healthy cookout recipes

Picture a cookout: Do you see burgers and hot dogs, potato salad, and bags of chips? What if you saw grilled chicken, vegetable kebabs, and fruit salad instead?

Make your next picnic or barbecue heart-healthy and still taste the best flavors of the season with a few simple swaps.

Essential Heart-Healthy Cookout Tips

Learn more about heart healthy cookouts

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Go for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

Heart-healthy eating begins with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, which are packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Fruits and vegetables are lower in calories and sodium and cholesterol-free, which can help keep your weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels in a healthy range.

Add these summer favorites to the table at your next cookout:

And, remember: Fruits and vegetables can be prepared in lots of ways, so they’re easy to add to your menu. Some can be eaten raw, while others only need a few minutes on the grill to bring out their flavor.

Go for Lean Protein

For your main dishes, choose lean protein or vegetables instead of hamburgers and hot dogs. Some ideas include:

And, if a cookout just isn’t the same without a burger, try ground turkey, chicken, or lean or extra-lean beef, then get creative with these alternatives to hamburger buns.

Lighten up Your Sides and Desserts

There are lots of ways to lighten up your sides and desserts without losing out on flavor. At your next cookout:

  • Serve a leafy green salad with vinaigrette dressing instead of potato or macaroni salad.
  • Choose light mayonnaise for potato or macaroni salad instead of regular.
  • Use whole grain pasta and add extra vegetables in macaroni salad.
  • Grill vegetable kebabs for a colorful, flavorful side dish.
  • Set out a tray of fresh, raw vegetables like broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower with low-fat yogurt dip instead of potato chips.
  • Toss together nutrient-packed berries for a fruit salad.
  • Serve slices of fresh watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew.
  • Skip the ice cream and grill peaches, pineapple, or watermelon for dessert.

Stay Hydrated the Heart-Healthy Way

When your heart gets enough water, it can pump better. On hot summer days, make sure you drink plenty of water. You can add a slice of lemon or lime to your water for a refreshing kick, or go for unsweetened iced tea. Make sure you keep alcohol to a minimum, and skip the sugary soda.

To learn more, visit the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute or call 1-855-UPMC-HVI (876-2484).

About Heart and Vascular Institute

The UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute has long been a leader in cardiovascular care, with a rich history in clinical research and innovation. As one of the first heart transplant centers in the country and as the developer of one of the first heart-assist devices, UPMC has contributed to advancing the field of cardiovascular medicine. We strive to provide the most advanced, cutting-edge care for our patients, treating both common and complex conditions. We also offer services that seek to improve the health of our communities, including heart screenings, free clinics, and heart health education. Find an expert near you.