Healthy summer recipes for your next barbecue

Summertime is filled with opportunities to gather with friends and family for barbecues and picnics. Unfortunately, many of the dishes you typically find at cookouts, such as hamburgers and hotdogs, don’t fit into a plant-based diet, which is one way to reduce your risk of cancer. Think outside the box for your next gathering and try out one of these healthy—and simple—summer recipes recommended by Prevent Cancer Foundation staff.


What healthy main dishes can I bring to a summer barbeque?  

Rice paper spring rolls

Rice paper spring rolls

Spinach feta turkey burgers (Recommended by Amanda Wallach, Senior Manager, Special Events and Advocacy)

I love these turkey burgers because they are simple to make and delicious. You can easily customize this recipe by omitting or including additional items. (I usually add diced red onion to the burger itself.) Super tasty!

Rice paper spring rolls (Recommended by Jody Hoyos, Chief Executive Officer)

I hesitate even linking to a recipe here because all you need is a package of rice paper wrappers and whatever veggies and protein you want to put inside. The peanut sauce is key, but feel free to modify to your liking. I use bags of precut coleslaw, slice up salmon burgers or tofu, and add cilantro and peppers. Once you get the hang of not overstuffing, they roll and store easily for travel.


What healthy sides can I make for a backyard picnic?

Avocado cucumber salad (Recommended by Cassie Smith, Senior Manager of Congressional Families and Education Campaigns)

This is a great last-minute dish to bring along to a backyard barbecue or picnic. It takes just a few minutes to put together and only requires a couple of ingredients, most of which you likely already have on-hand. To make it even healthier, you could swap the mayo for Greek yogurt. 

Cowboy caviar (Recommended by Kyra Meister, Senior Communications Manager)

My favorite thing about cowboy caviar (aside from its name) is how much you can customize it to your liking. This simple and healthy dip usually contains beans, corn, bell pepper, avocado and tomato, but you can add whatever other produce is sitting in your fridge or pantry to make it your own. It is typically served with tortilla chips, but I think you’ll find yourself eating it by the spoonful, too! 

Roasted curry cauliflower

Roasted curry cauliflower

Roasted curry cauliflower (Recommended by Lorelei Mitrani, Senior Director, Special Events and Major Gifts)

I love how versatile cauliflower is—you can make it into rice, you can make it buffalo style or keep it simple in a salad. One of my favorite ways is Indian style curry roasted cauliflower with raisins and nuts. You can modify the recipe with different types of nuts or dried fruits or go wild like me and make a green harissa to top it off with extra spice.  

Pesto Formula (Recommended by Karen Penkar, Manager of Accounting & Financial Analysis) 

I like the fact that you can make this pesto as healthy as you want by customizing the greens, nuts, veggies, oil and more. It’s also a good excuse to use veggie tops you might otherwise throw out, or whatever is about to spoil in your fridge. I’m a fan of fennel, kale, dill, cashew, parmesan and sesame oil.


Need more inspiration?

Check out more tips on how to make a summer party healthier and more healthy recipes from Prevent Cancer Foundation staffNeed a refreshing non-alcoholic drink? Try iced green tea lemonade or a pomegranate spritzerIf you’re traveling to your destination, here are some ideas for healthy road trip snacks.