The Fourth of July is all about freedom. Freedom from British colonial rule, freedom from going to work, and, for most of us, the freedom to indulge in some finger-lickin’ festivities. From cakes and pies to booze, beers, burgers and buns, it’s America’s birthday y’all, and we’re treatin’ ourselves!
Raise your hand if you consider the Fourth of July a day where you’re free from having to “eat healthy?”
Well, being delicious and being good for you don’t have to be mutually exclusive – even when it comes to your favorite Fourth of July foods. In other words, you can have your cake or beer or burger and be healthy (ish) too with these five easy (and still delicious) swaps for a healthy 4th of July barbecue.
5 Tips for a Healthy 4th of July
Mix it up with kombucha and booze
When it comes to “healthy cocktails,” you’ve probably heard all the usual advice: avoid sugary juices, mixes, soda, blah, blah, blah. But sparkling water and lime juice aren’t your only alternatives. If you want to sip on something that tastes a bit better than citrus-infused bathwater, try mixing your alcohol of choice with kombucha. Kombucha is a probiotic beverage that’s made by fermenting tea with a live bacterial culture. The end product is a fizzy, soda-like drink that’s low in sugar and full of beneficial bacteria (aka probiotics), which can support healthy digestion and strengthen the immune system.
But won’t alcohol kill the good bacteria?
While there hasn’t been a TON of clinical trials on probiotic mixology, realistically, the answer is…maybe? Excessive alcohol consumption has been shown to be detrimental to bacteria in the gut, BUT, kombucha naturally contains about .05% alcohol, and the probiotics stay intact just fine. Adding a bit of vodka to your GT’s kombucha might kill some of the probiotics, but probably not all, and something is better than nothing. Plus, kombucha has more to offer than just good bacteria, including digestive enzymes, B vitamins and antioxidants. Oh, and it tastes really, really good!
Here’s to red, white and brews (but keep it light)
Are you ready for the best news of your life (or at least so far today)? Despite it's reputation, beer may not be a belly-busting health saboteur. Beer is one of humanity’s oldest beverages – dating back to about 5,000 years ago – and it boasts a pretty lengthy list of health benefits, including high levels of B vitamins, polyphenols and silicon – thought to be a key ingredient in promoting bone density – in its most bioavailable form, orthosilicic acid.
But which beer is best?
It depends on your drinking agenda. If you’re planning on just having one or two drinks (um…?) then drink whatever beer you want. However, if there’s a chance that you might (possibly) imbibe more than two adult beverages (after all it is a celebration) and you want to cut down on calories, stick to light beer. Light beers have fewer calories and carbs and lower alcohol content than regular beer. (They’re also more filtered and thus stripped of most of the aforementioned health benefits, but hey, something’s gotta give.) Less calories and lower alcohol content mean you can drink more (a bit more) without compromising your waistline and maybe your reputation.
Take your chips and stick it (like with celery)
Corn chips, potato chips or pretzels? In terms of which one better for you, they’re all about the same – not ideal. The issue with these and most types of processed snack foods, is not their calories or fat grams, it’s the oil that they’re cooked in. Chips, crackers and other snack foods are usually processed using vegetable oils: canola (rapeseed), cottonseed, soybean, sunflower and safflower oil. And while the term “vegetable,” might make them sound healthy, they're definitely not.
These oils are made up of mostly polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acids. Because these fatty acids are unsaturated, they're less stable when exposed to high heat. Unstable fats are prone to oxidation which can lead to free radicals. Free radicals can then lead to cellular damage in the body which can manifest internally as damaged organs/glands or externally in the form of premature aging skin (yikes!).
Try and steer clear of any processed food made with vegetable oils.
Instead, why not try some celery and carrot sticks from the veggie tray (another summer party staple) with that hummus or salsa.
If you’re going to a party and can bring your own snacks, choose a brand like Boulder Canyon or Jackson’s Honest which use stable oils such as coconut oil and avocado oil. If you can’t BYO, keep these munchies to a minimum.
Pro Tip: If you want to be really super healthy and impress all your friends at the same time, you can make your own tortilla chips in less than 10 minutes.
Recipe: Coconut Oil Tortilla Chips
What you’ll need:
What you do:
- 6” corn tortillas (preferably organic, bonus points for sprouted!)
- Coconut oil
- Sea salt
- Preheat your oven to 350
- Cut 6” corn tortillas into triangles. Place them on an ungreased cookie sheet.
- Melt coconut oil and coat triangles.
- Sprinkle with sea salt.
- Bake at 350, shaking occasionally until triangles are golden brown.
- Bring to party. Amaze everyone. Drop your mic. (You're welcome)
Pass the Potatoes
Potato salad, corn on the cob, coleslaw or baked beans: which one is healthiest? While you might think that corn on the cob is the obvious front-runner, our vote goes to potato salad. Potatoes that have been cooked and then cooled contain resistant starch. Resistant starches pass through the digestive tract unchanged – they are resistant to digestion – and function similar to soluble fiber in that they act as prebiotics, helping to feed our good gut bacteria. Research shows that resistant starch can have powerful health benefits, including improved insulin sensitivity, lower blood sugar levels, reduced appetite and improved digestion. As with most other foods on this list, it’s best if you can make your own potato salad, either with homemade mayo or a mayonnaise that doesn’t use vegetable oils, such as Primal Kitchen Mayo and Sir Kensington’s.
Pick a Patty
Hot dog, burger or veggie patty? If you’re a guest concerned about the origins of your meat, a veggie patty is likely the most non-threatening option. Most are made up of various grains and vegetables. Unfortunately, many veggie patties can contain gluten, so heads up if you’re celiac or sensitive.
So, what about those of you thinking “where’s the beef?” You're in luck, we recommend choosing a beef patty over a hot dog (usually made from pork) or even chicken. Both poultry and pork are typically higher than red meat in polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acids – the kind you don’t want to be exposed to high heat (i.e. BBQ-ing). These omega-6 fatty acids come from what these animals are fed.
However, pretty much anything will be a healthier option above your everyday hot dog (sorry). Typical hot dogs are usually made with processed fillers, additives and preservatives (like nitrates). Doggone it!
If you’re hosting the party and can source your own meat, look for “grass-fed” beef and “pastured” poultry and pork when shopping. These animals were raised in a pasture and fed a natural diet of grass and bugs. When these animals are fed grain, corn and soy (often labeled “vegetarian diets”), their fatty acid profile increases in inflammatory polyunsaturated fats. Our favorite brands for BBQ-ing include: Dr. Praeger’s Kale Veggie Burgers, Applegate Farms, and U.S. Wellness Meats.
Pro Tip: You can further reduce polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acids by using a saturated oil on your grill. Instead of vegetable oil, try coconut oil or avocado oil.
Now you can look forward to your upcoming summer soirée without choosing between eating healthy and fully enjoying your feast. But, if you should accidentally throw all these recommendations out the window and dive straight into a fried Oreo, that’s cool too!
America’s birthday comes but once a year, and in the grand scheme of your life, happiness is healthiness. We hope you have a safe, happy and healthyish Fourth of July!
Do you have your own tips for healthy and festive 4th of July fare? Let us know in the comments below!