PHOTOGRAPHY: Mike Schinkel

Americans love to center holidays around food and Independence Day is no exception.

Whether your plans include camping, a neighborhood barbeque or community festivities, you can bet there will be plenty of grilled, fried and sugar-laden treats. As with any holiday, the key is to be mindful of your consumption—taste a little of everything, but balance it out with activities.

Here are some suggestions for making your 4th of July a little healthier.

Food and Drink Tips

Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of liquids throughout the day. Being properly hydrated will help you feel better and also keep you feeling full. Have healthy drink options available such as tea, water with lemon or fruits, or watered down fruit juices. You can also snack on fruits and vegetables with naturally high water content. Lawrence Fagan, owner of Lifestyle Fitness 24/7, Las Vegas, enjoys indulging in watermelon. “It keeps you hydrated, full and fulfills the sweet tooth ache,” he says.

Avoid alcoholic beverages. Although they may be tasty and can add to the social atmosphere, these drinks contain a lot of calories and can cause dehydration. You don’t have to skip the adult beverages altogether, but choose healthy options and limit your consumption.

Choose healthier snacks:

  • Dip veggies or whole grain pita chips into hummus.
  • Try salsa- or Greek yogurt-based dips.
  • Use Greek yogurt instead of mayo in your potato salad and deviled eggs.
  • Trade out beef burgers for turkey or veggie burgers.
  • Emphasize fruit as a main dessert option. Mona Nunez, group fitness instructor, Bakersfield, California, will be replacing her dessert with a red, white and blue smoothie: 1/2 cup almond milk, 1/2 cup plain yogurt, 1 cup crushed ice, 1 banana, 1/4 cup blueberries, 1/4 cup strawberries, 1/2 scoop vanilla protein powder, 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed.

Avoid pre-made foods. Opt to make entrees and side dishes yourself; that way you can trade out ingredients with high fat, sodium or sugar content for healthier options.

Add Fun Activities to the Schedule


  • Look for a race in your area. “I would suggest signing up for a 5K race to do with your family and/or friends,” says Nicole Molin, owner of Dynamic Fitness Solutions, Boynton Beach, Florida. “Afterward go swimming, water-skiing or play at the beach and barbeque some chicken, turkey burgers and veggies.”
  • Play a game. If you’re staying home or headed to the park, badminton, softball, wiffle ball, volleyball, touch football, croquet or Frisbee are all good options. You can even get a tournament going or challenge your neighbors. Headed to the beach or the pool? Try pool games. “There are swim races, splash contests, dive contests, water polo matches, dunk contests, etc.,” says Jocelyn Martin, personal trainer, Okinawa, Japan. “Anything to have fun and stay cool. The benefit, lots of great cardio and strength, all while laughing and having a great time!”
  • Set up a relay race. Include events such as crab crawling, sack hopping, an egg-and-spoon race or a three-legged race. Use your imagination to create fun and keep people moving!
  • If you already have party plans, get an early workout in. An early hike or run will help you to avoid the worst of the heat and start off your day on the right foot.

Healthy Summer Recipes

Creole Tomato Salad

This simple salad features flavors of the Creole style of cooking from New Orleans.

Salad Ingredients
3 ripe tomatoes (about 2 pounds), cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 Vidalia onion, thinly sliced and separated into rings
1/4 teaspoon (tsp) salt
1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh mint
2 tsp chopped fresh chives

Vinaigrette Ingredients
4 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
4 tsp red-wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp minced fresh garlic

To arrange salad, alternate tomato and onion slices on a platter. Sprinkle with salt. Top with mint and chives.

To prepare vinaigrette, combine oil, vinegar, mustard and garlic in a jar. Cover tightly, and shake well. Drizzle over salad, and serve at room temperature. Makes four servings.

Source: May 2005 Cooking Light.

Fresh Berries Glazed with Balsamic Vinegar

Here’s a quick, healthy dessert to try while the berry harvest is still in full swing. Once reduced, the balsamic vinegar glaze becomes sweet and syrupy, a perfect yet unexpected partner to the fresh raspberries and blackberries used in this recipe. You can also use strawberries, huckleberries or blueberries—whatever is in season locally.

4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons (tsp) honey
1 cup fresh raspberries, rinsed
1 cup fresh blackberries, rinsed
1/2 tsp chopped fresh mint (optional)

Pour vinegar and honey into small saucepan, and bring to boil. Cook mixture until reduced by half (about 3 minutes), stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

Combine berries, and place half onto two salad or dessert plates. Drizzle half the vinegar/nectar mixture over each plate. Garnish with chopped mint, if desired. Makes two servings.

Source: Adapted from The Great American Eat-Right Cookbook by Jeanne Besser and Colleen Doyle (American Cancer Society 2007).

What are your favorite healthy 4th of July suggestions? Please share in the comment section below.