The Ultimate Guide to Hosting or Attending A Healthy, Plant-Powered 4th of July Celebration (Or Other Summer Party)
Want to have a summer party that is both festive and healthy? These tips, foods, and healthy July 4th recipes will help you enjoy get-togethers that nourish your body and support your health deliciously.
Sitting in the sunshine all day, burgers and hot dogs sizzling on the grill, plates piled high with mayo-drenched potato salad, fireworks shooting across the sky, and red, white, and blue everywhere you look.
For many Americans, this is an annual tradition. And like most holidays, the 4th of July — U.S. Independence Day — is known for some unhealthy practices. You probably don’t expect to find healthful foods at most parties. But what if you want to host a summer get-together, or attend one, without sacrificing your health?
The following tips and recipes will help you create (or participate in) a 4th of July celebration or another summer party that won’t disrupt your healthy lifestyle.
How to Experience Healthy BBQ and Grilling
Getting outside and grilling and barbecuing is common for summer parties, including the 4th of July. But there are downsides to grilling many people don’t know.
When meat — with its high fat and protein content — is cooked using high temperatures for long periods of time, it develops chemicals (also found in cigarette smoke) that may lead to cancer.
Consuming (and even just smelling) barbecued meat has been found to be hazardous to fetal development, leading to smaller birth weights and heads for newborns.
Another concern with meat and high-heat cooking is AGEs (advanced glycation end products).
Excess dietary AGEs:
- Are linked to increased inflammation and accelerated aging
- Are linked to many chronic diseases, such as kidney disease, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease
- May predict cognitive decline over time and may cause brains to shrink
Animal foods are abundant in AGEs, as are sugary and processed foods. And new AGEs form when these foods are cooked using high-heat methods including grilling.
Most vegetables and fruits contain relatively few AGEs, even after cooking.
But here’s the good news: Most vegetables and fruits contain relatively few AGEs, even after cooking.
However, plant foods that are high in protein and fat do produce AGEs when cooked using high-heat methods. So grilling tofu, tempeh, and other soy products may not be the healthiest idea.
And what about using oil when grilling? Refined oils are also high in AGEs.
Getting rid of all your exposures to carcinogens and harmful toxins isn’t possible. But you can eliminate or minimize a risk when you know about it. And now you know!
Grilling fresh vegetables and fruits without oil is the healthiest way to enjoy a healthy BBQ. It’s also an easy way to add natural, mouthwatering flavor to foods without risking your health.
Tips for Successful Grilling That Won’t Harm Your Health
- Vegetables don’t need oil to prevent them from sticking to the grill. You can use lemon or lime juice or other marinades instead.
- You can also use a grill basket or kabob skewers to prevent veggies from falling through grill grates. Grill pans or plates are another way of grilling foods on the grill or in your kitchen.
- If it rains or you don’t have an outdoor grill, you can use an oven broiler. Like a grill, the broiler uses intense heat that comes from one side. The main difference is a grill’s flame is below, and a broiler’s heat comes from above.
- Preheating the grill is important because it’s the only way to get perfect grilling marks. Tip: Don’t move the food until you can see it’s getting grill marks.
- Marinating creates delicious flavors, but be wary of store-bought dressings and sauces. They can be loaded with sugar, bad oils, and other unhealthy ingredients. Instead, make your own simple blends with ingredients such as vinegar, citrus, and herbs. You may enjoy this 2-Minute Oil-Free Balsamic Dressing.
(Thanks to Tami of Vegan Appetite and Katie Simmons of Plants-Rule for help with these tips.)
Plant-Powered Versions of Your Summer Favorites (You’ll Love These Healthy July 4th Recipes)
With the following recipes, you can enjoy traditional 4th of July food without the guilt.
4th of July Appetizers to Get the Party Started
Giving people something to snack on before the main food is served is always a good idea.
Here are some foods worth munching on:
- Veggies and dip. Cut up fresh, seasonal vegetables from your garden, farmers market, or grocery store and serve them with hummus or other dips. You can even get creative and arrange your veggies in the shape of a flag. For dipping, here’s a flavorful 1-Minute White Bean and Artichoke Dip from Jessica Meyers of Garden Fresh Foodie. Or as an alternative to guacamole, try this easy, plant-powered Creamy Avocado Dip from Cookie and Kate.
- Spice up your salsa. While standard salsas with tomatoes are delicious, why not serve something a little more unexpected? This festive and fresh Blueberry, Strawberry, and Jicama Salsa from Two Peas & Their Pod lets the beauty of bright, colorful food shine. Or your eyes and your mouth will enjoy this Fresh Mango Salsa from Cookie and Kate.
- Healthier chips. Potato chips are a typical party food, but most store-bought ones aren’t healthy choices. If you do want to serve chips, you can look for organic kinds with simple ingredients or try making your own (here’s an easy oil-free chip recipe with a BBQ option from Diane at Plant-Based Cooking). Or make your own kale chips (like these crunchy, “cheesy” Sunrise Kale Chips from Blender Babes,) beet chips, zucchini chips (like these Raw Nacho “Cheese” Zucchini Chips from Janie Gianotsos of One Green Planet) or other veggie varieties.
- Popcorn with dried blueberries and cranberries. Make your own air-popped popcorn and then add dried or fresh fruit for a festive creation. Skip the butter and loads of oil and salt. Instead, you can add lime juice and a dash of chile powder, with a sprinkle of salt if you like. Or keep it simple and add only the fruit.
- Grilled avocados. A fun and easy idea. Try these “walking-guacamole” Grilled Avocados from Alyssa at Good + Simple. They are made in their skins and without oil. And each person can add their own toppings to their scoopable avocado bowls.
- Colorful trail mixes with fresh fruits. Combine nuts (like cashews), seeds (like mood-boosting pumpkin seeds,) blueberries (for something blue) and cranberries or raspberries (for something red) with dried coconut.
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