Summer is the time for getting outdoors, whether you’re going for a swim or cooking on the grill. But what you cook out may weigh you down from all the summer fun, if you go with some of those traditional, heavy side dishes. You know the kind I’m talking about: all those mayonnaise-heavy potato salads and macaroni salad. Not only can they make you feel sluggish, but all of those mayonnaise-based dishes don’t hold up well when sitting outside for several hours. Here are some healthy alternatives to try for more flavor and that will lead to more fun after a meal, instead of feeling like you need a nap in a hammock.
With so many fresh vegetables in season at the market or in your own garden, why settle for bland potato salad? There are a number of healthy cold salads you can make, but one favorite is a combination of avocado, tomato, cucumber, red onion, cilantro and a splash of olive oil and lemon juice. Not only is this loaded with vitamins, but all those healthy fats in the avocado will help keep you full. As an added bonus, you won’t even have to turn on the oven and heat up your house when making this dish, as all you’ll need is a knife, a bowl, and a fork to eat it all up when you’re done.
Here’s a quick video tutorial from Buzzfeed on how to put it all together for a fresh, cool, summer salad.
Here are a few more summer salads you might want to try:
Another great, easy side dish or main course you can fix on the grill is selecting one of many various kabob dishes. Seafood kabobs make a great appetizer dish, while beef, chicken and pork kabobs can serve as the main dish. For sides, combine vegetables on a skewer to put on the grill, or try fruit skewers for a new twist on dessert. Better yet, create your own mix of any of the above, giving your vegetables some meaty flavor, or making sweet and savory combos like Hawaiian pork with pineapple.
If you’re using bamboo skewers, make sure to soak them in water for 30 minutes prior to use to prevent burning, and you’ll also want to make sure to let your kabobs sit in a marinade before putting them on the grill. To ensure even cooking, cut up your meat, vegetables or fruit in uniform sizes.
Speaking of cooking meat, not all cuts are created equal when it comes to grilling kabobs, and Serious Eats has some very specific recommendations for the meats you choose. For beef, go with sirloin; for pork, choose the shoulder cut; for chicken, the thigh grills the best; and if you want seafood, shrimp is the king of the kabobs. You could also try leg of lamb, if you want to try something a little different.
Here are a few kabob dishes you can try:
- Summer Vegetable Kabobs
- Molasses-Balsamic Steak Kabobs with Green Tomatoes
- Tropical Salad with Pork Kabobs and Citrus-Chimichurri Vinaigrette
- Apricot Grilled Lamb Kabobs
- Grilled Balsamic-Molasses Bacon
Grilled Veggies (And Fruits)
The simplest side dish for summer cookouts is simply allocating a section of the grill for fresh fruits and vegetables. You can buy special grill pans for smaller slices or cuts that may fall through the grill, but there is nothing prettier then a perfect set of grill marks on everything from tomatoes to eggplant to fresh pineapple slices. Corn on the cob is a big favorite for grilling, and you can try a couple of the recipes below for some new twists that go beyond butter and a little salt and pepper.
Grilling fruits makes a warm, sweet treat, which you can also serve on homemade vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt if you want to save a few calories. Here are just a few recipes you can try to add that smoky, grilled taste to some your favorite fruits and vegetables.
- Grilled Jalapeño-Lime Corn on the Cob
- Cuban Corn on the Cob
- Grilled Peaches
- Grilled Watermelon, Mint, and Feta Salad
- Grilled Asparagus
Your mom and grandma may have included potato and macaroni salad as part of every grilled meal, but there is no reason you can’t start some new, healthier traditions to keep your summer cookouts light and healthy.
[Photo courtesy of Shutterstock]