UAB Medicine News
The Ultimate Guide to a Festive and Healthy Memorial Day Weekend Meal
Memorial Day isn’t just the unofficial start to summer; it’s also a perfect opportunity to indulge your inner foodie and get creative at the backyard grill.
Traditional Memorial Day dishes often are big on taste but leave a lot to be desired in terms of nutrition. However, there are some truly delicious options for appetizers, entrees, sides, desserts, and drinks that won’t ruin your diet, weigh you down, or keep you from sporting your favorite swimwear at the beach.
Here’s our guide to preparing a festive and healthy meal this Memorial Day that all of your guests will love.
Everybody loves sampling appetizers at a party, and there are lots of great options to choose from for Memorial Day weekend. Easy vegetable kabobs made right on the grill are among the simplest finger foods to kick off your party in a healthy way. Just pick up some wooden skewers at the grocery store and arrange assorted vegetables on each skewer, perhaps after marinating them in a balsamic vinaigrette and lemon juice for extra flavor. Some of the best veggies to put on skewers are red bell peppers, zucchini, yellow squash, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, okra, and onions.
As an alternative to unhealthy cream-based dips, here’s an easy and healthy way to make your own salsa for dipping skewer creations and veggie chips.
Easy and Healthy Salsa Recipe
- 1 can diced tomatoes
- ¼ onion, chopped
- 1 small jalapeño pepper, chopped and seeded
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
- 1 tbsp. fresh lime juice
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro
- ¼ tsp. salt
- Combine all ingredients in a food processor and combine until mixed, yet still chunky.
- Dip and enjoy!
No Memorial Day party is complete without one or more solid main dish options, but settling on a healthy entrée can be a challenge. Yet with main dishes, it’s easy to make healthy swaps from traditional favorites.
For example, instead of fatty beef burgers, try serving black bean burgers or Portobello mushroom burgers instead. If you want to make chicken kabobs, mix a variety of grilled vegetables in between chunks of chicken to add more flavor, variety, and health benefits to those skewers.
For backyard cookouts, you also can cut the carbs and go bread-free with hearty salads that feature smoky and tangy flavors. For inspiration, here’s a Mexican corn salad with honey lime shrimp recipe that’s a crowd-pleaser, and it can be served as either a main course or a side dish depending on how much you make.
On Memorial Day weekend, side dishes are much more than just culinary afterthoughts. A well-appointed side dish can be a stand-alone masterpiece and really take your meal to the next level. Side dishes also are the perfect opportunity to sneak some extra vegetables into your Memorial Day meal for a welcome dose of vitamins and minerals. Grill up slices of eggplant, carrots, and onions before drizzling them with balsamic vinaigrette, or serve raw veggies with hummus for an easier alternative.
Since potato salad is always a favorite Memorial Day side dish, here’s a healthier version of this satisfying recipe to try.
Healthy Potato Salad Recipe
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
- 2 tbsp. white wine vinegar
- ¼ tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. pepper
- 1 ½ pounds multi-colored fingerling potatoes, halved
- 1 small red onion, sliced
- 3 tbsp. fresh chives, chopped
- Combine liquids and salt and pepper in a bowl.
- Boil halved potatoes and cook until tender.
- Combine potatoes and dressing.
- Toss in sliced onions and chives while potatoes are still hot.
- Grab a fork and enjoy!
The best Memorial Day desserts are fresh, fruity, and full of flavor. This is an ideal time of the year to embrace seasonal fruits and provide your guests with some vitamin C and antioxidants. Simple watermelon on a stick or grilled pineapple are easy ways to serve fruit-focused desserts. You also can get creative with red, white, and blue desserts to get everyone in a patriotic mood.
It doesn’t get much more beautiful than a mixed berry trifle with strawberries, blueberries, and angel food cake if you have time for a little prep work. Or you can keep it simple with red, white, and blue fruit skewers that only require arranging strawberries, blueberries, and small cubes of angel food cake on skewers for an effortless and guilt-free indulgence.
There’s no reason why all festive beverages must contain alcohol, and there are many fun ways to enjoy a refreshing drink without the extra calories and health effects of booze. Non-alcoholic cocktails, also known as mocktails, often feature festive and fruity flavors that are perfect for summertime, such as strawberry, lemon, basil, rosemary, and lime.
Here’s a simple strawberry-basil mocktail recipe that is sure to quench your thirst and cool you down on even the warmest Memorial Day weekends.
Non-Alcoholic Strawberry-Basil Refresher
- 1 ¼ cup fresh strawberries, sliced
- ¾ cup lemon juice
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 cup ice cubes
- 2 tbsp. fresh basil, chopped
- 1 bottle club soda
- Combine strawberries, lemon juice, basil, and ice cubes in a blender.
- Blend mixture until smooth.
- Pour mixture into festive glasses and top with club soda for a little fizz and a few ice cubes.
- Sip and enjoy!
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