commemorates a bloody battle of blasting bombs and glaring ramparts has evolved into a red-meat, sugar-soaked starchy free-for-all of fattening fare. It’s hardly what the founding fathers or Patrick Henry had in mind when they said “Give me liberty or give me death.”
But what they did have in mind was to endow all Americans with the liberty to choose, and exercising that right by breaking a very gelatinous mold is not only a sign of independence—it’s revolutionary.
So get patriotic this Fourth of July while doing something positive for yourself by indulging in some of the uber-healthy, ultra-nutritious dishes you can cook up (click on the links to the recipes below). These range from takes on traditional tastes to ethnic fusion creations representative of this delicious melting pot we call America.
Beer Can Chicken
It may not sound right but it's true: You can have your beer and eat healthy, too with this easy, one hour and 15 minute recipe for chicken that's as fun to make as it is to devour. It will get the creative juices flowing, and the saliva glands, too. My dad was the first to introduce me to this laid back health food, though this recipe comes from the Food Network.
Quinoa Black Bean Salad
Instead of baked beans, spice up the celebration with some Mexican flavor and a food so dense with nutrients it’s being considered by NASA to sustain astronauts on space missions.
It also sustains life just fine at the casual outdoor get-together by being scooped by tortilla chips or eaten as an entree. There’s different ways to prepare it but this vegan recipe from savvyvegetarian.com includes summer veggies like sweet bell peppers, compliments dips like salsa and guacamole and is so protein-rich that it’s more than a side dish—it can be the main meal.
Deviled Eggs for Angelic Eaters
Deviled eggs are so delicious they shouldn’t be left out of festivities or relegated to one time of year, and with a few simple changes, they can be healthy enough to be enjoyed more often.
This recipe from fANNEtasticfood.com sneakily substitutes greek yogurt for egg yolks. Another variation on eatwelling.com suggested using cottage cheese as a filling and fresh tarragon instead of relish.
Key Lime Pie
It may not be as American as apple pie but it will be refreshing on a hot day. Using plain yogurt as a filling instead of traditional cream, sugar and egg-laden desserts of yester-year, this dessert from Good Housekeeping actually packs a nutritious punch.
Surprise the herbivores in your gathering with meatless ribz that can be thrown on the grill just like their fleshier counterparts, courtesy of of fatfreevegan.com. Meat eaters need not be afraid—with 196 calories and 4.7 grams of fat, it’s an option that conscious eaters can sink their teeth into without any worries.
Finally—and on the whole—there's no need to attempt a concoction out of your culinary comfort zone, no matter how nutritious the food and how happy your taste buds may be. Just slicing up some watermelon, serving strawberries or exchanging chips and dip for veggies and hummus can make a big difference.
If nothing else, throw health nuts a bone, or at least an ear of corn, when grilling up this Fourth of July holiday. Toss a cob of corn on the barbie, roast and drizzle with oil or butter for a somewhat wholesome and completely satisfying snack.