Thursday, June 30, 2011

This 4th of July, Burst Your Way into Good Nutrition!

With summer upon us, weekends will start to fill up with picnics in the park, outdoor parties, and backyard BBQs. These are great social events for friends and family, but they can be not-so-great on your nutrition. To top the list of picnics and BBQs, the 4th of July is known for its high-fat, high-calorie foods such as fried chicken, hot dogs, potato salad, and baked goods. With some simple substitutions and easy tips, summer outdoor eating can be part of a healthy and nutritious diet!

Did you know that summer is the height of fruit and vegetable season? So why not fill up on the abundance of fresh produce that is available! The majority of your picnic basket should be filled with fresh fruits and vegetables. They are nutrient-rich and full of fiber, so they will fill you up and keep you full longer on your picnic. Fruits such as watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries, mango and pineapple can easily be cut up and packaged into your basket or tossed into a fruit salad. Crisp vegetables like cucumbers, celery, carrots, cauliflower, and broccoli can be eaten with low-fat dressing for dipping; just remember portion control on that dressing! Have a grill? Try throwing some summer vegetables like zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, onions, or mushrooms on too add some great flavor to your picnic.

Instead of the usual high-fat picnic entrées, try using leaner cuts of meats such as skinless chicken breasts, pork tenderloin, or even veggie burgers on the grill as a substitute. These options are lower in saturated fat and cholesterol and provide plenty of protein. If a sandwich is a staple in your basket, make sure to choose low-fat luncheon meat options like turkey or chicken. Layer with vegetables on whole wheat bread and you have a quick and easy nutrient-dense entrée.

As for those ever tempting pasta and potato salads, there are healthy alternatives! If the salad is mayonnaise-based, try substituting a low-fat version to cut fat and calories. For the starchy salads, you could take away some of the pasta and replace it with extra vegetables for a colorful kick. Substituting white pasta with a whole grain variety in a salad dish is also a smart choice with the added fiber and nutrients.

It may seem like the 4th of July isn’t complete without brownies or cookies, but think of the added fat and calories those treats have! Not to mention the melted mess they would make at the bottom of your picnic basket. A dessert of mixed berries atop a small slice of angel food cake would be a nearly fat-free, low calorie option.

If you have a question for the dietitian, visit

Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, is a Registered Dietitian with Texas Health's Ben Hogan Sports Medicine program and the Executive Health program.

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