29 Healthier 4th of July Recipes

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This Independence Day, celebrate with a cookout and some healthy and festive appetizers, snacks, main meals, and desserts. Skip all that nasty food dye, and try out one of these recipes using naturally occurring red, white, and blue foods. Bring on the berries, yogurt, and watermelon (and the American flags made out of food, too)!

Photo: Gina/Skinnytaste

1. Angel Food Cake-Berry Skewers with Cheesecake Dip
Cubes of angel food cake nestle between strawberries and blueberries (raspberries and blackberries would work too!) on these festive skewers. Pre-made cake would no doubt be easier, but feel free to make your own. Enjoy the skewers as-is or serve alongside this  healthier cheesecake dip made with fat free Greek yogurt and light cream cheese.

2. Fro-yo Layer Pops
Make your own healthier popsicles without all that added sugar and food dye. All you need to make these frozen treats is a few cups of fresh antioxidant-rich berries and a couple scoops of vanilla frozen yogurt. For an extra dose of protein, try subbing in vanilla Greek yogurt.

3. Marshmallow and Berry Skewers
This recipe couldn’t be easier — no equipment required! Slice the strawberries (loaded with vitamin C and manganese) and layer between mini marshmallows and blueberries on wooden skewers. Snack on the skewers as is or pop them onto the grill for a healthier (slightly distant) relative of the s’more. (Just make sure to remove before the marshmallows melt completey.)

4. Coconutty Semiffreddo
This dessert looks like it takes a lot of patience, but we swear it’s really straightforward. Made from whole ingredients including berries and coconut milk, this dessert is relatively guilt-free too. Frozen berries will work just fine mixed into the semifreddo, though fresh ones will look much more appealing on top.

5. Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries
Though this dessert requires a full block of cream cheese (feel free to sub plain Greek yogurt for half of the cream cheese), we love that just one doctored-up strawberry is plenty satisfying. Sliced almonds add some crunchiness to the creamy center.

6. Swirled Cheesecake Bars
While a pre-made graham cracker crust saves time and energy, a homemade one is simple to create and saves on a lot of added sugar. The bar itself uses light ingredients including reduced-fat cream cheese, low-fat cottage cheese, and egg whites (to keep things fluffy). Stevia — a plant-based sweetener that can be up to 300 times sweeter than sugar  — stands in for the white sugar normally used in baking. Feel free to choose homemade jam or low-sugar preservatives for the swirl. 


Photo: Kristina/Spabettie

7. Triple Berry Raw Cheesecake
The term “raw cheesecake” may not sound like the most appealing dessert name, but this treat contains no dairy at all. Dates, pecans, hazelnuts, and tempeh — a slightly nutty plant-based protein made from fermented soybeans — come together for a protein and healthy-fat packed crust. The filling uses soaked cashews and berries for a creamy cheesecake-like consistency.

8. Patriotic Parfait
This forth of July, try one of our very own recipes for an easy patriotic breakfast or mid-day snack. Raspberries, cherries (which may help sore muscles recover after a tough workout) and blueberries make up the red layer while vanilla-infused plain Greek yogurt creates the white stripes [1]. A little lemon zest on top, and you’re done! (Served in a mason jar, it’s picnic friendly, too.)

9. Festive Sangria
This party drink gets the “healthier” stamp of approval for being filled with fiber-rich fresh fruit. Plus wine (in moderation) may help protect the heart and control cholesterol levels (win!) [2]. We like to skip the simple syrup since the fruit is plenty sweet. 

10. Red, White, and Glue Granola
As far as red, white, and blue recipes go, this one isn’t as vibrant as the rest. But what it lacks in color, this granola makes up for in the flavor department. Unsweetened coconut and sliced almonds provide some crunch while raisins and dried cranberries add sweetness. And instead of relying on the listed amount of honey, we suggest cutting it down to ¼ cup and doubling the amount cinnamon.

11. Firecracker Smoothie
We love a good smoothie, but this layered drink may be way too pretty to drink (but only for a minute). Stacked on top of one another, the raspberries, banana, and strawberry layers scream patriotism. Soymilk and hydrating coconut water add creaminess and a touch of sweetness. Top with unsweetened shredded coconut and extra fruit.

12. Vegan “Jell-o” Terrine
This lighter dessert makes for a gorgeous red-white-and-blue centerpiece. All you need is fresh fruit juice (strawberry, banana, and blueberry) and agar powder (a vegan alternative to gelatin). This is a great recipe to make ahead since it needs time to gel in the fridge. 

Photo: Gena/Choosing Raw

13. Buckwheat-Topped Trifles
These trifles combine different textures with a silky smooth layer of coconut milk, cashews, and chia seeds, topped with crunchy buckwheat. The recipe also includes Irish moss (which is actually type of algae — a superfood known for its high iron and protein content) that works as a thickening agent.

14. Double Berry and Coconut Pops
These no-sugar-added popsicles have only five ingredients — strawberries, stevia, light coconut milk, vanilla extract, and blueberries. All it takes is a blender (and a little patience to carefully layer each color into popsicle molds).

15. Betsy Ross Toast
Here’s an ode to the famed flag maker herself, Miss Betsy Ross. There’s not a lot to making these toasts (beyond a steady hand and some precision) but kids and adults of all ages will love them. Layer a piece of whole-wheat toast with cream cheese and then spread with strawberry or raspberry jam. Now comes the fun part — create an American flag with blueberry stars and banana stripes. 

