With so many things to celebrate this summer, all that cookout food can really pack on the pounds. I love the deviled eggs, potato salads, and macaroni and cheese just like everyone else. In part 1 of this cookout series, I highlighted how to choose healthier main course items and how to select healthy sides. The best advice is bring your own dishes to the party so you know there will be something healthy to eat. You might be surprised how many people will be happy to see your healthy offering amongst the calorie landmines. Try some of these healthy ideas below for keeping the cookout menu light and fresh.
Get your Green On
Next time you attend a cookout, I challenge you to observe how many green things are actually on the buffet table. Probably few and far between because some people think healthy isn’t as tasty as the unhealthy. While fat, salt, and sugar are delicious, they aren’t the only ways to make food taste good. People are also drawn to color and presentation, and vegetables are nature’s food rainbow. A tossed salad or crudité are a fine choice, but haven’t we seen that one too many times? Try making a healthy coleslaw with green and red cabbage, red bell pepper, carrots, and topped with a zippy Greek yogurt dressing. A classic southern cookout staple is garden cucumbers in vinegar. No southern table would be complete without it. Pickling isn’t just limited to cucumbers, and you can quick pickle on just about any veggie. Asparagus, cauliflower, carrots, zucchini, and even jicama would be a perfect cold and crisp side. Another fun veggie side would be an edamame salad with red onion, fresh corn, fresh peas, and cilantro lime vinaigrette. A hands down guest favorite are grilled asparagus bundles wrapped in bacon. Yes, I said wrapped in bacon because bacon makes any veggie taste better!
When it comes to cookout dessert, most of us think about brownies, cakes, mountains of cookies, and that weird jello salad that auntie kay always brings. All of these are loaded with fat, calories, and tons of sugar. Fruit is always a healthier option that baked goods, but a standard chopped fruit salad can be downright boring. At my last backyard party, I experimented with grilled fruit. I found that not only was it delicious, but it was the first thing to go. Grilling the fruit was a flashy party trick, only took minutes per side, and was pretty cost effective when feeding a large group. Any firm fruit such as pineapple, pears, peaches, plums, or nectarines would work perfect on a grill. I have even seen some recipes for grilled watermelon, strawberries, and bananas. Once your fruit has beautiful grill marks, a wide variety of topping can be added to jazz up your dessert. Try a balsamic reduction, whipped cream, wildflower honey, Greek yogurt with a dash of cinnamon, or even ricotta cheese with orange marmalade. The possibilities are endless and a topping bar would be a great way give guest variety. Another fun grilled fruit dessert is banana foil packets. Place one whole banana on a sheet of thick foil and top with chopped nuts, chocolate, and anything your heart desires. Mini marshmallows, caramel sauce, and graham cracker crumbles with also be a fun topping. Grilled banana packets are portion controlled and allow guest to customize their dessert.