Hi friends! With Memorial Day right around the corner, I wanted to share tips for Healthier Summer Holiday Food. This will be my cleanish eating style approach to healthier choices. So I won’t tell you to wrap your hot dog in collard greens or to not eat a hot dog at all. If you’re anything like me, when you want to grill hot dogs, you want to actually grilled hot dogs. PS This is also great for other summer occasions – from random cookout parties to Fourth of July celebrations.
As a quick reminder, what works for me doesn’t work for everyone. But I still want to share my tips in case they resonate with any of you guys too. Do work with your health care provider for detailed directions on what and how much to eat.
General Approach – Cleanish Eating
As a clean eater, and with a focus on my modified “cleanish” style of eating, I opt to find options of foods that are “more clean” than others.
While an organic hot dog is probably the same nutritionally as a conventional hot dog, I do think the organic hot dog may be “healthier” in the cleanish world because it is free of (or has less) preservatives. But that’s just me. You do you.
This post will be focused on this cleanish approach.
#1 – Make Your Own Healthier Memorial Day Meal
When you cook your own food, you can control the:
- Quality of ingredients: do you go organic or local?
- Amounts of ingredients: like how much oil or salt you add while cooking?
- Portions: eat intuitively and eat till you’re full.
Restaurants are widely and generally known for having higher amounts of oil, butter, and salt in food. When you cook at home, you get to better ensure you’re cooking food with the amounts of oil, butter, and salt you prefer / that meets your health needs.
And restaurant portions are often so BIG! I was raised to finish your plate, so huge portions can lead me to overeating. More on this below.
Quick Approach for Healthier Groceries
#2 – Get Your Memorial Day Groceries from a Health Food Store
Speaking of eating in, one short cut to cleanish eating I like to employ is shopping at health food stores. Especially places like Whole Foods that have a list of banned ingredients.
One problem with hot dogs is that they’re famous for preservatives.
For example, according to this fascinating article about hot dogs, common hot dog preservatives include:
- sodium phosphates
- sodium diacetate
- sodium benzoate
- sodium ascorbate
- sodium nitrite
But how does this match up with, say, Whole Foods’ list of unacceptable ingredients?
- sodium phosphates -> sodium aluminum phosphate is WF-unacceptable
- sodium diacetate -> WF-unacceptable
- sodium benzoate -> WF-unacceptable
- sodium ascorbate -> basically Vitamin C – see below
- sodium nitrite -> WF-unacceptable
This article explains the following about sodium ascorbate:
Sodium ascorbate is an organic sodium salt resulting from the replacement of the proton from the 3-hydroxy group of ascorbic acid by a sodium ion. It has a role as a water-soluble vitamin, a vitamin C, a food antioxidant, a flour treatment agent, a coenzyme, a plant metabolite, a human metabolite, a Daphnia magna metabolite and a reducing agent. It contains a L-ascorbate.
I’m not a food scientist, so I’m not sure why one list calls sodium ascorbate a “preservative” and the science article explains it’s a vitamin C, among other roles. Maybe in some forms it’s a preservative?
Personally, these questionable / confusing foods are a pass. So I’ll try to avoid foods with this ingredient in the mix.
#3 – Make Healthier Choices / Substitutions
As mentioned above, I’m a big fan of eating the real deal versus substituting radically different foods. But there are some foods where I really enjoy the healthier options, from time to time. To me, I’m all about food freedom – not letting fear/guilt/anxiety drive my food choices. But there are also times where I not only am okay with the “healthier” choice, I prefer it.
And sometimes, I’m simply looking to go cleanish and find a way to avoid those preservatives and other questionable (and unpronounceable) ingredients.
Here are some healthy swaps I’d consider / choose to make for common Memorial Day foods where I feel like I can still enjoy the festivities restriction-free:
Healthy Entrée – Main Swaps
- beef hot dog -> turkey / chicken / veggie hot dog: depending on product may have less calories and/or fat – compare specific products to confirm.
- frozen hamburger -> homemade hamburger: reduce (likely) preservatives by making your hamburger from scratch.
- hamburger -> try a veggie burger: better for the planet and typically lighter in calories and fat. There are some pretty good cleanish options (I like the Engine 2 black bean burgers) or you can make it from scratch to go full clean eating.
Healthy French Fries Ideas
- fast food french fries -> frozen french fries: while you can control your portions better with frozen, do note they are most likely still fried. According to this article, the 2 negatives about frozen fries are they’re commonly made with trans fats and palm oil which they say is not good for heart health. Additionally, frozen fries are typically high in sodium. I found a version at Whole Foods of crinkle fries that are made with sunflower and/or canola oil and have no salt added. But are these fries healthier than fast food? Read the next line to learn.
