The 4th of July is the ultimate American picnic, featuring some of the country’s favorite party foods. Unfortunately, some of these dishes are downright unhealthy. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. With QualityHealth’s four-station party plan, you’ll be able to identify the best and avoid the rest.

1. At the Bar

There’s beer, wine, lemonade, margaritas, and lots of sodas. What should you drink?

Skip it: Ditch the margaritas and sodas. Margaritas have about 150 calories and 36 carbohydrates in a 3-ounce serving, but the average margarita glass holds 10 to 12 ounces, which means your margarita could have more than 500 calories! A can of regular soda has about 140 calories, but it’s pure sugar. While diet sodas have no calories at all, they’re loaded with unhealthy chemicals and artificial sweeteners.

Sip it: Go for a 12-ounce beer or 6-ounce glass of wine; each has about 150 calories. Or go for a refreshing glass of homemade lemonade, with about 100 calories and plenty of vitamin C in an 8-ounce cup.

2. At the Grill

The barbecue is loaded with hotdogs, cheeseburgers, and chicken. What should you eat?

Skip it: Say no to the cheeseburger. A single patty with cheese on a bun can have between 400 and 600 calories (depending on the size of the burger and amount of cheese), about 32 grams of fat (including 12 saturated) and almost 1,000 mg of sodium.

Snack on this instead: Try grilled chicken breast—but skip the skin. A half breast has only 140 calories and about 3 grams of fat. Depending on how it’s marinated, the sodium count may be as low as 100 mg.

3. At the Buffet

There are heaping bowls of cole slaw, potato salad, garden salad with ranch dressing, and fruit salad. But what’s the best option?

Skip it: Give the potato salad, and maybe the garden salad, a wide berth. Potato salad is loaded with mayonnaise, which can mean that a single cup can have as much as 357 calories and 20 grams of fat. But a garden salad, when topped with ranch or other creamy dressings, may have even more calories and fat than the potato salad. While the veggies are super healthy, a single tablespoon of ranch dressing has 73 calories and 8 grams of fat. If your salad is heavy on the dressing, you could be taking in more calories and fat than you think.

Snack on this instead: Choose the cole slaw, which has more complex carbohydrates and is higher in fiber and vitamins than potato salad. Even though it also has a mayonnaise dressing, a half-cup serving only has about 47 calories and 1.6 grams of fat. Or go for the fruit salad to maximize your vitamins and fiber for about 86 calories per small serving.

4. For Dessert

Trying to choose between chocolate cake, apple pie, ice cream, and watermelon?

Skip it: Chocolate cake has about 350 calories per slice. Apple pie has 310 per slice. Vanilla ice cream has only 140 calories per half cup, but let’s get real: who has just a half cup? Plus, once you add on the hot fudge, the whipped cream, and chopped nuts, the calories start stacking up.

Snack on this instead: The watermelon is your obvious choice, but what the heck—it’s a holiday. Serve yourself a small amount of cake, pie, or ice cream and live a little.

Reviewed by Dennis Bley, DO, Internal Medicine. Broadway Medical Group, Portland, OR.




"Weight Management & Calories." USDA