A Healthy Cookout: Happy, Filling Foods

Is there anything better than going to a cookout and experiencing wonderful food that is filling and tasty?  Of course it helps to have a beautiful summer day in a lovely large backyard with happy, warm people too.  I say that is a fantastic experience.  Yesterday I had that exact experience when I attended a co-worker's 50th birthday gathering. I had the wonderful timing to arrive just as the food was being set out on the picnic table.  What first struck me was the cute bite-size fruit balls (the picture is found on the right).  They were sweet bites that were just enough to satisfy that sugar craving before a good meal.  I watched as they put out slider sized turkey burgers and veggies burgers along with a few salads: pasta salad with sweet basil, quinoa salad with bell peppers and a hint of coconut oil and a more traditional lettuce salad.  They followed that with chicken kabobs and steak cut into slivers.  Then they finished up with cupcakes, fruit bars and bourbon truffles.

One of the things I loved about this spread was that everything was small so I didn't feel bad about trying some of everything!  From a portion size standpoint I actually thought it was brilliant.  I'm a foodie so I always want to try anything that looks interesting to me.  Having small bites of everything gave me and everyone else permission to try each dish without feeling guilty or bloated at the end of the meal.  It was great way to allow people to talk and mingle while getting a small plate or two of food. Since it takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to communicate to your brain that you are full, having small bites gives you time to really understand if you are full.

When I say healthy I mean healthy. I don't mean vegetarian only.  I mean a healthy mix of vegetables, fruits, meat and grain salad were available for people to eat.  As you can see from the pictures, it was lovely because there was food for everyone to enjoy!  There was protein for everyone.  They started with poultry: turkey burgers and chicken kabobs.  Vegetarian options were homemade burgers made with a combination of 3 type of beans, sunflower seed and rice and almond power with a spicy zing hiding in each bite. There was a slow cooked steak for the red meat eaters too.  There were 2 different grain salads one was small star pasta with sweet basil in a tomato vinaigrette and a quinoa salad, which has a taste similar to couscous, with bell pepper and slivered almonds. Finally we had two old faithfuls: a mixed lettuce salad and watermelon pieces. No American meal is ever complete without dessert so they served fruit bars, bourbon truffles and cupcakes.

The next time you have a cookout what can you do to create healthy fun eating for you and your family?  I love to infuse at least one new idea into my cookouts. It is fun and it keeps things interesting for my guests!  Consider adding a new food or a new size to your next cookout and see how it works for you.