Independence Day is one of the most popular barbecue days of the year. Gathering with friends and family members to cook out and watch fireworks is an American tradition. The 4th of July party may be fun, but there are plenty of health pitfalls to avoid. Not only can it be detrimental to a healthy diet, there are several genuine safety concerns that you should watch for.

Keeping Your Diet Intact

The most apparent health risk facing anyone attending a 4th of July barbecue is unhealthy eating. With hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill and a potluck of summer favorites, it’s hard to turn down everything. How can you make it through the cookout without gaining 10 pounds?

Food

Start with smaller portions of the holiday cookout staples. You may find yourself filled faster than you think. Portion size isn’t everything, though. There are certainly some foods that you can skip indulging in for the sake of your diet. If you’re hosting the barbecue, try cooking a few healthy alternatives. We’ve talked about some of these in the past, especially cookout classics like burgers and chips.

While a green, leafy salad is usually a healthy option, pass on the potato and pasta salads. These tend to be high in calories and fat, since many use a sizeable dose of mayonnaise or oil. The same can be said for deviled eggs.

Drink

Staying hydrated is paramount during the summer. But, that means water or hydrating drinks and not soda. Even diet sodas contain a lot of sodium and sugar.

This goes doubly for beer. If you’re of legal age, feel free to kick back with a beer, but keep in mind that the average light beer has nearly 100 calories. And as always, drink responsibly!

Avoiding Summer Dangers

Sunburn

We’ve already discussed the importance of using sunscreen and the dangers of sunburn. Most cookouts are held outside. This will put you at risk to develop a sunburn. If you’re out in the sun for even longer, you may develop sun poisoning, which is even more dangerous.

Reapply sunscreen roughly every two hours, and spend some time in the shade every now and again.

Heat

If you’ve taken a step outside lately, you know it’s hot. This heat can get dangerous, especially for the elderly. So, how do you keep safe while outside for the cookouts? Stay hydrated and cool. That means going inside to the air conditioning if it’s available, wading in a cool pool, or standing by a fan. Keeping your body temperature at a healthy level is important to avoid heatstroke.

Drinking water throughout the day keeps your core temperature down and prevents dehydration. Keep in mind, a soda or beer may seem thirst-quenching, but water is the way to go if you’re feeling especially parched. So, make sure to stay hydrated and cool while you’re enjoying the cookout and the company.

Foodborne Illnesses

Cooking outside is never going to be the cleanest of setups. The best thing you can do is keep an eye on items that need to be refrigerated. Items like deviled eggs or potato salad have mayo in them and can make you sick if left out in the sun too long. These are among several items to watch for with food poisoning this summer.

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This Independence Day millions of Americans will gather together to celebrate the founding of the United States. It’s a fun time, as long as you stay safe. If you watch for these risk factors, you’ll make a good time unavoidable. Happy 4th of July!

Further Reading

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — Keep Your Cool in Hot Weather