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7 Healthy Cookout Foods

7 Healthy Cookout Foods

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Cookouts are filled with food, family, fun, and sun. But cookout foods are usually low in nutrients and high in fat, and the few greens you see are likely buried under blobs of ranch dressing.

If you’re sick of sitting alone and chewing on celery, try these healthy cookout food favorites instead of the greasy, fatty options served at most outdoor parties.

1. Potatoes
Potatoes are a great source of fiber. They’re also packed with nutrients like potassium, which lowers blood pressure and improves bone health. According to Purdue University, potatoes are also a "gateway" vegetable, making you more likely to eat other veggies! Potatoes can be prepared in a variety of ways — grilled, baked, or dressed in a salad. It’s best to skimp on the french fries, though.

2. Green Beans
Green beans are high in protein, filling you up without adding extra calories. They also have phytochemicals, which can fight heart disease, high blood pressure, and inflammation. Pennsylvania State University linked green bean consumption to higher levels of zinc, magnesium, and iron, along with lower levels of both saturated and unsaturated fats. Make this a truly healthy cookout food by serving green beans with lemon zest for a real kick.

3. Watermelon
This summer classic is delicious, nutritious, and high in lycopene. Lycopene has detoxifying effects, and can also prevent eye diseases and certain cancers. With less than 100 calories per serving, watermelon always makes a great snack. But be warned — this fruit goes quickly!

4. Cabbage
You can’t have a cookout without cabbage, the main ingredient in coleslaw. Cabbage contains chemicals like sulforaphane, also found in the superfood kale. Sulforaphane fights infection and has anti-carcinogenic properties. For a healthier coleslaw, ditch the mayonnaise and dress it with lemon juice, olive oil, and a touch of honey.

5. Fish
Do you want a healthy, low-cal meat? Look to the sea, my friend. Fish is much lower in fat and calories than ground beef; it’s also higher in vitamins A, B, D, and E, improving your health on a cellular level. With plenty of digestible proteins, fish fills you up without slowing you down. Salmon and tilapia are popular favorites; try them with a little lemon on the side.

6. Tea
Not to be confused with the sugary, syrupy, store-bought variety, iced tea has great benefits. Tea prevents gum disease and tooth decay by cleansing the mouth of bacteria. Likewise, the polyphenols in tea fight off cancer and diabetes.

Connoisseurs can choose from dozens of different teas, which each have unique health perks; green tea, for example, is especially high in polyphenols. For the full experience, skip the sugar and use honey or ginger instead; better yet, drink unsweetened tea, which contains zero calories.

7. Smoothies
If you like the taste of sugar — but not the side-effects — smoothies are the thing for you. Mix your favorite fruits with Greek yogurt for a fat-free, high-protein option. Strawberries and blueberries mix well together and are high in antioxidants. Add a bit of agave syrup for low-glycemic sweetness.

The Takeaway
With plenty of options on the table, choosing healthy cookout foods for your next outdoor party should be a cinch. From high-fiber vegetables to protein-packed fish to fat-free fruit, you and your guests can enjoy great taste and great health.

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Originally published 8/30/14