How to Have Your Healthiest Summer Cookout Ever
By Isabel Walston, EWG Intern
Summer is in full swing, which means many Americans are planning cookouts complete with friends, family and fresh food. Whether you’re having a casual kickback or a big bash, Environmental Working Group (EWG) has you covered with tips and tricks to keep your summer cookout fun-filled and healthy.
No cookout is complete without a main course, but you should choose meat carefully. A new EWG analysis of federal data shows almost 80 percent of supermarket meat contains superbugs or antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
These bacteria can be hard to kill with common antibiotics and are particularly dangerous for children, pregnant women, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems.
A whopping 62 percent of bacteria found on ground beef and 79 percent of bacteria on ground turkey were antibiotic-resistant. Despite the serious health threats superbugs pose, the federal government still allows meat producers to give medically important antibiotics to healthy animals to compensate for cramped or unsanitary conditions on factory farms.
- Tip: Check out EWG’s interactive label decoder, designed to help you navigate the confusing and misleading world of meat and dairy labels. You can search for products that don’t use antibiotics at all, like American Grassfed Association, Food Alliance Certified-Grassfed and USDA Organic. These labels indicate that the animals never received any antibiotics and that producers followed other humane practices. Learn more about the other labels that made EWG’s Most Reliable list.
- Tip: Labels like “raised without subtherapeutic antibiotics,” “responsible use of antibiotics” or “not fed antibiotics” can be misleading. They imply the animals did not receive antibiotics in order to speed growth. Animals may still have received antibiotics for other reasons, including to compensate for stressful conditions.
Whether you’re not eating meat by choice or due to dietary restrictions, veggie burgers can be a delicious option for any cookout guest.
As a reminder, plant-based diets are often healthier than meat-heavy diets, and they reduce your climate footprint.
- Tip: Use EWG’s Food Scores database to find the perfect meatless burger for your taste and health preferences.
- Tip: For those who prefer to do it themselves, here’s a killer recipe for a homemade lentil burger by Karen Malkin.
Loading your choice of burger with vegetable toppings is a great way to get an extra dose of fresh produce. Choose from classics like lettuce, tomatoes or onions, or try mushrooms, avocados or hot peppers.
- Tip: Check out EWG’s 2018 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™to see which burger toppings have the most pesticide residues. For example, conventionally grown tomatoes are on our Dirty DozenTM list, while onions are on our Clean FifteenTM list.
Whether you make yours with extra heat or extra lime, guacamole is sure to go over well at any summer hangout. Luckily, avocados sit at first place on EWG’s Clean Fifteen list, with fewer than 1 percent of conventionally grown avocados testing positive for pesticides.
Sides are a great way to add flavorful, vegetarian-friendly options to your cookout menu. Coleslaw, corn on the cob, potato salad and mixed green salads are all tasty choices. EWG’s Shopper’s Guide has information on pesticides found in cabbage, sweet corn, potatoes, lettuce, peppers, kale and more!
- Tip: Here’s a quick, easy and healthy coleslaw recipe from Kale & Chocolate.
Fruit makes for a sweet, yet light dessert—perfect for summertime. Frozen fruit can help cool you down and may be cheaper! The Shopper’s Guide ranks sweet summer fruits like peaches, strawberries, cantaloupes and more.
- Tip: Strawberries are a crowd pleaser and provide a sweet pop of red for your summer dessert, but they also top EWG’s Dirty Dozen list, so buy organic strawberries whenever possible.
You can learn more about crafting the healthiest menu for your guests with EWG’s Food Scores, Cancer Defense Diet and our Healthy Living app. And if you’re interested in additional healthy and easy recipes, be sure to check out EWG’s Good Food on a Tight Budget and the EWG Eats cookbook.