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There’s no need to avoid these foods at your next picnic or barbecue.

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Some of the greatest joys of any season are the activities you look forward to during that time of year – and savoring the foods associated with those activities. In summer, it’s all about barbecues and picnics shared with family and friends.

Food takes center stage at many of these outdoor get-togethers. And many of the foods often associated with these events don’t exactly top the “world’s healthiest foods” list. But you may be surprised by how healthy these three classic summer foods are.


It doesn’t get any more summer-y than this! Corn sometimes gets a bad rap because of its higher-than-most-vegetables carbohydrate content and the belief that it’s nutritionally lacking. But this beloved summer vegetable supplies loads of good nutrition under its husk.

Corn is a good source of fiber, vitamin C, folate, magnesium and potassium. It also contains lutein and zeaxanthin, nutrients that are linked to eye health. Because corn does have more carbohydrates than many other vegetables, people monitoring their carbohydrate intake for blood sugar control or weight management should watch portion sizes. Stick to one small ear or around ½ cup of kernels per serving.

Tasty Tips:

    • Grill corn on the cob to intensify its naturally sweet flavor.
    • Keep the husk on when grilling to retain moisture and skip the butter.
    • Instead of salt, season with a low-sodium seasoning blend or spice it up a bit.

Pasta Salad

Nothing pairs better with grilled chicken, fish, steak or burgers than a colorful pasta salad. This side dish can also be a very nutritious way to round out your meal. Simply choose a whole-grain, bean or lentil pasta and add plenty of seasonal veggies. Top with a homemade vinaigrette made with extra virgin olive oil, vinegar or lemon juice, fresh herbs and garlic, rather than using a mayo-based dressing.

With the fiber, vitamins and antioxidants from the vegetables and whole-grain or bean pasta, plus some “good” fat from the olive oil, you’ll be pleasantly satisfied while providing your heart (and the rest of your body!) with health benefits. The more colorful you make your salad, the better, since different colored veggies offer varied nutritional benefits.

Tasty Tips:

    • Use a colorful variety of summer veggies like tomatoes, zucchini, bell peppers and cucumbers.
    • Whole-grain pasta comes in fun shapes to please any audience – rotini, elbows, bow ties and more.
    • Dress with a simple vinaigrette made from one-part acid (vinegar or citrus juice) to three-parts olive oil. Then mix in fresh garlic, shallots, herbs, Dijon mustard, honey and fresh or dried herbs to taste.

Iced Tea

You can’t beat a tall glass of iced tea on a hot summer’s day, but did you know it might also do your body good? As a source of powerful antioxidants, called polyphenols, tea may protect against certain chronic diseases, like heart disease and diabetes. It may also support your immune system.

Whether you prefer black, green, white or oolong tea, you’ll get the greatest antioxidant punch if your iced tea is freshly brewed, rather than drinking a pre-mixed or bottled variety. Not only will your tea retain more antioxidants, but you’ll also be able to control how much sweetener it contains.

Tasty Tips:

    • Avoid artificial sweeteners and sweeten sparingly with added natural sugars like cane sugar, raw honey or agave nectar. A good rule of thumb is about 1 teaspoon of sweetener per cup of tea. You should taste the tea, not just get a mouthful of sugar.
    • Boost natural sweetness by adding fresh or frozen berries, watermelon cubes or citrus slices.
    • Add interesting flavor with muddled mint, basil or thyme leaves.

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Date Last Reviewed: April 13, 2021

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Jane Schwartz, RD

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