Summer means one thing: backyard barbecues. Whether it’s a Fourth of July celebration, a no-frills get-together with family and friends or an all-out bonanza in the summertime sun, one thing is for sure: good food.
Summer can be a hard time for people trying to watch what they eat. Fortunately, there are ways to have your summer fun while sticking to your diet plan.
Here are our favorite healthy alternative summer recipes.
Instead of the traditional mayo and potato-heavy salad, this alternative version relies on Greek yogurt and sweet potatoes. Not only does this recipe deliver a sweet zing (and a kick!), it helps you keep your bad fats and carbs in check.
- 1 lb yams, peeled and cut into eighths
- 1 lb red potatoes, peeled and cut into fourths or eighths
- 1/2 cup red onion, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- 2 tbsp chopped mint
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
- Pinch of cinnamon
- 1 tsp harissa (or Sriracha if you can’t find it)
- Salt and pepper
Add the cut-up yams and potatoes and a tablespoon of salt to a pot of room-temperature water. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 15-20 minutes or until tender (but not mushy). Drain the yams and potatoes and cool to room temperature.
Mix the spices, harissa and Greek yogurt. Set aside.
Add the remaining ingredients to the yams and potatoes. Then mix everything together and season with salt and pepper.
Backyard BBQs are all about the sides. One simple yet delicious side is this salad that’s packed with complex carbs, nutrient-rich cherries, nuts and, most importantly, fresh flavor.
- 3/4 cup wild rice
- 1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed if necessary
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup fruity vinegar, such as raspberry or pomegranate
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 2 cups halved pitted fresh sweet cherries
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 3/4 cup diced aged goat cheese, smoked cheddar or other smoked cheese
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted
Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Add wild rice and cook for 30 minutes. Add quinoa and cook until the rice and quinoa are tender, about 15 minutes more. Drain and rinse with cold water until cool to the touch; drain well.
Meanwhile, whisk oil, vinegar, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add the rice and quinoa, cherries, celery, cheese and pecans and toss to combine. Serve at room temperature or cold.
Instead of fatty and cholesterol-packed hamburgers and hot dogs, try a leaner protein that’s just as delicious. Grilled chicken kabobs can satiate your need for flavorful meat. Try whichever seasoning or marinade you prefer. One of our favorite recipes is this rosemary chicken kabob.
- 1/2 small white onion, finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 dried chiles de arbol, crumbled (or 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper)
- 1 teaspoon minced rosemary
- 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano, crumbled
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast (or thighs), cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
- Kosher salt
- 8 sturdy 12-inch rosemary sprigs, leaves on bottom half removed
- Lime wedges, for serving
In a large bowl, combine the onion, garlic, chiles, minced rosemary, oregano, lemon juice and olive oil; set aside 1/4 cup of the marinade. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and add it to the bowl. Mix well, cover and marinate for 30 minutes.
Light a grill. Remove the chicken from the marinade and thread the pieces onto the rosemary skewers; discard the marinade. Oil the grate and grill the chicken over moderate heat, turning occasionally and basting with the reserved marinade, until golden and cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve with lime wedges.
If your backyard bonanza doesn’t feel complete only with chicken kabobs, then have your burger. But replace the fatty beef with lean proteins, like ground chicken breast, ground turkey or even wild salmon. In fact, one of our favorite burger recipes is this Japanese-inspired salmon burger.
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons wasabi powder
1/2 teaspoon honey
1 pound wild salmon fillet, skinned
2 scallions, finely chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
Whisk soy sauce, wasabi powder and honey in a small bowl until smooth. Set aside.
With a large chef’s knife, chop salmon using quick, even, straight-up-and-down motions (do not rock the knife through the fish or it will turn mushy). Continue chopping, rotating the knife, until you have a mass of roughly ¼-inch pieces.
Transfer to a large bowl. Add scallions, egg, ginger and oil; stir to combine. Form the mixture into four patties. The mixture will be moist and loose, but holds together nicely once the first side is cooked.
Coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium heat for 1 minute. Add the patties and cook for 4 minutes. Turn and continue to cook until firm and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Spoon the reserved wasabi glaze evenly over the burgers and cook for 15 seconds more. Serve immediately.
Lastly, dessert. Set yourself up with healthy dessert alternatives and you can eat as much as you’d like. Yogurt pops are an excellent substitute for full-fat ice cream, and adding fresh fruit, especially berries, can boost the nutrient profile.
- 2 cups fresh blackberries, blueberries, raspberries (or a mix of all three)
- 2 Tbsp honey
- 2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ½ cup water
- 1 ½ cups plain Greek yogurt
In a large bowl, combine the berries, honey, lemon juice, water and Greek yogurt. Using the back of a spatula, lightly mash the berries to release their juices and stir until well combined.
Fill a popsicle mold with the yogurt mixture according to instructions. Freeze until the fruit bar is firm, 3 to 4 hours (or depending on instructions). Makes six popsicles.
Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean that your diet has to go on a break. Try these healthy recipes, and you can enjoy summertime with friends and family while staying true to your health journey.