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The Memorial Day BBQ is the unofficial start to the summer and whether you’ll be hosting or visiting family and friends, there will be plenty of food.

Yet between hot dogs and hamburgers, potato salad, coleslaw, chips and dip and your favorite red-white-and-blue dessert, Memorial Day is also one of the most caloric, high-sugar, fat-laden holidays of the year.

While I encourage my kids to try new foods and indulge on any holiday, I also worry that they’ll overeat, which in the past, have caused them to become physically ill.

Not only that, but I want to teach them healthy eating habits and how to enjoy food without going overboard.

Fortunately, you don’t have to sacrifice taste, forego your favorite summertime dishes or have “food rules” to strike a balance. Here are 7 healthy Memorial Day BBQ ideas that will allow your family to enjoy without getting too far off track.

Stay hydrated

Chances are Memorial Day will be a warm, sunny day and your kids will be running around so it’s important to encourage them to drink plenty of water.

Encourage your kid to stick with water throughout the day, instead of juice which is high in empty calories and sugar, spikes blood sugar, and may encourage cravings for other sugary fare.

If plain water is hard for your kids to swallow however, add sliced cucumbers or strawberries for some flavor. See also: How to Get Your Kids To Drink More Water

Since thirst can often be mistaken for hunger, drinking water before you arrive to your cookout can prevent overeating.

2. Offer veggies


The great thing about the vegetables served at Memorial Day BBQs is that they’re often kid-friendly.

Baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, brightly-colored sliced bell peppers, cucumber slices, broccoli florets and jicama “fries,” are often kid favorites and if they’re served with a dip, even better.

You can also set up a station with a variety of vegetables and have your kids make their own grilled veggie kabobs.

Although your kids may still not want to eat vegetables since other, tastier options will be available, do your best to get some on their plates since they’ll help to satisfy their hunger, fill them up, and prevent constipation.

3. Arrive hungry

Most nutrition experts advise people to have a small snack before they arrive at a party to prevent overeating, but arriving hungry may actually be a good thing for your kids.

By taking advantage of their hunger, you might have an easier time of encouraging them to make at least a few healthy choices.

Instead of filling up their plates with chips, which they’re probably going to eat anyway, you may be able to get them to eat fruits and vegetables first and have a more balanced meal.

4. Upgrade your protein

Most kids love hamburgers and hot dogs, but think about other protein options for you and them.

Instead of regular ‘ol hamburgers, make your own using grass fed beef. Or serve organic grilled chicken, shrimp or pull together a bean salad or lentil chili.

5. Include healthy dessert options

Kids should enjoy s’mores, ice cream or a festive Memorial Day dessert, but why not have other options available too to show kids that healthy food can be delicious.

Consider making a fruit salad with strawberries and blueberries, homemade fruit popsicles, or an almond butter fruit dip.

6. Pay attention to portions


When buffets, family style dining, and bowls of snacks are out for the day, it’s easy for kids to grab and lose sight of how much they’re eating.

Although I let my kids decide what they want to eat, I also help them make up their plate and keep portion sizes at bay.

7. Set up games and activities


There’s no doubt kids will be busy running and playing at their Memorial Day BBQ, but you can also set up games and activities that encourage them to move more. 

Think: ring toss, jump rope, hide and seek, tag, telephone or freeze dance.

What are some of your healthy Memorial Day BBQ ideas? Let me know in the comments!

Author Details
Julie Revelant teaches parents how to raise children who are healthy, adventurous eaters. Through blog posts and videos, her goal is to shift the conversation from short-term, problem picky eating to lifelong, healthy eating and healthy futures.