Here in the United States everyone is getting ready for their biggest BBQ of the summer, 4th of July. But just because it’s a holiday doesn’t mean you should forget everything you know about eating REAL food. While it’s fine to break the rules occasionally, it really isn’t that hard to make a few, simple changes and eliminate some processed foods from any summer BBQ you’re planning. So here are some quick thought starters on how you can make your celebration just a little bit better:
Did you know buying fresh, corn on the cob just got harder? Why? This season Monsanto introduced its GMO sweet corn–its first GMO corn intended for direct human consumption. Despite attempts by many food advocates to keep GMOs off the market, Monsanto’s cozy relationship with the FDA scored them another “victory.” So what can you do? Well, don’t shop at Wal-mart because they’ve ignored pleas to not stock this GMO variety. However, according to Civil Eats, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods have refused to carry GMO sweet corn. Oh, and if you find the increasing number of GMOs alarming, help stop their spread and join Just Label It–a national campaign that’s asking the FDA to require labeling of all genetically engineered foods.
Eating your veggies can be tough at summer gatherings where potato chips and Doritos dominate most spreads. Why not make a REAL statement and cut out these fatty, sodium-drenched snacks for some real vegetables. How can you do it? It’s easy … first, slice up some squash, peppers, onions, carrots, and eggplant, then brush them with some oil that has been infused with a clove or two of pressed garlic. Place them on an oiled vegetable tray right on your grill, adding harder veggies first since they will take longer to cook. Just minutes before they are done, season them with some fresh herbs from your garden, a squeeze of lime or lemon juice, and a touch of salt and pepper and voila, now your cooking! You may want to think about buying some grill pellets with sweet flavors to help give your veggies an added flavor too. And if you’re looking for another delicious, green alternative, check out one of my new favorites, Grilled Bok Choy, on my new Pinterest page.
Don’t drink your calories! Yes, these days one of the single biggest sources of unnecessary calories is what we drink. So say goodbye to the soft drinks and hello to water. Does that sound too boring? Well, as a former soft drink addict, I know it’s hard, but here’s an easy way to spice things up. Get some mint leaves and muddle them in a glass with a teaspoon of organic sugar. Then squeeze a wedge or two of lime or lemon over it, add some ice, and pour some sparkling water over it to fill. You can garnish the drink with some mint, or if you’re looking for a more festive, patriotic theme, add a couple frozen strawberries and/or blueberries and you’ve got quite the drink without all the sugar. If you’re interested in some more cool, summer drink ideas that will help you drop kick colas, check out this wonderful piece at Rodale.com about making your own homemade soda.
Beware of the bun! Raise your hand if you’ve eaten regular Wonder Bread buns or any of their equally puffy-white brethren at your last BBQ. Yeah, they are pretty hard to avoid. The problem is, they are so lacking in nutrition. So what are you going to do? Ditch those old buns, and make a serious upgrade. How? Shop local and find a bakery committed to baking real breads, or I recently discovered Rudi’s organic and gluten free alternatives. While my son still claims the “white ones” are better, he likes Rudi’s a lot. And check out their label…they’re a far cry from the nutritional desert of white buns.
Renovate dessert without forgetting the fun: Too often summer cookout desserts are processed food nightmares filled with Cool Whip and tons of other processed junk. While the following ideas aren’t calorie free, they are made from real ingredients. First, ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved making ice cream. Whether you have an old-fashioned hand crank machine or some newfangled gadget, making ice cream can be a fun activity for the whole family. Although I love all flavors of ice cream, I usually make Alton Brown’s “Serious Vanilla Ice Cream” using organic ingredients. If you’re wanting a little more 4th of July flair, stir in some blueberries or strawberries at the very end, or use them as garnish on top. And if vanilla ice cream isn’t exciting enough for the kids, try one of these fun frozen treat makeovers from 100 Days of Real Food, or these Berry Bliss Rocket Popsicles. Both are perfect partners for any summer BBQ.
Isn’t it about time you upgrade your dog? No, I’m not talking about Fido–I’m talking about your hot dog. Yes, this piece of Americana is one huge processed food disaster that can rival the likes of “pink slime.” While no hot dog will probably ever qualify as healthy, you can do a lot better than your average grocery store brand by finding a local farmer you trust or checking out these dogs reviewed by Rodale.com. I’ve also been impressed with Applegate Farms’ organic beef hotdog. Beyond its USDA Organic certification it also features other important credentials including: no antibiotics, humanely raised, gluten and casein free, no fillers, and grass-fed beef. Applegate also launched a new ad campaign that I think can really help advance the conversation of “what’s in your food.” Check it out here:
What do you think? Honestly, I believe this is a great ad, and I love how it dramatically illustrates in a funny yet impactful way that there may be more in your meat than you bargained for. Telling new, “real food” stories and planting seeds of doubt about the quality of processed foods can be two extremely powerful ways of getting all types of consumers to start asking the question, “do I really trust what’s in my food?”
Hopefully one or more of these tips strikes a chord and can help you make progress on your journey to eat REAL FOOD. I know I’m still learning, so I’d love to hear your ideas for making your summer BBQs just a little better.
As always, if you’ve enjoyed this post, please share it by pasting a link on your Facebook wall, liking it, or emailing it to a friend. And for more inside scoop on the world of food, please subscribe to my blog.