Health-Conscious Cookouts

Happy (almost) Memorial Day!! I am pleased to be featuring a new post, written by a new friend, Tracy Williams.
Tracy Williams photo
Tracy Williams is a graduate of Dominican University with her degree in Nutrition and Dietetics. She enjoys public speaking and writing freelance pieces on nutrition topics. She also prides herself on being an advocate for those with physical disabilities and breaking the stigmas that society may have about people with physical disabilities. If you want to learn more about her, please visit her website at

Healthy Grilling at Summer Picnics

Summer can be a great time, as an individual or with a family,  to initiate or re-instate a health routine with more physical activity, while also incorporating healthy eating habits whether you’re at home or at a friend’s BBQ.

Tips for hosting a health-conscious summer event:

Pick a location. As a host, it is important to decide if your party will be a summer picnic in your backyard or at a local park or campsite. This also determines how much space and storage you’ll have to work with, which also affects the meal prep. Figure this out before you determine the spread.

Plan your menu. Hosts should plan to offer healthy options for food and beverages. Know how many people are attending and then determine the best dishes for the day. It never hurts to ask family and friends to bring beverages or sides. Used a shared platform like google docs to keep a list of who is bringing what so there is no overlap.

Healthy Substitutions. Instead of the traditional hamburgers and hotdogs, try including chicken, bean or veggie burgers. Mix up the topping and condiment station and offer homemade ketchup, spicy mustard, tzatziki sauce, a variety of vegetables (lettuce, cucumber,tomato,etc.) and even a tangy vinaigrette-based vegetable slaw.
If family and friends are contributing side dishes, the host can ask for the healthy varieties of  that side dish. This could mean a potato salad made with vinaigrette instead of mayonnaise or a whole grain pasta salad with a variety of fresh vegetables, olive oil and a little parmesan cheese. Other sides could include: three bean salad, spicy corn on the cob, black bean and mango salsa, deviled eggs (made with avocado) and a variety of quinoa salads. Fruits like watermelon, strawberries, and cantaloupe can double as a refreshing side OR a dessert.

Sipping Options. For beverages, the host can provide fruit smoothies, iced (unsweetened) green tea, iced coffee or fruit-infused, sparkling water.
Note: Ice sells quickly on hot summer weekends and summer holidays, so if you have the freezer space, buy bags in advance.

Safety Matters. It is always good to have a reminder of how to keep everyone safe when hosting a summer event. Keep grills away from tables and children away from grills. Check the wind to make sure that smoke is downstream from guests. Check the fuel in the grill long before cooking begins to avoid delays. Prepare all possible food in advance to avoid being overwhelmed at the last minute and marinate meat overnight or hours before cooking for enhanced flavor and tenderness.

Summertime is a great season to enjoy healthy meals, the outdoors and an active lifestyle.


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