Myth: Cookouts are no place for healthy eaters

My friends and I busted this myth last weekend when we decided on a whim to have a cookout. Things we were lacking included: charcoal, lighter fluid, grilling utensils, a table, chairs, food, and a grill. I guess you could say we started from scratch. Our cookout came together nicely though. One trip to Rouse’s, a few nagging texts to the next door neighbors about borrowing their grill and table, gathering an assortment of chairs from around the house, and we were set!

As future dietitians we felt the need to break away from the usual hotdog/hamburger/junk food cookout norm. We decided to toss fresh salmon filets and a slew of fresh (might I add, local!) veggies on the grill and call it a night. Here’s an idea of what we were working with…

IMG_2261Local vegetables: Squash, zucchini, peppers

Other vegetables: Onions, mushrooms, broccoli, cauliflower

I know this smorgasbord of veggies is not ideal for most tailgating and/or cookout scenes. But it is especially good for summer cookouts if you’re trying to maintain your bikini body! Grilling vegetables is a fast and easy cooking method. A bonus is the delicious smoky flavor you can only get from the grill. I love talking to clients about vegetables because it is one of the few foods I say they can have as much as they want! If you’re grilling at home you might as well add as many vegetables as you have on hand. I think everyone can benefit from a few extra servings of greens, and you can always store leftovers in the refrigerator. If its possible, try to grill the vegetables first and snack on them as an appetizer so you don’t consume as much of the hotdogs and hamburgers that are packed with saturated fat. If you’re going to a friends house, why not BYOV! I’m sure the ladies who are trying to maintain their figure will appreciate you for it.

A few healthy cookout ideas:

1) Cauliflower “Steaks”. I recently (as in last night) heard about this and I think its a cool idea. Roughly cut a head of cauliflower into steak size slabs and grill it on both sides. It may work better if you lightly steam or boil the “steaks” first to tenderize them and then finish on the grill. You could probably use broccoli as well! If anyone dares to try, please let me know how it turns out.

2) Alternative appetizers. I already mentioned snacking on grilled vegetables before your meal, but if you’re looking for a more mainstream idea try homemade tortilla chips. My friends and I actually made these last Saturday at our cookout. It was the first time I had experimented with homemade chips and they were DELICIOUS. The recipe was from the mind of Chef Kerri Dotson (my new roomie! One of the perks of being in the nutrition field is making friends who are chefs. More of Kerri’s recipes to come!). Cut small corn tortillas into 8 pieces and arrange on a cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season lightly with salt, pepper, etc. Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes. Make sure you are checking periodically that they are not burning. Serve these with homemade salsa, guacamole, or hummus.

3) Grilled desserts. Unfortunately I had to leave our cookout before dessert, I did do the prep work though! I sliced fresh yellow peaches that I bought at the crescent city farmers market in half and removed the pit. We used metal skewers for the peach halves and placed them on the grill. I was trying to follow Bobby Flay’s recipe but after I left I think my friends just heated them on the grill and served them with ice cream. Still equally delicious I’m sure.



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