Host a Heart Smart BBQ

Grilled veggies

Grilled pumpkin and vegetables on the grill pan. 

The shore is crowded, the sunblock is on and the grill is fired up.  It’s Independence Day!  While the heat of summer is in full force, it’s sometimes easy to forget the healthy habits we’ve been maintaining through spring.  Unfortunately, less than 2 percent of adults and less than 1 percent of children meet the American Heart Association’s recommendations for the ideal healthy diet.  Small steps, like adding more color to your plate with fruits and vegetables, can make a big difference for your heart and brain health.

It’s easy to incorporate more fruits and veggies during the summer when they are in-season and readily available.  Come on, Jersey, we are the Garden State!  Check out your local farmers market or grocery store for fresh, healthy options!

We all know that Fourth of July means BBQ’s and picnics galore.  As we celebrate America’s birthday, here are some simple tweaks to make your party fun and heart-healthy (yes, it’s possible!)

  • Cut back on sodium. Use onions, garlic, herbs, spices, citrus juices and vinegars in place of some or all the salt to add flavor. Also look for reduced- or lower-sodium versions of your favorite condiments. Need more tips of reducing sodium? Get it here.
  • Add veggies to your appetizers. Instead of filling up on chips and dips, find delicious appetizers that embrace the flavors of summer produce. This Greek seven-layer dip is sure to be a crowd pleaser!
  • Create a summer salad. Picnic side dishes can often be calorie-heavy, but a summer salad is delicious and heart healthy! Start with a green base like romaine, spinach or kale and top with your favorite fruits, veggies and a simple vinaigrette. Need inspiration? This spinach salad is on point!
  • Skip the alcohol. Backyard BBQ’s are notorious for coolers filled with beer and other adult beverages. Alcohol is okay in moderation, but the American Heart Association recommends limiting alcoholic drinks to one per day for women and no more than two per day for men. Swap out the alcohol for this refreshing summer mocktail instead!
  • Fruit for dessert. Fresh cut fruit salad is an easy picnic go-to or try something unique, like these cinnamon sweet tortilla chips with fruit salsa.

For more tips and heart-healthy summer recipes, check out