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How to lighten up your summertime party staples

Nutritionist Beth Wallace Smith offers tips on how to make over your summertime offerings without sacrificing flavor.

There are two times of the year that children gain the most weight in my professional experience.  The first is during the holiday season, and perhaps surprisingly, the second is during the summer.  A combination of these factors could lead to weight gain – a lack of structure in their day without school, being more responsible for feeding themselves, and social celebrations from graduation parties to vacations almost every weekend.

While I definitely do not discourage families from enjoying less healthy options on special occasions, you also need to realize that not every barbecue can be treated as a "special occasion" for food choices when your social calendar is packed every weekend.

With Memorial Day being the unofficial kick-off to summertime, I thought it would be good time to share a few tips on how you can lighten up some of your summertime party staples.

  1. Main Dish Makeover - Instead of the standard hot dogs and burgers, lighten up your meat selection with chicken breasts.  Naturally lower in fat and an excellent source of protein, they are still satisfying and pack big party flavor with a balsamic marinade or barbecue sauce.

  2. Side Dish - A barbecue isn't a party at my house with some sort of pasta salad.  Instead of a mayonnaise based dish, change up the flavor by adding some cubed avocado for a creamy dose of hearty healthy omega-3 fats.  Maximize the nutrition by switching to whole wheat or "white wheat," fiber rich pastas and add as many diced, colorful summer vegetables as you can find.

  3. Grilled Salad - I bet that if you put a green salad out on the picnic table, 75 percent of it would still there at the end of the party.  Make those veggies much more enticing by making a grilled salad:  Place a head of romaine lettuce cut in quarters, cherry tomato halves, sliced red onion, sliced peppers, and summer squash onto foil.  Drizzle with olive oil and grill on the top rack for ten minutes, turning vegetables after five minutes.  Drizzle your favorite vinaigrette or balsamic vinegar and serve immediately.

  4. Summertime Cooler - Toss the sugary drinks aside and make a Pineapple Cooler.   Mix 1/3 of pineapple juice with 2/3 sparkling water for a refreshing flavor, without all of the added sugar.  Having a party?  Try an iced tea bar:  Make a large container of unsweetened iced tea, and have sliced fruits like peaches, raspberries, lemons, and blackberries for added flavor.

  5. Frozen Treat - Swap your popsicles and water ice for frozen Greek yogurt.  Blend 12 ounces of plain or vanilla Greek yogurt with 1 cup of your favorite berries, and put into popsicle molds or an ice cream cooler.  Delicious, nutritious, and packed with protein and vitamins.

Enjoy a great start to your summer!

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