Extreme Makeover: Revamping the Traditional 4th of July BBQ

Easy to make recipes for a 4th of July bbq revamp.

Nothing captures the 4th of July quite like images of outdoor eating with family and friends. It marks the beginning of barbecue season and kicks off the summer with cheer. All is fun and games until you stop by the food table, which boasts fare that is everything but forgiving to your waistline. But there’s no need to miss out on that which makes the 4th of July so special! We’ve revamped typical July 4th barbecue dishes so that you can have a happier and healthier holiday feast without missing out on the tastes you expect from an outdoor summer celebration.

Potato Salad

Mayonnaise makes this otherwise vegetable-centric dish a nightmare for health enthusiasts. One tablespoon of mayonnaise contains some 90 calories, 10 grams of fat, and 5 milligrams of cholesterol. These stats alone are reason why the potato salad actively contributes to heart disease and weight gain.

Switch up the traditional recipe with a Roasted Sweet Potato Salad with Herbed Vinaigrette, which includes hearty  dried cranberries, nuts, parsley, sage and arugula. And whistle while you work to a playlist fit for a potato salad maker!


We’ve explored the nutritional downfall of the Big Mac, but homemade versions are not always much better. If you are still using white buns and cooking animal protein, there still exists the hurdle of empty calories and saturated fat.

To give the burger a healthy twist, use a whole-wheat or whole-grain bun and cut the saturated fat by using lean cuts of meat and reducing other superfluous additions, such as bread crumbs and egg yolks. For a much healthier alternative, nix the animal protein and opt for a Chickpea Burger. Not only is this variation healthier but also packs a ton of flavor.

Hot Dogs

Hot dogs are severely low on the scale of nutritional value. Hot dogs are processed meat crammed with some 18 grams of fat per serving. They clog arteries and increase the risk for heart disease. Hot dogs are also loaded with sodium – up to 1,000 milligram – leading to weight gain, water retention, bloating and increased blood pressure.

When searching for a hot dog to lay out on the grill, keep your eyes on nutrition labels. Look for a brand with no more then 3 grams or less of saturated fat and 370 milligrams or less of sodium per serving. Remember that the less ingredients there are, the better for your health the hot dog is bound to be. Avoid white flour buns and opt for either a whole-wheat or whole-grain bun or eat the hot dog wedged between lettuce leaves. Avoid sugar and sodium-packed condiments and opt for a topping of fresh vegetables. Check out the My Vegan Cookbook website for an excellent Seitan Hot Dog recipe.


Original variations often included the preservative, Butylhydroxytoluene, commonly known as BHT. This fat-soluble chemical is also used in petroleum products, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics. BHT can lead to cancer when consumed in high amounts. Other health violations include high levels of sodium, artery-clogging trans-fats and calories. However, there are now so many brands offering healthy alternatives – vegetable-based or baked –without sacrificing the taste and crunch.

Homemade chips may be an intimidating endeavor, but they’re much more hassle-free than you think. Try these simple Sweet Potato Chips and then individualize them with your favorite spices and oils, like as was done for these Mustard and Dill Potato Chips.


Pickles are essentially cucumbers that have soaked in vinegar and salt and fermented over time. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the average 4-inch long dill pickle has about 1,181 milligrams of sodium, which is nearly your maximum daily intake requirement. As a basis of comparison, a 4-inch cucumber prior to pickling contains only 6 milligrams of sodium.

To avoid the sodium overload, soak a sliced cucumber in a bowl with red apple cider vinegar for a few hours before serving. The cucumbers will soak in the sourness of the vinegar without the addition of salt. If you are keen on the pickled effect, homemade pickling is a great way to control what goes into the process. Fermented vegetables are exceptionally good for you. The healthy bacteria created during pickling benefits your gut flora when consumed, improving digestion. Try the Healthy Green Kitchen blog’s Spicy Lemon Cucumber Pickles, which keeps the sodium in check and the flavor on high!

Corn on the Cob

Corn on the cob is a health violation that really shouldn’t be. All is well until the butter is slathered and the salt is shaken one too many times. To make this July 4th staple healthier, try brushing the corn with olive oil instead of butter to ensure less saturated fat. Also, dash salt into your palm first, as opposed to shaking it directly over the corn, in order to avoid over seasoning.

To bring some extra nutritional value to the dish, chop some chives, parsley, garlic, dill, or any of your favorite herbs and mix them with olive oil before applying to the corn.

Baked Beans

Beans are full of heart-healthy fiber and plant-based protein, but canned baked beans are often so full of sugar, their nutritional benefits are canceled out. The sugary syrup that canned beans generally come with will only cause an increase in blood sugar and insulin levels, contributing to heart disease and diabetes.

Check out the Homemade Classic Baked Beans from the Recipe Renovator blog to slim down the traditional recipe without compromising taste or texture.


Ketchup, mustard, relish, and mayonnaise are barbecue mainstays, and for good reason. We often don’t realize how heavily we rely on them to kick up the flavor, and we often ignore their significance in our daily diets. However, it’s in these condiments where we find those empty calories. Ketchup, mustard, and relish are no stranger to sugar, sodium, and preservatives while mayonnaise has a lot of artery-clogging saturated fat.

Why settle for store-bought sugar and sodium-packed condiments when you can make your own in a matter of minutes? Even if you aren’t slicing the fat and calories, it’s always important to keep the ingredients real and untainted by preservatives, coloring and other sketchy add-ins.

Seltzer with Bitters

Regular soft drinks have been linked to stroke risk, elevated blood pressure, obesity, cancer and kidney failure. They’re full of sugar, and even their zero-calorie alternatives hold some dreaded preservatives and chemicals.

Get the bubbly without the downsides. Prepare a Honey, Ginger Sparkling Lemonade with Rosemary and expect to quench your thirst in a much more refreshing and aromatic way.


A lot can go wrong come dessert time. First there’s the obvious bad guys – nutritionally-empty white sugar and white flour – and then there’s the addition of butter that has you worried.

Try your hand at some healthier alternatives, such as Vegan Chocolate Mousse with Sea Salt, Avocado Chocolate Pudding, Fig and Coconut Walnut Cake, Peanut Butter Cookies, and Vegan Strawberry Shortcake. These recipes are forgiving to the waistline and overall easy crowd pleasers.

Photo by The Recipe Renovator. © 2012. Used with permission.