Summer 2020 Outdoor Eating Tips

With Independence Day around the corner, many of us are feeling the urge to get out and celebrate even more than in years past as we all continue to follow COVID-19 mitigation guidelines. An outdoor BBQ or picnic at a local park is a great option to maintain social distancing while also providing a change of scenery. An added bonus of dining al fresco, is that it naturally lends itself to a walk after the meal for some light exercise. Incorporating some of the healthy outdoor eating options below will help keep you and your family on the path to health this summer.

Fire Up the Grill!

Try grilling vegetables. If you are a gardener, this is a great way to use some of your freshly grown produce. Grilling vegetables brings out an incredible flavor and tenderness in many vegetables, including corn, zucchini, squash, mushrooms, and many more.
Take a twist on burgers. Opt for turkey burgers, or veggie burgers (recipe below) instead of the higher fat beef burger. You'd be surprised how flavorful and fulfilling these options can be.
See how tasty seafood can be. Grilling fish is one of the healthiest options for the grill. Cook this omega-rich food right next to some fresh veggies to make the ultimate healthy meal. Try using some fresh herbs and a squeeze of citrus on the fish and it will come out tender and tasty.
Don't forget about dessert. Throw some pineapple slices on the grill until they are heated through -- serve by themselves or with some low-fat yogurt and nuts.
We would be remiss if we didn't mention one of the greatest benefits of grilling. The clean-up is minimal! No pots and pans to scour after your meal; just be sure to clean the grates of your gill after each use.


Pack your cooler with a variety of crisp, raw veggies like cucumbers, carrots, celery, asparagus tips, cherry tomatoes, and radishes. Take along a nutritious dip such as hummus, salsa, fat-free bean dip, or low-fat yogurt with herbs and spices.
Add celery stuffed with peanut butter, and baked tortilla chips and salsa.
Instead of mayo which can spoil and add more fat calories, use dressings made with less oil and more vinegar or other added liquids such as fruit juices. Using salad dressings that contain acidic ingredients such as vinegar or citrus instead of mayonnaise not only cuts fat but also helps keep foods safer at room temperature.
Break free from tradition and try a brown rice salad or a whole-wheat couscous salad.
Combine cherry tomatoes with green beans and a little whole-grain pasta and add a little pesto for another tasty, nutritious salad option that travels well.
Try a Mexican bean salad using a can of drained and rinsed black beans, a can of drained corn, a can of chopped Mexican-style tomatoes in lime juice, a chopped red pepper, a pinch of cumin, and a bit of cayenne.


Tomato-Mozzarella Salad with Herbs
Prep: 15 minutes. Stand: 30 minutes. Chill: 2 to 4 hours.

2 cups (8oz) part-skim mozzarella cheese, cut into bite-size pieces
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
In a medium bowl, combine mozzarella cheese, olive oil, basil, oregano, and parsley. Cover and chill for 2 to 4 hours.
Season to taste with kosher salt and pepper.
Add 4 cups roma tomato wedges
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Serve on a bed of 6 cups fresh spinach.
Yield: 6 servings.
Per serving: 169 cal., 11 g fat (5 g sat. fat), 24 mg chol., 304 mg sodium, 8 g carbo., 2 g fiber, 11 g pro.

Black Bean Burgers for the Grill
2 (14 ounce) cans black beans, drained, rinsed, and patted dry
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup finely chopped bell pepper (1/2 of a pepper)
1 cup finely chopped yellow onion (1/2 of a large onion)
3 garlic cloves, minced (about 1 Tablespoon)
1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 cup bread crumbs or oat flour
1/2 cup feta cheese (omit for vegan version)
2 large eggs (1/3 cup mashed sweet potatoes for vegan version)
1 Tablespoon BBQ sauce
2 Tablespoons ketchup, mayo, or BBQ sauce
pinch salt + pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 325°F (163°C). Spread beans evenly onto a lined baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes until slightly dried out.
  2. Meanwhile, sauté olive oil, chopped pepper, onion, and garlic over medium heat until peppers and onions are soft, about 5-6 minutes. Gently blot some of the moisture out. Place in a large bowl or in a food processor with the remaining ingredients (cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika, bread crumbs, cheese, eggs, BBQ, ketchup, salt, and pepper). Stir or pulse everything together, then add the black beans. Mash with a fork or pulse the mixture, leaving some larger chunks of beans.
  3. Form into patties– about 1/3 cup of mixture in each.
  4. To bake: Place patties on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake at 375°F (191°C) for 10 minutes on each side, 20 minutes total. To grill: Place patties on greased aluminum foil and grill 8 minutes on each side. Heat temperature is personal preference as all grills differ. Generally, black bean burgers should grill on medium-high heat about 350°F (177°C) – 400°F (204°C).
  5. Serve with your favorite toppings. Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.


Related Information from Chester County Hospital:

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