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Healthy Variations for the Traditional July 4th Barbecue

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The big Fourth of July barbecue is at your house this year, and you're looking for healthy ideas for the whole family. I know that is something we face every year, and I have come up with some things that I'd like to share that are quick, easy, and healthier than what is considered "traditional" for the holiday.

On the Grill

Over the last few years we have done away with red meat completely in our home and at our barbecues. We use turkey hot dogs and turkey burgers, and almost no one notices or complains, and even the dogs approve.

You can get very lean ground turkey, around 98 percent fat free. As I fashion the patties for burgers, I add minced onion, garlic, and a little parsley — that makes the burgers taste great.

Another thing I love to grill is chicken. I usually marinate the chicken (either pieces or cutlets) the night before in a mixture of low sodium soy sauce, ketchup, red wine vinegar, garlic, and onions. This chicken can be cooked right on the grill or cut up and used in kebabs with onions and peppers. The kebabs cook quickly on the grill and they come out great.

Some people like salmon or tuna steaks, and I also marinate these (in white wine, a teaspoon of sage, minced garlic, and onion) but for about three to four hours. They come out very nicely and always seem to please our guests.

I slice up red and white onions, mix them with cloves of garlic, and wrap the mixture in aluminum foil. These go right on the grill at the very beginning of my cooking session, and by the time I am done they are thoroughly cooked, look almost translucent, and taste great as a side dish or as a topping on anything else served.

Finally, I love to grill vegetable kebabs. You can be as creative as you like here. I usually mix up red and green peppers with chunks of onions and potatoes. They are done when slightly singed on all sides and have been a crowd pleaser.

The Cold Stuff

Keeping with kebab themes, I have noticed that a variation on the vegetable kebabs can be served uncooked as some people like these things that way. I usually put out generous bowls of dipping sauces: yogurt, sour cream, spinach dip, and Dijon mustard. Bowls of fresh broccoli, cauliflower, and sliced peppers always accompany these kebabs on the table.

Another thing I do is a variation on tomato and fresh mozzarella on the kebab sticks. Alternate the chunks of cheese and tomatoes, and I guarantee they will go as fast as you can make them.

One thing people have really liked is my egg whites egg salad. I remove the yolks from the eggs, chop the whites up finely, and then add low-fat mayonnaise, a little Dijon mustard, chopped celery, and diced onions. This dish is refreshing and very popular with our guests.

The Drinks

Besides offering traditional favorites such as beer, soda, iced tea, and lemonade, we have found that putting out a case of sixteen-ounce bottled waters in a large bucket of ice has made everyone happy. Almost everyone takes at least one icy cold bottle of water before the party is over to quench their thirsts the best way of all.

The are all sorts of virgin drinks that can be made to order for your guests, but the one I like most of all is my Virgin Sangria. I use Welch's Concord grape juice, seltzer, orange juice, and sliced up apples, oranges, and lemons. Mix with generous amounts of ice and then serve in tall glasses with ice cubes. Your guests will love it.

Also, want a drink for the kids and adults that is low-calorie and refreshing? Put a cup of low fat milk and a shot glass of any flavored soda or syrup to order into a blender with lots of ice. Mix it up well and serve in tall glasses. It tastes like an ice cream soda and is a delicious treat.

Desserts

The most obvious stuff works the best in our house here. Icy cold watermelon wedges are a must. The kids love these and they are easy for them to eat. I also like cutting up honeydew melon, cantaloupe, pears, apples, and watermelon in a big bowl for a healthy fruit salad.

We make ice pops in the freezer from orange juice, lemonade, and grape juice and the kids love these for an on the run snack. Of course, ice cream and sorbet also bring big smiles to the kids and adults and provide a fun finish to your wonderful holiday barbecue.

I hope you can use some of these ideas or make variations of your own. In this way you can have a happy and healthy Fourth of July barbecue for you and your guests.

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About Victor Lana

Victor Lana has published numerous stories, articles, and poems in literary magazines and online. His books In a Dark Time (1994), A Death in Prague (2002), Move (2003), The Savage Quiet September Sun: A Collection of 9/11 Stories (2005) and Like a Passing Shadow (2009) are available online and as e-books. He has won the National Arts Club Award for Poetry, but has concentrated mostly on fiction and non-fiction prose in recent years. He has worked as faculty advisor to school literary magazines and enjoys the creative process as a writer, editor, and collaborator. He has been with Blogcritics since July 2005, has edited many articles, was co-head sports editor with Charley Doherty, and now is a Culture and Society editor. He views Blogcritics as one of most exciting, fresh, and meaningful opportunities in his writing life.
  • http://joannehuspek.wordpress.com Joanne Huspek

    Hmm… I was just going to do a grilling article on veggies and fruit, now that I’m harvesting veggies and fruit. Good article.