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Dietitian shares tips for keeping summer cookouts fresh and fun

Dietitian Denise Coots said summer barbecues are the perfect time to focus on eating meals full of fresh fruits and vegetables. (KRCG)

The temperatures are high and the grills are sizzling - July marks the peak of the summer barbecue season in mid-Missouri.

In this week's Family First segment, KRCG 13 spoke with an SSM Health dietitian about how to eat healthy and still have fun at your summer get-togethers.

Dietitian Denise Coots said summer barbecues are the perfect time to focus on eating meals full of fresh fruits and vegetables. "Hit up your local farmers market, or if you know somebody that has a garden, really try to take advantage of that food that can be grown right out of the ground locally. Really try to take advantage of those items," she said. "I feel very fortunate my family has a garden where my kids can go and pick food. Being able to make recipes and meals out of fruits and vegetables you've grown - it's a great feeling."

Coots suggested people approach eating healthy at cookouts with a "whole plate" mentality. "If your entree is going to be something like pulled pork, I'd probably try to pair up something with it that's a non-starchy vegetable, like some homemade coleslaw. And then go with a fruit selection that might pair well with that, like pineapple."

Coots said her keyword for eating healthy at summer cookouts is balance. "Maybe I would consider having the hot dog, some potato chips, getting more vegetables, and having a small amount of fruit to balance it out," she said. "The goal is trying to put your food groups together so you come with some nice healthy choices, versus all fattening items or all starchy items."

She said healthy eating doesn't have to mean cutting out all fun foods at family barbecues; but, she advised keep the brats and burgers in moderation, and making sure to pile your plate with plenty of fresh produce.

Finally, Coots said it's also important to offer alternative beverages at cookouts other than just soda or alcohol. "Maybe some sparkling water, maybe add some frozen fruit to make it fruit infused. And ice tea - that's always something that's just delicious on a summer day."

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