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Healthy Living: A Fresh Take on Summer Cookouts

Kebabs are prepared for the grill by father and son

The traditional summer cookout hasn’t changed much in the last 50 years. It’s burgers, hotdogs, and brats accompanied with sides like potato salad and macaroni salad — topped off with goodies such as chocolate chip cookies, brownies, and cakes. Sure, there’s usually some watermelon and corn on the cob thrown in the mix for good measure, but the meal is not exactly what most of us would call healthy – it’s a cookout! 

It takes just a few tweaks here and there to make your Memorial Day, July Fourth, or Labor Day get-togethers healthier, without ruining all the fun.

The result is healthy food for seniors — and for everyone else attending the party.

Get the Good Stuff In

You don’t have to read a bunch of studies to know that sweets and potato chips spike your blood sugar. But what you may not know is that, if you simply eat a decent amount of fiber first, your blood sugar remains more stable, which is good for everyone, not just those monitoring their blood sugar.

The easiest way to get your fiber in for the day is to bring on the veggies — first. Nosh on the  tray of sliced peppers, carrots, baby tomatoes, and any other veggies that are normally at a cookout You’ll not only prevent your blood sugar from spiking, but you’ll also be getting a ton of nutrients! 

Boost Your Beverages

The cookout classic is a cooler full of different kinds of soda. And we all know that high consumption of sugary drinks is often associated with obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

Still, it’s a party. If someone wants a Sprite, it’s not the end of the world. But, increasingly, people are turning towards fizzy beverages without all of the sugar. Seek an alternative such as popular favorites like Spindrift, LaCroix, Topo Chico, and Polar Seltzer. You might be surprised at how much you enjoy them in comparison to regular soda!

Make a Few Smart Swaps

Hamburgers, hot dogs, and brats are the backbone of a traditional cookout, but they certainly aren’t the only options. In fact, consumer demand and a push for healthy living have resulted in more options than ever to throw on the grill. The following swaps are not only healthier but they’re also packed with flavor.

Swap Burgers for Beef-and-Vegetable Kabobs

Burgers aren’t just burgers. They’re also vehicles for white-bread buns, cheese, and a load of condiments. Beef-and-vegetable kebabs, however, offer a high-quality protein option alongside all the benefits of vegetables. To make them, you’ll need cuts of beef (sirloin tips, tenderloin, or even filet mignon) and an assortment of vegetables like pepper, onions, tomatoes, and mushrooms. If you like, you can use your favorite marinade, but salt and pepper are sufficient. (Here’s a classic Food Network recipe if you do choose to marinade.) If you plan to use wooden skewers, remember to soak them  in water for 30 minutes or so before loading them up — and keep a bit of space between your kabob ingredients to allow for even cooking. You can certainly use chicken instead of beef, in which case a marinade (like Italian dressing or teriyaki for between 15 minutes and 24 hours) will keep your chicken tender. 

Consider New Takes on Hotdogs and Brats

Back in the day, there were hotdogs, sausages, and brats. But you’ve likely noticed all kinds of interesting alternatives in your local grocery stores. One of the most popular swaps is the line of sausages made by Applegate Organics, including flavors like chicken and apple, fire-roasted red pepper, spinach and feta, and sweet Italian. If that won’t do for your hotdog-loving crew, choose a healthier — and likely tastier — version. What you’re looking for are hot dogs that are uncured, nitrate-free, and have less than 500 mg of sodium and 4 grams of saturated fat. It’s also helpful to check the ingredients list and look for whole beef, turkey, chicken, or pork. 

Ditch Mayo-Laden Dishes for More Flavorful Alternatives

Swapping out traditional macaroni or potato salad might seem like cookout heresy to you, but here’s the thing: Young people don’t like mayonnaise all that much. In fact, there are reports that they downright despise it. So how do you make everyone happy? Choose one of the many mayonnaise-free cold potato and pasta salad alternatives. You’ll find plenty of options in cookbooks, magazines, and on the web by searching “no mayonnaise pasta and potato salads.” Most of these use a light vinaigrette instead of mayo and include loads of fresh herbs and vegetables. This French potato salad by Ina Garten is a perfect example. 

Upgrade Desserts with Fruit

Store-bought gluten-free cookies laden with fake sugar? We’ll pass. 

Rather, we’re a fan of keeping dessert as delicious as ever — maybe even more delicious — by choosing fruit-based treats like peach cobbler, blackberry crumble, blueberry pie, and strawberry shortcake. Yes, there’s still a decent amount of fat and sugar (that’s what makes them dessert) but you’re also getting vitamins, flavonoids, and fiber. We love this peach crumble recipe courtesy of The Pioneer Woman. 

Does a cake topped with fresh blueberries and strawberries in the form of an American flag count? We’re going to say yes.

Monroe Village provides healthy options to all residents!

Offering options for healthy living is at the heart of everything we do at Monroe Village, a Life Plan Community located in Monroe Township, New Jersey. Our award-winning LivWell program redefines both senior living and wellness by emphasizing physical, intellectual, emotional, social, environmental, spiritual, and vocational needs. Contact us to learn more.

Need information? Check our resources.

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