Tasty, Healthy Recipes & Smart Tips for a Better 4th of July BBQ

Eat! Drink! Be merry! (And still fit — comfortably! — into that bathing suit)

The Fourth of July is one of the greatest ways to celebrate summer and America – we head to the beach, go swimming, and get together for a good old fashioned cookout. Cheeseburgers, potato salads, hot dogs, beer …. It’s no wonder people can easily consume more than 1,600 calories—nearly a day’s worth of calories—at a single BBQ. But keeping your waistline trim doesn’t mean you have to disappoint your taste buds — simple tweaks to some of your favorite summer foods is all it takes to cut mega-calories. Here are my tips—along with some amazing, better-for-you BBQ recipes—that’ll help you celebrate the 4th smartly.

It’s not a BBQ without a few dips, and this White Bean and Kalamata Olive Dip (recipe below) is sure to wow your crowd without packing on the calories. It’s simple to throw together, packed with flavor and nutrition, and pairs perfectly with whole grain pita, crackers, crusty bread, or veggies.

White Bean and Kalamata Olive Dip
Serves 6


• 1 (15 ounce) can cannellini or navy beans, drained and rinsed
• 1 clove garlic
• 1 lemon, juice and zest
• 1-2 tablespoons good extra virgin olive oil
• 1 tablespoon fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
• 1/4 cup kalamata olives, drained
• Pepper, to taste

Place the beans, garlic, lemon juice/zest, olive oil, thyme and olives in a food processor. Pulse until the mixture is coarsely chopped (longer for a creamier consistency). Season with pepper and serve at room temperature with raw veggies and pita chips.

Per serving: 105 calories, 3 g. fat, 0 g. sat. fat, 14.7 g. carbs, 4.7 g. fiber, 4.7 g. protein, 150 mg. sodium

When it’s time to fire up the grill, swap lean meats like buffalo, chicken, or turkey for their higher-fat counterparts. You can also sneak in nutrients and add flavor by including veggies like corn, beans, or arugula right in the patties. Pair them with a toasted whole grain English muffin for a fun, healthy spin on the traditional bun. (Check out my recipe for a Turkey and Arugala Burger below.)

Arugula and Feta Turkey Burger
Serves 4


1 to 1 1/2 pounds ground white meat turkey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 cup raw arugula or baby spinach
2 tablespoon feta cheese crumbles
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, mix turkey and Dijon mustard. Set aside. In a sauté pan, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil. Add spinach or arugula, and cook until just wilted. Remove from pan and roughly chop. Add chopped greens and feta to burger mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Mix well to evenly distribute. Separate mixture into 4 equal parts. Form into burger and cook 6 to 8 minutes per side until cooked through.

Per serving: 178 calories, 4 g. fat, 1 g. sat. fat, 1 g. carbs, 1 g. fiber, 36 g. protein, 298 mg. sodium, 60 mg. cholesterol

Potato salad is a BBQ must–have, but you don’t have to load on the mayo. This colorful potato salad is like sunshine in a bowl. Be creative and add whatever seasonal veggies you have around the house – the more colorful the veggies, the more nutrients.

Garden Potato Salad
Serves 8


• 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
• Salt and pepper to taste

• 5 cups unpeeled, cubed red potato (about 2 pounds)
• 1/2 cup chopped celery
• 3/4 cup sliced grape or cherry tomatoes
• 1 cup chopped bell pepper (orange, red, yellow)
• 1/2 cup chopped red onion
• 1/2 cup chopped radicchio
• 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
• 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill

To prepare the dressing, combine all ingredients in a bowl, whisk together and set aside.
To prepare the salad, place potatoes in a medium saucepan. Cover with water to 2 inches above the potatoes. Bring the water and potatoes to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 8 to 10 minutes or until tender. Drain.

Add potato and dressing in a bowl, tossing gently to coat. Refrigerate 15 minutes to cool. Stir in celery and remaining ingredients and toss well. Serve. This makes 8 servings.

Per serving: 112 calories, 1.95 g. fat, .29 g. sat. fat, 20 g. carbs, 2.59 g. fiber, 2.5 g. protein, 53 mg. sodium

Last but not least, we can’t forget about those tasty BBQ beverages and snacks.

• Swap ice cream for gelato or sorbet to save calories without missing out on a refreshing and delish desert.

• Stock the snack table with Food Should Taste Good Chips (loaded with whole grains like quinoa and flax) and pop chips (a super-yummy alternative to regular chips boasting far less calories and practically no saturated fat).

• Skip the fatty dips and serve salsa (try Freakin’ Fresh Salsa … it’s local and available at Whole Foods) or hummus.

• Craving soda? Try Coca-Cola’s mini can. At 7.5 ounces and 90 calories, it will satisfy a soda craving without gobbling up the calories you wanted to save for dessert.

• In the mood for something fruity and refreshing? Muddle lime, mint, and a few blackberries in sparkling water. A splash of champagne or vodka works well here to please the adult crowd.

• Need to hydrate but craving flavor? Add cucumbers, orange segments, or lime to pitchers of water for a practically calorie free, flavorful drink.

Katie Cavuto-Boyle, MS, RD, is a Registered Dietitian, chef, and owner of Healthy Bites ToGo Market. Read Katie’s full bio and more about her role at Be Well Philly here.