16. Make-Ahead Frozen Daiquiris
With burgers to grill and side salads to prepare, you’ll appreciate these make-ahead cocktails. Way less naughty than a beach resort daiquiri, this version uses whole fruit (strawberries, blueberries, and pineapple), rum, and ice. We also love how hip these drinks are served up in little mason jars.

17. Boozy Watermelon Stars
This recipe can be made boozy, or not (though we think indulging in moderation on America's birthday is more than acceptable). These fruity treats are no-bake, and no-fuss. In fact, the hardest part is slicing the watermelon in rounds before letting a cookie cutter do all the work. Pop a blueberry (or baby marshmallow) in the center of each vitamin A- and C- filled slice of watermelon for a cute and quick bite.

18. Brandy and Berry Cookies
These cookies are studded with pretty little red, white, and blue morsels in the form of dried cranberries, white chocolate chips, and blueberries (soaked in brandy for good measure). Feel free to cut down the sugar, or even substitute applesauce for a healthier cookie. Egg whites and plain nonfat Greek yogurt bring reduce the fat content while upping the protein, and whole-wheat flour amps up the fiber.

19. Strawberry and Stripes Daiquiri
The frozen strawberries in this cocktail are loaded with vitamin C, manganese, and fiber. The watermelon provides lycopene (which helps protect our skin from the sun’s harmful rays). And the alcohol? Well that’s because it’s a holiday. 

Savory


Photo: Food52

20. Festive Quinoa Salad
We love quinoa for all its essential amino acids but mostly because it tastes good and it is so versatile. This recipe uses red quinoa for a patriotic red, while blue cheese and blueberries provide the blue and white. This side dish is both healthy and filling!

21. Red, White, and Blueberry Salsa
Blueberries, strawberries, and jicama aren’t new to this list. But what makes this dish different is that it’s spiced up with cilantro, red onion, and jalapeno pepper. Served with tortilla chips, this salsa is a fresh, festive, colorful alternative to the soupy store-bought stuff that comes in a jar.  

22. Red, White, and Blue-chetta
This sweet and savory appetizer turns an old favorite into a patriotic dish with the addition of blueberries. All the normal bruschetta elements are there — bread (choose a whole-wheat loaf), tomatoes, olive oil, garlic and cheese. The sweet blueberries balance out the saltiness from the feta for a satisfying starter.

23. Patriotic Salad with Quinoa
Time to whip out the trusty star-shaped cookie cutter again! This time, there are no cookies involved, just watermelon and a handful of other fresh and healthy ingredients. Greens, berries, and watermelon make up the base of the salad while cooked and chilled quinoa adds protein and a slightly nutty flavor.

24. Red, White, and Blue Sliders
These baby turkey burgers have all sorts of good stuff. We love the idea of a sweet and sour dressing made from blueberries and vinegar. The turkey burgers (which are leaner than ground beef) topped with roasted red pepper and feta incorporate some Mediterranean flair for an American celebration. Photo: Willow/ Will Cook For Friends

25. Watermelon and Jicama Salad
This salad is red, white, blue, and … green? Fresh basil and mint plus a little lime juice act as a super-light (and green) dressing. The watermelon and jicama — an excellent source of vitamin C and fiber — add a crisp, cool, and refreshing base.

26. Chicken and Apple Sausages with Blueberry "Ketchup"
Now hold it… hold it right there. We know blueberry ketchup doesn’t sound appealing, but think of it as a sweet and spicy sauce (there are no tomatoes in this ketchup, don’t worry). This main meal is extra fruity with apples incorporated in the sausage, and plums in the sauce. To make the ketchup a tad healthier, cut back on the brown sugar (with all that sweet fruit, just a half cup is plenty).

27. Watermelon and Feta Flag
Grab a box of toothpicks and invite some friends over for this sweet, salty, and simple Fourth of July appetizer. Piles of blueberries, diced watermelon, and feta cubes create a no-hassle flag without all that finicky arranging of fruit.

28. Patriotic Chopped Salad
Now that we’ve probably overdone it with the watermelon and strawberries, we’ve got two new red foods for you: pomegranate seeds (known to lower cholesterol and blood pressure) and red bell peppers. Jicama creates a light and refreshing white layer with some crunch, while chicken and cashews add protein as well as healthy fat. This dish is all about careful arrangement, so we suggest transferring each ingredient onto the serving dish from a drinking glass.

29. Red, White, and Blue potato salad
Potato salads usually rely on heaps of mayo, but this version uses a mustardy oil and vinegar dressing instead. Blue potatoes — which get their hue from a high flavonoid content — are the stars of this salad while yellow and red potatoes play (equally important and tasty) supporting roles.

How else do you incorporate red, white, and blue on Independence Day? Let us know in the comment section below or tweet the author @nicmcdermott

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About the Author
Nicole McDermott
I try my best to eat foods that make me feel good, but I have a lot of sweet teeth. I completed a 1-month ShakeWeight "challenge" ... well...

Works Cited

  1. Efficacy of tart cherry juice in reducing muscle pain during running: a randomized controlled trial. Kuehl, K.S., Perrier, E.T., Elliot, D.L., et al. Department of Medicine, Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, OR. Journal of the International Sociology of Sports Nutrition, 2010 May 7;7:17.
  2. Red wine: a drink to your heart. Journal of Cardiovascular Disease Research, 2010 Oct-Dec; 1(4):171-176.

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