It's possible to enjoy light summer dining without sacrificing taste, variety or fun -- all the good things we associate with warm weather eating. Here are ideas for better-for-you versions of some summer favorites:
1. Better barbecue
What would summer be without barbecue? Grilling is a hallowed tradition of summer, but sugary barbecue sauces and fatty cuts of meat can derail the natural healthfulness of grilling. Before you fire up the grill this summer, consider ways to make your barbecue better for you.
Start by preparing your own sauces and marinades (store-bought varieties are often loaded with sugar). You can lighten up practically any sauce or marinade recipe by replacing refined sugars with natural alternatives, such as fruit juice or honey.
When choosing what to marinate and grill, keep in mind that many lean meats -- such as poultry and fish -- cook well on the grill. You can lighten up your burgers by replacing high-fat beef with leaner ground meats such as turkey, or beef that is 90% fat-free.
2. Chipping away at fatty snacks
No summer celebration would be complete without chips and dip, but some of your favorites can be the worst offenders when it comes to excess calories and fat. Fortunately, you don't have to sacrifice chips -- or great flavor -- to trim some calories. Look for lighter versions of your favorite chips, such as reduced fat or kettle-cooked chips.
Be sure to dip your reduced fat potato chips in better-for-you dips. Some popular dips, such as salsa and hummus, are naturally lighter, but creamier dips can be high in fat. You can lighten up favorite dips by substituting fat-free yogurt for higher-calorie bases like mayonnaise or sour cream. If your dip recipe calls for cooking oil, opt for healthier oils like canola or olive. If you're not a fan of tomato salsa, try fruit salsa, made with peaches or watermelon.
3. Slimmed down sipping
What would summer be without a festive cocktail or two? Alcohol, however, contains a lot of empty calories. You can lighten up your summer cocktails in several ways, from foregoing the liquor altogether to choosing lower-calorie options.
Start with a lighter base for your cocktail, such as tonic or soda water. Avoid sweet syrups or fruit juices with added sugar. Don't overlook the power of a great garnish, which can add a punch of flavor. You can turn just about any light cocktail recipe into a frozen treat by tossing it in the blender with some crushed ice.
4. Perk up your iced coffee
Iced coffee is a great summer refresher, but many coffee shop varieties can be loaded with sugar and high fat cream. To make your own lighter summer version, start by brewing your favorite coffee. Sweeten with honey or stevia and use skim milk or fat-free half and half to lighten the coffee. Avoid heavy cream and whole milk, regular sugar or any kind of syrup. Make it a mocha by adding half a packet of sugar-free cocoa mix.
For a frozen treat, run your iced coffee through a blender with some crushed ice -- adding volume without adding calories.