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Healthy Twists On Traditional Fourth Of July Calorie Bombs

First Posted: 06/28/11 09:23 AM ET   Updated: 08/28/11 06:12 AM ET

Fourth of July celebrations can make us feel like it's practically an American obligation to enjoy the outdoors, fireworks and, of course, delicious food. And when it comes to this patriotic holiday, tradition is everything.

As early as 1777, large dinners were being organized in Philadelphia to celebrate the one year anniversary of American independence. During the years that followed, Fourth of July celebrations only grew, evolving into a mix of public and private celebrations -- often conducted outdoors. On July 9, 1812 The Maryland Gazette recounted “a handsome dinner prepared by Mr. Isaac Parker, on the College [St. John’s] Green, under the shade of that majestic Poplar.”

Although we might not mark our community events by specific trees, most of us certainly get into the Fourth of July spirit with an outdoor celebration (or two) in the company of friends and family. If you are focused on eating well, though, Independence Day can be a minefield of sodium, fat and calories, served up on an American flag plate. However, you can have your (red, white and blue) cake and eat it too -- by making healthy choices.

We turned to the experts to put together a list of some Fourth of July classics, each with a healthful twist. Check out these ideas to get inspired for the long holiday weekend.

Burgers And Hot Dogs
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Burgers and hot dogs seem to be present at any bonafide Fourth of July cookout. Librarian Ameritus at American University, James Heintze, told The Huffington Post that our modern BBQ is steeped in history. "The foods that were served [at early Fourth of July celebrations] depended on what was available locally. Up in New York and Boston, barbecue grilling was very popular ... around 1810 they were already barbecuing large amounts of beef and pork."

Unfortunately, many pre-prepared hot dogs and hamburgers aren't very healthy. An average ground beef patty contains 230 calories and around 16 grams of fat. Roberta Larson Duyff, registered dietician and author of "American Dietetic Association Complete Food and Nutrition Guide," says that the key to making these dishes healthier is simply looking for leaner options -- and avoiding unnecessarily fattening toppings.

Simple Suggestions:
1) If you want to stick with beef hot dogs and burgers always look for lean meat -- at least 90 percent lean.
2) Skip toppings like cheese, bacon and mayo and substitute them for plant-based options, which contain phytonutrients. Registered dietitian and co-founder of, Katherine Brooking, suggests adding a slice of avocado (a healthy fat) for texture and taste.
3) If you're not attached to beef, try a turkey burger, portabello mushroom or a piece of grilled fish -- all of which will save you calories.
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Sounds delicious!
Sticking to the original.

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