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Tricks to Lighten Up Summer Dishes

Author: be well™ with Big Y® Registered Dietitian Team

Summertime means cookouts and grilling. While you can still enjoy your favorite seasonal dishes, there are easy solutions to making them more nutritious while remaining delicious!

Whether you’re hosting a party or simply preparing a dinner for two this summer, lightening up your menu to add more nutrients is simple. Here are our tips for decreasing saturated fat and added sugar, and including more fruits, vegetables and fiber.



Cut down saturated fat by:

  • Offering vinaigrette‍-‍style salad dressings or creamy‍-‍style dressings with no more than 1 gram saturated fat per serving.
  • Grilling burgers made with at least 93% lean ground beef or turkey.
  • Choosing fish, shrimp, scallops, skinless chicken breast, lean turkey, veggie burgers, tofu, beans or eggs most often as your protein source.
  • Switching to avocado or Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise for cream‍-‍based dishes such as potato or pasta salad.
  • Serving reduced‍-‍fat pudding, ice cream, frozen yogurt and fudge popsicles for dessert.



Reduce added sugars by:



Reach your 4½ to 6½ cups fruits and vegetables¹ each day by:

  • Offering at least one fruit and one vegetable with every meal.
  • Grilling veggie or fruit kabobs on the barbeque.
  • Providing colorful side dishes such as spinach salad, fruit salad, tabbouleh, hummus, caprese salad or red cabbage coleslaw.
  • Cooking black bean burgers, baked beans or a three‍-‍bean salad as a side.
  • Making salad the base of your meal with protein as an accompaniment on top.
  • Steaming mushrooms and onion, or summer squash and peppers, in an aluminum foil pouch on the grill.
  • Whipping up fruit smoothies with skim milk or lowfat yogurt and fresh or frozen fruits.
  • Grilling portobello mushroom burgers.



Meet your 28 to 34 grams daily fiber¹ by:

  • Eating a variety of fruits and veggies throughout the day.
  • Cooking with whole wheat and whole grain pasta.
  • Offering whole wheat bread, buns and rolls.
  • Topping salads with chopped nuts and seeds.
  • Preparing side salads with grains such as brown rice, quinoa, barley or bulgur wheat.

¹U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020‍-‍2025. 9th Edition. December 2020. Available at DietaryGuidelines.gov.

Reviewed 6/16/2023