The official beginning of summer and the July 4th
holiday bring to mind picnics in the park, parades, and sparklers. Not to
mention, backyard parties, burgers on the grill and ice cream. We’re all
tempted to over-indulge at times and it’s easy to abandon a healthy diet when
faced with giant bags of chips, hamburgers and hot dogs with everything, and
tempting desserts. But it is possible to create a healthy (and even locally-sourced)
summer feast that will satisfy every appetite. That’s not to say you have to
deprive yourself or never have a treat, but creating a foundation of healthy
eating will give your body a head start should you find yourself dealing with
anything from a cold to a serious illness. The healthier you are, the faster
your body will heal.
Planning a healthy feast is something the whole family can
help with. If you involve your children in everything from selecting the
ingredients to preparing the dishes, they’ll have a new appreciation for the
meal, and understand how to make healthy choices. I love having my kids in the
kitchen, watching them experiment, and seeing how much they enjoy their
creations. Now that they’re home for the summer, they’re going to the pool or Millennium Family Center, and hanging out
with their friends of course, but they still have time to join me in the
While thinking about what to do with my family this year, I
can’t help but remember my own childhood July 4th celebrations. My
family enjoyed the local fireworks, we kids ran around with sparklers, and my
neighborhood always had a big gathering with plenty of hamburgers, hot dogs and
of course, lots of ice cream.
So what am I going to make this year? I haven’t decided yet,
but I do have some go-to dishes for the 4th. Cobbler with local
blackberries, which are high in fiber and loaded with antioxidants and Vitamin
C, is a family favorite. My kids love homemade peach ice cream, and I love
knowing that they’re getting the health benefits of peaches, which include
Vitamins C and A and potassium, which works with sodium to maintain the body’s
water balance—something vitally important in the summer. Blueberry, watermelon
and feta salad is not only red, white and blue, it’s very cooling and a perfect
treat on a sweltering summer day. Blueberries are full of fiber, antioxidants,
and Vitamin K, which plays a role in blood clotting and is essential to strong
bones. Watermelon contains Vitamins C, A, and B6, which supports the
cardiovascular, muscular and immune systems. It also helps the body make
melatonin, which helps regulate your internal clock.
Speaking of fun in the kitchen, I recently bought a spiralizer,
and am making zoodles, and
experimenting with spiralized carrots and beets, for wraps and salads. You can
really use just about any vegetable. Pair a fresh salad or a helping of zoodles
with burgers made with grass-fed Certified Angus beef or free-range chicken, and you’ll have a
healthy and satisfying dinner.
A note about picnics: Since I’m Green Sharlene, I need to tell you how easy
it is to have a green, zero-waste picnic. Forego the disposable plates, cups,
flatware, and paper napkins and pack your picnic basket
with reusable, eco-friendly items. You’ll be doing your part for the
environment, and I bet your al fresco feast will taste even better.
However you choose to celebrate the 4th, have fun, be safe,
and take some time to savor the flavors of summer.