- fried french fries -> baked french fries: Homemade french fries (I should develop a recipe for you!) are your best bet for healthy french fries. But so that I have calorie info to compare, I’m going to share fast food vs product to use their calculations. According to this WebMD breakdown about fast food fries from 14 popular restaurants and which are healthiest, the calories of the fries ranged from LOWEST: Sonic Drive-In regular fries (75 g): 220 calories to HIGHEST: Carl’s Jr. Natural Cut small fries (116 g): 540 calories. FROZEN: The Whole Foods crinkle fries I currently have in my freezer have 130 calories for an 84g serving. Normalized, this is:
- Sonic Drive-In: 2.93 calories / g
- Carl’s Jr: 4.66 calories / g
- Whole Foods crinkle fries: 1.55 calories / g
Ketchup – Avoid the HFCS
- conventional ketchup -> healthier ketchup: most ketchups are super high in sugar, mostly based on high fructose corn syrup (which can often be GMO). Opt for a healthier ketchup with less preservatives and a better sugar source. I’m currently using Whole Foods ketchup which is USDA Organic, which means the ketchup is also non-GMO.
Veggie Side (for Lazy People)
- cole slaw / potato salad -> cucumber slices: okay so I mostly opted for this for my photographed eats pictured here out of laziness. I simply did not want to make another side. But this laziness also saved me the extra heaviness of the high volumes of cream typically added to common cook-out sides. You could easily find healthier alternatives probably subbing out some of the creamy ingredients for Greek yogurt. Or you could be lazy like me and slice up some raw veggies. Additionally, you could get pre-made potato salad at a health food store where you can likely avoid most preservatives.
Healthy Soda Alternatives
- conventional soda -> healthy bubbly drink: I think we can all agree soda isn’t the healthiest thing for you. Besides commonly having high fructose corn syrup and preservatives, they’re often super high in sugar. If you want to go cleanish and nix the preservatives, you can pick up alternatives at the health food store that are likely still nutritionally equivalent. For example, Dr. Virgil’s makes some tasty, cleanish soda options. If you want to cut the sugar, try an unsweetened flavored sparkling water. Or make a pom fizz (inspired by my friend Kath Eats) – add some pom juice to sparkling water with a squeeze of lime.
- related: this clean eating Blueberry Chia Fizz drink is an amazing soda alternative you can whip up at home.
- related: or try this Raspberry Lime Chia Fizz for an easy way to drink your superfoods
Enjoying Your Feast
And you should enjoy it! While there were times that Memorial Day foods would give me all kinds of anxiety, thanks to getting into intuitive eating and my cleanish style of eating, I truly enjoy food all day, every day. And holiday eating is no exception. Yay for food freedom!
I’m a big fan of enjoying the real thing in reasonable amounts. Given the choice, I’d rather have less french fries than more zucchini fries. Give me the real thing! (though sometimes I may just want zucchini fries, which is different)
And by “less” I don’t mean to the point that you’re not satiated. I’m all about intuitive eating and feeling satiated. So less is NOT about restriction and more about eating healthy amounts (aka not overeating). Here are two things that help me with this.
#4 – The Banquet Is in the First Bite
Michael Pollan explains in his book Food Rules that “the banquet is in the first bite”. This means that the first bite tastes the best and diminishes in enjoyment as you continue.
I don’t want to tell you how you feel about food, but I’ve noticed this is true for me. And this helps me eat intuitively so I stop when I’m full instead of going on and on. Why keep going when you’re already full and not enjoying it as much as you started?
Perhaps due to my next point?
#5 – Keep an Abundance Over Scarcity Mindset
I realized in recent years that part of the reason I’d overeat during the holidays was due to my scarcity mindset. Luckily, I’ve been working on developing an abundance mindset in life overall. And the benefits of this have flowed to many areas of my life, including eating.
Scarcity mindset says:
Oh no! You’re not going to get to eat this for a LONG TIME! Better eat it all NOW!
Abundance mindset says:
I can eat this any time I want. There’s plenty where this came from.
The latter is more true. You really could whip up a Memorial Day feast any day. You don’t need a holiday to do it. Just call it a summer cook out!
When I come from an abundance mindset, I know there’s more where that came from. And I don’t feel it’s so necessary to overdo it, especially with food.
More Healthy Eating Tips
Who wants me to do another Cleanish Challenge? I’d love to share my healthy eating approach with you. If you’re suffering from restrictive eating or have anxiety about food, I truly believe the tips I’ve applied to help myself get into a non-restrictive healthy eating lifestyle can help others too! Leave a comment and let me know.
Thank you so much for reading!
Which tip was your favorite? How do you enjoy your holiday foods while balancing your healthy lifestyle?