Summer weather is perfect for good food and pleasant company. Cooler months are behind you, and it’s time to take advantage of fresh summer produce for lighter, cleaner eating. Firing up the grill for a cookout offers plenty of opportunities to create a healthy menu that everyone will enjoy. Impress your guests with these 10 healthy meals at your next outdoor gathering.
1. Strawberry, Tomato and Watercress Salad
A strawberry, tomato and watercress salad is refreshing as an appetizer or lunch.
You can prepare the perfect salad dressing using pink peppercorns, strawberries, a little honey, lemon juice and olive oil.
Toast the peppercorns and smash them with the strawberries to make a paste. Add to honey, lemon juice and olive oil in a bowl and stir. Adjust the seasonings for a fruity dressing with a kick.
2. Baked Salmon With Mango Salsa
Tropical fruits are essential to the summer culinary experience — and what’s healthier than mango and salmon?
Baked salmon topped with mango salsa is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and essential vitamins and nutrients.
Rub your salmon fillets with paprika, chili powder, cayenne pepper, garlic, salt and pepper, and cut the spice with honey and lemon.
3. Grilled Chicken With Chimichurri Sauce
Any home chef will tell you that cooking Thanksgiving turkey is a science, from thawing to roasting the bird to a perfect 175 ℉.
Grilling enthusiasts will likely share the same sentiments, aiming for perfect tenderness and an explosion of flavors.
Chimichurri is a healthy, tasty condiment for grilled chicken or steak made with olive oil, red wine vinegar, parsley, oregano and garlic. You can even prepare chimichurri 24 hours in advance and refrigerate it until you’re ready to use it.
4. Chipotle Gazpacho
Just like cocoa is out and a cool glass of lemonade sipped through a straw is in, winter’s hot, creamy soups may no longer be on the menu. However, gazpacho is an excellent alternative for clean summer eating.
A chipotle gazpacho is a cold soup rich in vitamin C. You’ll blend tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, scallions, garlic, almonds, lime juice, olive oil and chipotle paste until smooth.
Refrigerate for at least two hours before serving and top with avocado and more almonds.
5. Grilled Avocado Salad
Meats aren’t the only foods you can barbecue. Grilling avocados delivers a smoky flavor that pairs well with a bed of crisp romaine.
However, herb-yogurt dressing is what really knocks this salad out of the park. Fat-free Greek yogurt keeps it low-fat, while chives, thyme, dill, garlic and shallots deliver savory freshness.
6. Caramelized Tomato Bruschetta
Toasted bruschetta-topped baguettes will make the perfect appetizer for your summertime cookout.
Coat your baguettes with olive oil before setting them on the grill. You’ll want to use a cast-iron skillet to char cherry tomatoes as they will likely fall between the grates.
Top the baguettes with charred tomatoes, ricotta, basil, and salt and pepper.
7. Grilled Watermelon and Shrimp Skewers
Watermelon is another fruit that takes on a delicious smoky flavor from the grill. Skewer it with marinated shrimp for a healthy dinner that takes minutes to make.
Start by marinating shrimp in lime zest and juice, mint, thyme, chili flakes, garlic, salt and pepper. You can use flat metal skewers or soak bamboo versions for 30 minutes in water.
Thread watermelon chunks on six to nine skewers, doing the same for the shrimp. Grill the skewers until char marks appear on the watermelon and the shrimp are fully cooked.
8. Mexican Street Corn Salad
Mexican street corn is traditionally spicy, smoky and sweet, satisfying the taste buds of anyone who tries it.
However, the salad version is much easier to eat than straight off the cob and allows you to adjust ingredients as you desire.
The main ingredients for Mexican street corn salad include corn, cotija cheese, mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, lime juice, cilantro, garlic, chili powder, paprika and jalapeno peppers.
9. Cucumber Tomato Salad
A fresh, healthy cucumber tomato salad is easy to make. It’s also an excuse to visit your neighborhood farmers market for fresh, local produce.
All you need are sliced English cucumbers, tomatoes and red onion. Mix in a bowl with olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper and fresh herbs — parsley, basil and dill are excellent options.
10. Peach Basil Sorbet
End your summer cookout with a healthy peach basil sorbet for dessert. You’ll need frozen peaches, maple syrup or honey, coconut milk and basil leaves.
Pulse the peaches in a food processor and add the additional ingredients until the mixture is smooth, then freeze.
Top with extra basil leaves and fresh berries before serving.
Clean Eating for Summertime Health
Summer is the perfect season for eating cleaner and maintaining healthier habits. Take advantage of fresh seasonal ingredients and new recipes for a healthy outdoor cookout with these healthy meals.
Jane is an environmental writer and the founder and editor-in-chief of Environment.co where she covers sustainability and eco-friendly living.