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Bite-Size Guidelines for a Cookout that Sizzles, Guaranteed

Love, don’t dread, your summer cookout. Cookouts are great ways to go healthy and still indulge—no sacrifices necessary. Whether you are hosting, bringing the dessert, or fingered for grill duty, here’s the scoop on stellar cookouts that don’t put health on the back burner.

Veggie Up

Did you know the average ear of corn has 800 kernels, arranged in 16 rows, with one strand of silk for each kernel? This amazing emblem of summer is a perfect way to indulge in great taste and get big nutrition too. Corn provides fiber, folate, thiamin, phosphorus, vitamin C, and magnesium.

WebMD provides a recipe for Grilled Corn Confetti Slaw. You can also try grilling corn in the husk at your next gathering. It’s a delicious and dramatic way to serve a veggie.

Dietitian Nancy Dell offers some advice for healthy summer picnics which includes doubling up on the carrots, celery, onions, zucchini and summer squash that get added to traditional macaroni or potato salads. The goal is to get as much color into those white dishes as possible, for health and for aesthetics.

Get Fruitastic

If you are in need of something impressive to bring to your summer gathering, remember that fresh fruits are in their glory, and color is the way to dazzle up a dish and provide disease-fighting antioxidants at the same time. The Wild Blueberry Association always has recipes that bring a rich, vibrant splash of blue to the potato salad beiges and burger browns. Start with daring Veggie Sticks with Ricotta Wild Blueberry Dip and end with Wild Blueberry Cassis Mousse Cake. Love lemon glaze? It’s creates the perfect profile with wild blueberries. A Lemon Glazed Wild Blueberry Cake is a simple crowd pleaser that won’t stick around for long. Also, serve or bring watermelon instead of chips – that’s a summer no-brainer.

Grill Something Good

Grills seem to call out for butter-slathered buns in the summer, but there’s more to grilling than burgers and dogs.

  • Opt for shrimp and chicken. Ginger-Garlic Shrimp with Tangy Tomato Sauce and Grilled-Vegetable Gazpacho are part of these good-food cookout recipes at delish.com. You’ll be missing nothing when it comes to standard cookout fare, and you can still enjoy the flames.
  • Cover the grill with veggie-laden kabobs. They are colorful and fun party eating, and even with bite-sized beef included, they cut meat intake and coerce eaters to take in a pepper or a mushroom before they get to it. Sneaky!
  •  Grill lobster for a veritable cookout event. There’s plenty of dipping sauce ideas out there so you don’t have to soak them in butter.
  • Cook a Portobello Burger. Loaded with veggies and some tasty condiments, this faux burger is no sacrifice—anecdotal evidence suggests they are even better than their meat counterparts. Bring on the compliments.
  • Grill fruit. That means apples, pears, pineapples, strawberries…Chaos in the Kitchen soaks their grilled fruit kabobs in rum. Delicious. Enough said.

Be a Burger Buff

If you are at a summer cookout, you’ll be exposed to burgers and hot dogs – it’s a summer fact. If you either fear or love the burger, pull up a chaise and relax. Here’s the fix:

  • Use a 100% whole wheat bun.
  • Use low fat content meat.
  • Go for a turkey dog or turkey burger to cut the fat.
  • Say no to the cheese, skip mayo in favor of mustard.
  • Load it with veggies.

Know the Low Down on Char

Even when you’re in the party mood, take a moment to get serious about charring. Grilling leads to charred food, and ingesting that char can increase cancer risk. Here’s the low down:

Research has revealed that preferences for high temperature cooked meat were generally linked with an increased risk of pancreatic cancer. In terms of overall consumption and doneness preferences, those with highest intake had 70 percent higher risk than those with the lowest intake.

Also, taking in smoke from the grill can be dangerous, and that’s no summer myth.  Wood smoke is 12 times more carcinogenic than equal amounts of tobacco smoke, and the American Cancer Association says inhaling the smoke from or eating well-done, charred meat regularly may increase your risk of pancreatic cancer by up to 60 percent.

That’s enough to put a damper on your family barbeque. But you can keep health and safety in mind and still enjoy the festivities:

  • Stay upwind of grill smoke and keep exposure to a minimum.
  • Cut charred areas of meat off before eating or serving.
  • Turn down the heat to avoid char.
  • Microwave meat for a few minutes before cooking on the grill so it’s cooked through without  necessitating char.


Finally, stay conscious of grazing, eliminate soda sipping in favor of other healthy liquids, and when the family Frisbee competition starts up, join in.

Now you’re ready. Go forth and cook out – summer won’t last forever. Enjoy!

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