The Fourth of July is as American as, well, apple pie. It only seems fitting, then, that finding delicious and healthy recipes tops our list of ways to make this Fourth of July your best ever. And since most plans on the Fourth involve tons of time in the great outdoors, we’ve also gathered our top tips for having fun in the sun while staying hydrated and avoiding sunburns.
Food and Booze
Before you fire up the grill, check out these tips to make your franks healthy. Choose hot dogs without fillers or preservatives, opt for a whole-grain bun, and try your hand at some delicious and nutritious toppings, like homemade ketchup and a veggie mix.
If you're feeling adventurous, try some of these unusual grilling recipes for everything from grilled romaine to bacon. There’s even a recipe for pizza on the grill, because America.
When grilling up your foods of choice, make sure to avoid harmful chemicals, which can be released when cooking at high temperatures. Opt for traditional BBQ methods where the meat is slow cooked over indirect heat, or marinate your protein, which has been shown to make grilling safer.
Get in the holiday spirit with a spread of apps and zerts that plays off the red, white, and blue theme. This list, which includes everything from a patriotic parfait to stars and stripes cheesecake shots, packs enough patriotism into every bite to make Betsy Ross proud.
After all of those sweet and savory dishes, you'll want to quench your thirst. The Founding Fathers enjoyed "a midmorning whistle wetter, a luncheon libation, an afternoon accompaniment, and a supper snort"—yes, those are all alcoholic euphemisms—so it's only fitting you partake in some of the same fun. Party like it's 1776 by going old school with your drinks: Use fresh-squeezed juice, seltzer water, simple syrup, and whole fruits in place of flavored syrups to make your boozy beverages healthier.
As you throw back strawberry and stripes daiquiris and lemonade spritzers, don't forget to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and snacking like a champ with H20-rich fruits and veggies.
If you do end up with a hangover on the fifth, make sure you know the best cures. Pile on the eggs, toast with honey, and fruits and vegetables rich in potassium (think bananas, kiwis, or spinach), and drink plenty of water, sports drinks, and ginger or peppermint tea. Try to avoid greasy food, coffee, orange juice, and the hair of the dog—unless, of course, you want to stay in bed all day.
Fun in the Sun
Whether you're at a backyard barbecue or under an umbrella on the beach, chances are you'll be spending much of the Fourth of July outdoors. Take advantage of the great weather (fingers crossed!) by organizing outdoor activities with your friends and family. Bring back the fun of school field days with tug of war, three-legged races and kickball games.
As the sun beats down, make sure you're drinking enough water to stay hydrated, especially if you're partaking in physical activity. For men, that means drinking an average of 3.7 liters of water a day; for women it's 2.7 liters.
While all that sun will give you a nice boost of vitamin D, which is integral to bone health, you'll still want to protect your skin from sunburns. In addition to lathering on sunscreen, add foods like bell peppers, leafy greens, and Omega-3-rich fish, which have natural UV-blockers, to your Fourth of July menu.
If you end up with a red face from a little too much fun in the sun, there are a number of quick and easy treatments to increase comfort and lower swelling: Try a cold compress (not ice!), apply aloe, take some ibuprofen or other anti-inflammatory medicine, and, whatever you do, don’t pop the blisters.
Armed with these ideas for healthier snacking, boozing, and fun in the sun, it's time to break out the sparklers, fire up the grill, and mix up a few red, white, and blue cocktails to celebrate like the Founding Fathers always intended.
Originally published July 2014. Updated June 2015.