Classic Summer Foods Made Healthier

Who doesn't love corn on the cob and burgers?
Published July 26, 2016

It's summertime and the eating is easy, there's no shortage of backyard barbecue essentials as soon as it gets warm out. But is it possible to have your favourites and still stick to your weight loss plan? Of course! You just need to rethink these dishes and tweak them for both maximum taste and health. Whether it's a well-dressed burger, corn on the cob or ice cream you love, there's a delicious and nutritious option for everyone who loves the foods of summer.

It's hard to imagine summertime without grilled burgers and luckily it's easier than ever to come up with new favourites that neatly fit into your daily SmartPoints budget. This year, move beyond the traditional burger this summer and venture into unknown grilling territory. There's an entire world of backyard barbecues to explore!

At Vancouver's Miss Me Yet?, an essential part of Vancouver's restaurant scene specializing in tantalizing home-cooked food with delightfully boozy and creative cocktails to match, owners Duran Bodasing and Cene Turner have introduced an incredible BC wild salmon burger topped with a Pinot Gris and honey sauce, fresh dill coleslaw, Dijon mustard and chipotle mayonnaise. The intensity of the condiments allows you to scale back on the mayo, which can still be used in moderation as a highly flavourful addition because of the chipotle pepper's fiery kick.

Experiment with ground lamb, turkey and chicken burgers; bison and buffalo meat is gaining popularity for its full flavour and lean fat content and can now be found in some supermarkets. If you love veggie burgers and have never made them from scratch before, you'll be amazed with the homemade burgers you can make in the food processor from nutritious ingredients like quinoa, beans, oats, and cooked vegetables.

Rethink traditional Canadian coleslaw by introducing new vegetables and redressing it in a sweet and savoury vinaigrette instead of a mayo-based dressing. Napa cabbage, shredded carrots, jicama and very thinly sliced sweet peppers make a vibrant base for a summer-ready slaw. Add generous amounts of thinly sliced scallions, Thai basil, cilantro (or parsley) and black sesame seeds. Make a simple Asian inspired dressing by whisking together 2 tablespoons of rice vinegar, the juice of 1 lime, 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of honey, 1 tablespoon of toasted sesame oil and 2 tablespoons of grapeseed oil (or any other neutral oil). Serve as a side salad or a crunchy topping on salmon or turkey burgers.

Potato salad
Can't get enough of traditional creamy picnic potato salad? Indulge your cravings by rethinking this summer staple. Keep the potatoes, but sub in a yam or sweet potato (or both!) for extra nutrients. Bulk up the salad with raw or lightly steamed vegetables; sweet peppers, red onion (soak in cold water for half an hour first to reduce the bite), radishes, and cucumber all add amazing texture and a beautiful pop of colour. If using hard boiled eggs use mainly the whites, but keep a few yolks in there for maximum flavour. Substitute Greek yogurt, or skyr if you can find it, for at least half and up to two thirds of the mayonnaise called for in the potato salad dressing. Add red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, chopped scallions, fresh herbs and some salt and pepper for a tangy dressing that's still creamy, but with much less added fat. Looking for an alternative to creamy potato salad but with a similar texture? Miss Me Yet? makes an incredible bean salad full of chickpeas, black beans, red onions, cherry tomatoes, fresh mint and cilantro, lime juice and seasoned olive oil; an intensely flavoured salad that will fit in perfectly with the rest of your picnic or backyard barbecue.

Corn on the cob
There's nothing better in the summer than fresh corn on the cob that was bought from the end of a farmhouse lane way, particularly if you're heading from a day at the beach. Instead of facing the arduous task of husking each ear of corn and then boiling it in a huge pot of water, try grilling it on the barbecue! Heat a grill to a high temperature and place the corn, husks and silk still intact, on the grill and cook for about 20 minutes, turning occasionally. If you want some of the corn to be charred, peel back a few of the husks just a little bit to allow direct contact with the heat. Allow the corn to cool ever so slightly and dig in, the husks and silk slip right off and will have allowed the corn to steam until the corn is plump, sweet and smokey. Prepared on the barbecue, corn on the cob has little need for butter. If you find that the corn needs a little extra something, try combining a small amount of butter with plenty of fresh chopped herbs, or fresh lime juice and chili powder. This will give the butter plenty of additional flavour so you don't need to use as much.

Ice cream
There's no real substitute for ice cream in the summer. There's always frozen yogurt and sherbert to have in lieu of ice cream, but when the real deal is required it all boils down to portion sizes. Take a trick from catering companies and restaurants, who will often pre-portion out scoops of ice cream. Using a half cup ice cream scoop, measure out single scoops on a parchment-lined baking tray. Freeze the ice cream until solid, then store the individual ice cream scoops in a single layer storage container. When it comes time to enjoy the ice cream, skip the cone and opt for sliced seasonal fruit as a topping.