Nutrition Kitchen

Hot dogs, cheeseburgers, potato salad, and chips – all tempting foods that make up summer cookouts. While all these foods can be delicious, they are also high in calories, fat, and sodium. But with just a few simple changes, summer get-togethers with friends and family can still be fun, flavorful, and healthy.

summer-cookouts-kebobsMain Dish Alternatives

Summer cookouts, barbecues, or picnics are centered around the main course. At your next party try grilling turkey burgers, portobello burgers, or meat and veggie skewers instead of traditional hot dogs or hamburgers. Marinated grilled chicken is delicious, flavorful, and a healthy option as well.

Swap These Sides

Switching out creamy salad dressings with vinaigrettes will be lighter in calories and fat. Using whole grain pastas and brown rice will help boost fiber intake, and adding pesto to pasta salads can give it a unique and amazing flavor. Some other delicious side dishes to incorporate into your summer cookouts are fruit kebobs, grilled veggies, whole wheat pitas with hummus, corn and black bean salsa, and baked chips with guacamole.

Liquids Count

Lastly, reducing the amount of sugary beverages can help decrease total calorie intake. So when you get thirsty, opt for freshly squeezed lemonade, fruit infused waters, or unsweet tea instead of soda.

Give it a Try!

Making family recipes healthy can be a fun event for the whole family! Or if you’re looking to try something new, below are some great ideas and recipes for your next cookout or summer party! (Click a recipe to see it full size.)

Happy Grilling!

Turkey Burgers

Health Cookouts recipe turkey burger

Chicken and Veggie Skewers

Health Cookouts recipe chicken kabobs

Pasta Salad

Health Cookouts recipe pesto pasta salad

Grilled Veggies

Health Cookouts recipe marinated veggies

Corn and Black Bean Salsa

Health Cookouts recipe corn and black bean salsa

Fruit Infused Waters

Pineapple-Orange Raspberry-Lime Strawberry-Kiwi Blackbery-MintBlueberry-Orange-Basil


Sara Clement, Nutrition Education Manager, Food Bank of Central & Eastern North CarolinaSara Clement RDN, LD is Food Bank CENC’s Nutrition Education Manager. She helps our neighbors in need improve overall health by sharing great food choices and eating habits that work with their lifestyle. Her monthly ‘Nutrition Kitchen’ posts share stories of her work and tips for us all.