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Cookout Ideas That Aren’t Hotdogs or Hamburgers

By Heidi Baldwin, MS, RMT, Certified Integrative Nutrition Holistic Health Coach

One of the best parts of summertime is gathering outside with your friends and family to enjoy delicious food and conversation, and if you’re lucky enough a campfire! The fireflies, warm dewy air, and longer days are the perfect equation for gathering to experience the essence of summer. Cookouts are a staple of summertime, but if you're trying to eat healthy, you may be left munching on the veggie tray as everyone else fills their plate with hotdogs and coleslaw.

You don't have to be stuck with just the veggie tray, although I recommend you visit that as well! There are numerous healthy options to choose from during the summer cookout months, so there's no need to be left out of the fun or heading home hungry.

Here are a few of my summer cookout staples...

1. Veggie Burgers

Whether you make them from scratch or buy them premade, veggie burgers give you that summer BBQ feel, while avoiding the red meat. These taste great if you put them on a whole grain bun, or even a lettuce wrap if you are gluten sensitive. Dress it with the typical toppings and condiments, and you won't even notice the difference. They’re delicious!

2. Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes

We all love mashed potatoes, but many folks don’t like the calories or nutrient profiles of potatoes. You can now get the texture and love of this summertime favorite, for far fewer calories with some mashed cauliflower. Just add some garlic and olive oil for a delicious flavor profile that mimics the real deal.

3. Sweet Potato “fries”

The perfect companion for your veggie burger! Skip the regular French fries and lean towards the healthier option -- how about some baked sweet potato “fries?” They have a higher nutrient profile, and since you are baking them, fewer calories! You can even toss them on the grill for a crispy option for sweet potato fries.

4. Shish Kabobs

Shish kabobs taste great during the summer. Adding zucchini, squash, red onion and mushrooms make this a deliciously healthy and easy to hold meal. If you desire animal protein for your shish kabobs, try tossing some organic chicken or wild caught shrimp in between your veggie layers. Drizzle your favorite BBQ sauce on, or marinate with a homemade lemon and garlic sauce, and you've got yourself a delicious and healthy meal.

5. Grilled Salmon Burgers

Salmon is one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet, and a great source of Omega 3s. Be careful not to overcook them, and for an extra tasty summer treat, sprinkle the top with fresh cut dill and a squeeze of fresh lemon just before you finish cooking them.

6. Grilled Portobello Mushrooms

This is a tasty treat to offer your vegetarian friends at your cookout! Whole portobello mushroom caps are meaty and satisfying. Marinate them in your favorite marinade before grilling!

Eating healthy through the summer months does not have to be hard. With just a few minor adjustments, you can turn pretty much any dish into a delicious and healthy meal without skimping out on the flavor at all! So, give these a try at your next BBQ, you will not be the only one who enjoys these dishes.

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