This July 4th weekend will be filled with fireworks, family and food. If you're like most of us, you will return to work on Monday feeling bloated and 5-10 pounds heavier.
In this article I am going to suggest some food swaps that will help you survive the festivities. Don't worry, I'm not going to try and turn your family fun time into bland and lifeless meals. On the contrary. These tips may actually improve the flavor of some of your meals, while also removing a lot of the processed ingredients and white poisons (flour and sugar).
My food swap suggestions are sure to be a hit with even the pickiest of eaters. At the end of this article you will also find 8 bonus eating tips to help you survive the long weekend. So without further adieu, let's starting talking about the grub...
Food Swap #1 - Fresh ketchup instead of squeeze bottle ketchup
It's time to set aside that sugary red goo known at "tomato ketchup", and take a few minutes to create something healthier. Fear not, the kids will still love this (and the adults too), even though this option contains only 1/8th the amount of sugar in regular ketchup. Because this is so good they might even ask you what brand of ketchup you buy.
Here's how to make your own low sugar ketchup:
- 12 ounces of tomato paste
- 6 tsp of Xylitol (natural sweetener), or 3-4 tsp of honey
- 1 cup cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp onion powder
- 4 tsp salt
Place these ingredients into a sauce pan and bring to a simmer, stirring often. Refrigerate, and serve. Easy.
You can adjust the salt and sweetness levels to taste. After the ketchup cools, taste it. If it isn't sweet enough, add another teaspoon of xylitol or honey. If it isn't salty enough, add a small amount of salt. Stir, taste and make more adjustments if needed.
Food Swap #2 - Fresh salsa instead of jarred salsa
Making a fresh, amazing salsa is easier than you think. Here's my secret recipe.
- 6 tomatoes, diced
- 3 jalapeno peppers, diced finely
- 1 onion, diced finely
- 2 heaping teaspoons of minced garlic
- 2 teaspoons of salt
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Combine is a mixing bowl, stir, refrigerate and serve. Trust me, this tastes incredible. You'll never want to buy jarred salsa again.
Food swap #3 - Spinach salad instead of potato salad
Spinach? Yes, spinach. You'll have to trust me on this one. This salad is filled with fresh ingredients and is too good to stop eating. Combine the following in a large salad bowl:
- 1 bag fresh spinach
- 1/2 large onion, diced
- 4-6 ounces of shredded parmesan cheese
- 1 small container of cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 small can of sliced black olives
- Salt and pepper to taste
Once this salad is tossed, give it a taste. You want the vinegar to provide a pleasant, but not overwhelming bite. If you can't taste any vinegar, add an additional 1/8th cup and try it again. Continue to add a little vinegar and/or salt until you are satisfied with the flavor.
Food swap #4 - Heavy cream topping instead of processed whipped topping
Did you know that you can make your own fresh whipped topping out of heavy cream in only 10 minutes? Did you also know that heavy cream is packed with good nutrition? It is, which makes it a perfect healthy swap this 4th of July.
Processed whipped topping can be filled with:
- Hydrogenated oils
- High fructose corn syrup
- Sodium caseinate
- Random artificial (not natural) flavors
- Polysorbate 60
- Sorbitan monostearate, which is a synthetic wax
- Beta carotene, which may be the only healthy ingredient in a processed whipped topping
On the other hand, fresh whipped topping that you make out of heavy cream has only one ingredient...heavy cream. Heavy cream is rich in Vitamin D. It also contains a broad spectrum of vitamins and minerals, including everything from potassium and calcium to Vitamin A and B12.
Here's how to make a fresh whipped topping...
Simply place the heavy cream in a mixing down, and mix until the cream starts to form peaks when you pull the beaters out of the bowl. Be careful not to mix the heavy cream for too long, or you'll create butter.
Once your fresh whipped topping is made, you can use it on top of pies, or in a fruit fluff. Simply add in diced fruit. If the fluff isn't sweet enough, you can add in Xylitol (or even a little bit of sugar) to taste. Let's face it, a little added sugar in heavy cream is still a better option than the processed whipped topping.
Food swap #5 - Deviled eggs instead of tortilla and potato chips
This is a no-brainer. Eggs are protein-rich and full of good nutrition. Devil eggs are devilishly good. Place them on a platter for the 4th of July, and watch them disappear.
While bringing deviled eggs to your picnic won't prevent your family and friends from eating chips, it will certainly give them a healthy option that will vie for their culinary attention.
To make impossible to resist deviled eggs, boil a dozen eggs, cut them in half and remove the yolks. Set the halved egg whites aside. To make classic deviled eggs, combine the following in a bowl:
- 12 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup mayo
- 2 tsp white vinegar
- 2 tsp yellow mustard
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Pepper to taste
- Garnish with smoked paprika
To kick your eggs up a notch, try this spicy (buffalo) bleu cheese variation:
- 12 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup hot sauce
- 6 ounces of bleu cheese crumbles
Combine either of these in a mixing bowl, and mix until smooth. Place into the halved egg whites, chill and serve.
8 quick eating tips for the 4th of July Weekend
Tip #1 - Use the "plate rule." Finish a plate of food and wait at least 30 minutes before going back for seconds. You might find that you are no longer hungry, or that you eat less food the second time around.
Tip #2 - Eat healthy choices first. Fill up on protein foods and healthy salads before eating any junk or desserts. When you fill up on good food choices first, you will eat far less of the bad ones.
Tip #3 - Drink in between plates of food. No, I don't mean alcohol, but in moderation that's certainly ok. After finishing your first plate of food, drink 12 ounces of water or even a diet soda before heading back for seconds. This will help to fill you up, and may assist in warding off the tendency to overeat even after you are full.
Tip #4 - Avoid (or limit) foods with sneaky calories, such as ketchup, BBQ sauce (and other non-mustard sauces), chip dips, sodas and punches. It is very easy to reduce your intake by hundreds of calories by avoiding these types of condiments, dips and drinks.
Tip #5 - Don't bring your prepared muscle building meals to a family gathering. Relax, enjoy the good food and company, and respect the hard work that others put into making food for you. Also, if grandma offers you a serving of a recipe that she cooked, eat it. Make granny happy.
Tip #6 - If you are in the mood to eat until you nearly explode, then go for the grilled meat. Eating 4 pieces of chicken or 3 hamburgers is better than stuffing yourself with a bag of chips or half a pie.
Tip #7 - Fast, then feast. Even if you're not into intermittent fasting, it's a good tool to use on days in which you might be eating a lot. Here's how it works... Simply eat nothing prior to hitting the picnic or gathering. Then, eat freely within a 3-4 hour window, and then consume nothing else for the rest of the day.
Tip #8 - If you drink alcohol, consider switching to one of the low calorie beers. There are several on the market that contain fewer than 70 calories per bottle. This allows you to consume 2-3 beers without bloating up and feeling (too) guilty.