Guide to Healthy Summer Cookouts

Grilling is HappinessWith Memorial Day Weekend just around the corner, it’s time to get ready for your best grilling season yet!  This year we’ve partnered with Sears to encourage everyone to pump up the flavor — and skip the empty calories  — in your cookout menu.  

We will be posting healthy grilling recipes and cookout ideas throughout the summer and you can also visit the Grilling is Happiness website to win fantastic prizes and get tips from grill experts.  And — exclusively for our Appetite for Health fans — we’ve got a special promo code so you can receive $20 off on any grill (except Weber).


Once you get your grill up and running, invite your friends over try some of these healthier apps, mains and desserts.  We promise they won’t blow your calorie budget!

Vegetable Kabobs

Best-Bet Appetizers

Appetizer calories (think creamy side dishes and sour-cream dips) can really pile up, so make sure you have a lot of fiber-rich and calorie-poor veggies with healthy dips,  like tomato salsa, bean dips and hummus.

You can also grill up some extra veggies for delicious warm apps.  I love grilled corn on the cob, summer squash, mushrooms, bell peppers and eggplant.  To season, just put them in a plastic bag with a little olive oil and salt and pepper. Serve on little kabobs.


And don’t forget a starter salad.  My favorite for the summer season: Strawberry and Spinach Salad.

Strawberry Spinach Salad


Build a Better Dog, Burger, or Alternative Main

To build a healthier burger, use the leanest ground beef possible (look for ground sirloin) or use skinless turkey breast or Portabella mushrooms.

For dogs, refer to our guide for the hottest diggity dogs. In addition to myriad chicken or turkey based dogs, you can also find vegetarian  dogs  on the market that are extremely low in calories and saturated fat.


Grilled Salmon is another summer favorite.  I love this recipe for Cedar Planked Salmon!


Cedar Planked Grilled Salmon



  • 1 cedar plank (6 by 14 inches)
  • 2 salmon fillets (1 1/2 pounds total)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 6 tablespoons brown sugar

Cedar Plank SalmonDirections

Soak cedar plank in salted water for 2 hours, then drain. Remove skin from salmon fillet. Remove any remaining bones. Rinse the salmon under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Generously season the salmon with salt and pepper on both sides. Lay the salmon (on what was skin-side down) on the cedar plank and carefully spread the mustard over the top and sides. Place the brown sugar in a bowl and crumble between your fingers, then sprinkle over the mustard.

Set grill for indirect grilling and heat to medium-high. Place the cedar plank in the center of the hot grate, away from the heat. Cover the grill and cook until cooked through, around 20 to 30 minutes. The internal temperature should read 135 degrees F. Transfer the salmon and plank to a platter and serve right off the plank.

Cook’s Note: A direct method to grill the salmon may be used. Soak the cedar plank well. Spread the mustard and brown sugar on the salmon, but do not place the fish on the plank. Set up the grill for direct grilling on medium-high. When ready to cook, place the plank on the hot grate and leave it until there is a smell of smoke, about 3 to 4 minutes. Turn the plank over and place the fish on top. Cover the grill and cook until the fish is cooked through, reaching an internal temperature of 135 degrees F. Check the plank occasionally. If the edges start to catch fire, mist with water, or move the plank to a cooler part of the grill.


Delicious Desserts

For something sweet, go for in-season fruit like berries or watermelon. There’s all kinds of healthy desserts you can make when you start to incorporate sweet fruit into treats.  It can be as simple as a fruit dessert topped with fresh mint sprigs or a Greek yogurt and fruit layered parfait or a cobbler.

For a simple and easy way to impress your guests, try these Strawberry cheesecake bites.


Best Summertime Sips

When it comes to waist-management, it’s important to eat your calories not drink them because liquid calories aren’t filling.  Iced-tea is my bevarage of choice all summer long.  I add fresh lemon and skip the sweetener.

If you want to enjoy an alcoholic beverage at a cookout, try a light or ultra-light beer.  Some have as few as 55 calories now a bottle. Or, you can have an ounce of distilled spirits with a calorie-free mixer.  I’ll have lots of still and sparkling waters available, light and regular beer at my cookouts.

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