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Summer foods that won’t make you feel guilty

You don't need to give up on your summer favourites of hot dogs and burgers. Lianne finds healthy alternatives for them.
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Lianne Phillipson-Webb, July 12, 2013 2:04:50 PM

With countless picnics and barbecues, summertime fare needs to be fast and tasty. All too often, healthy options make their way to the bottom of the totem pole as it’s assumed they need more prep and additional effort to organize and shop for.

Here are some typical meals and foods that you can trade up for healthier options and not compromise on taste or speed:

Hot dogs
Ever shopped for a hot dog at your local butcher? Try it the next time. A few established farms package their own meat and make natural hot dogs that are more like a slim sausage. However, as with any packaged food, read the label to learn of the ingredients. My local butcher has a wide variety of sausages that include lamb, bison, turkey, chicken as well as the traditional pork. They are stuffed with ground meat, no fillers or bits that I don’t want to consume.

The burger can be a stand alone dinner. Making homemade burgers are a breeze and the perfect spot to hide some finely chopped or grated vegetables for those with a more discerning palate against fresh produce. Ground turkey, chicken, lamb, beef and pork can all be used on their own or combined together. Ground dark meat poultry offers more iron and is more forgiving when it comes to being overcooked. Use quick cook oats instead of breadcrumbs and add healthy spices like turmeric and curry for an added kick of flavour.

Potato or pasta salad
Mayonnaise-laden salads pile on more calories with every mouthful. I recently tried a potato salad without mayo and it vanished with seconds. I asked the woman who brought it what the recipe was, and she said it was her German mother’s recipe. It had onions, a bit of bacon (I’d suggest prosciutto), vinegar and parsley. It was surprisingly light and so flavourful. Pasta can be dressed with fresh basil pesto and tossed with cherry tomatoes for the perfect summer salad.

Lemonade is one of the easiest drinks to make. Seriously, try making your own. My kids are constantly mixing and stirring new drinks. Take a few fresh lemons, and limes if you like, squeeze them and add both juice and rinds to a pitcher. Follow with ice and maple syrup to taste. It has a more delicate flavour without the being overtly sweet and the maple undertone is unique.

Popsicles and freezies
Artificial colours drive me nuts. Seeing kids with long blue freezies and bright orange popsicles makes me run the other way, with my kids in tow. Old school popsicles in any BPA free popsicle maker, or the newer, fancier Zoku popsicle makers that make instant frozen anything allow you to add fresh fruit, applesauce or juice of your choice are perfect for summer.

Ice cream
Some ice creams look like a paint palette of artificial hues. I don’t let my kids have birthday cake, rainbow sherbert or anything with vibrant colours that stain the tongue. Making homemade ice cream is so simple it’s silly. Check out this video and wow your guests and kids with this easy and fast recipe.

It’s tough to make smores without the key ingredients. Sugar laden cookies, marshmallows and chocolate aren’t the healthiest on their own. Combined, they become a treat that’ll have your kids spinning for at least another hour after bedtime round the campfire. Instead how about chocolate dipped strawberries or skewers of pineapple, berries and melon? If you’ve used the barbecue, try grilled peaches, flesh side down with a drizzle of honey. Make the most of the summertime fruits while you can.

Summer food can be a healthy affair. Search out more healthy varieties and mix up the old repertoire. We’d love to hear what you find.


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Lianne Phillipson-Webb

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