5 Tips for Hosting a 4th of July Cookout with Cleaner & Greener Foods

Fourth of July is here and that means barbecues, fireworks, and flag cakes are in season! It is a time to celebrate our nation, spend time with friends and family, and indulge in some delicious foods. In 2017, Americans planned to spend about $6.8 billion on 4th of July food items and over $1.6 billion on beer and wine; in just one long weekend, about $804 million was spent on beef, $371 million on chicken, and $200 million on berries.

Source: WalletHub

With the cookout season underway, we know it can be difficult to stay on your health track and budget during this holiday. GreenChioce has compiled a list of suggestions to help make your grocery shopping process a little easier for you this Fourth of July:

1. Switching it up from the traditional BBQ hotdogs

Each Fourth of July, Americans eat about 150 million hotdogs, about 1 hotdog for every 2 people in America, and that doesn’t include all the burgers and other grill items! As festive and delicious as hotdogs may be, consuming them comes with several health risks. The World Health Organization conducted a study classifying processed meats like hotdogs, ham, and bacon as a Group 1 carcinogen- the same class as cigarettes. They discovered that eating 50 grams of processed meat a day (equivalent to about one hotdog) can increase your risk of colorectal cancer by 18%. In the GreenChoice Database, about 55% of famous meat brand products were found to contain highly toxic additives; about a quarter of these products contain BHA, a carcinogenic food additive that is banned from food products in Europe.

At GreenChoice, we aggregate and analyze data on food, diet, health, and sustainability from countless federal agencies, research institutes and nonprofits, third-party certifiers, and news reports. We use this information to evaluate and score food and beverage products across four categories: food safety, processing concerns, nutritional value, and environmental impact. Every product gets a score from 0 to 100 (100 being the best) in each of the 4 categories, and together these scores make up a products total GreenScore™.

Meat products sampled in the GreenChoice Database contain 21% of your recommended daily value (DV) for saturated fat per serving while processed lunch meats contain an average of about 25% DV. In many cases, we tend to eat more than one serving size, going above our recommended daily value, not taking into consideration other items like chips and cookies that are also high in sodium or saturated fats. On average, a serving at most restaurants is about 2.5 times larger than standard serving sizes, meaning it is pretty easy to go way beyond our recommended DV of saturated fat and other nutrients we want to limit.

With this in mind, one possible alternative to consider this 4th of July is Applegate hotdogs. Applegate offers a variety of options including turkey, chicken, and beef hot dogs. For example, their Organic, Uncured Turkey Hot Dog has a GreenScore™ of 55, and scored a 91 in food safety! The GreenChoice Database shows that the average saturated fat content in one serving of turkey products is about 5% DV, significantly lower than traditional beef hotdogs.

Another option is Bilinski’s Organic Wild Mushroom with Italian Herbs Chicken Sausage! Although this item did not score particularly high in environment, it has no toxic additives or artificial additives and is grown without chemical pesticides. This is significant as about 30% of pork products in the GreenChoice Database contain toxic additives. Meanwhile, this item is also an excellent source of protein and calcium. It has a GreenScore™ of 63, scoring an 89 in food safety and a 69 in processing.

If you are someone who lives near a Wegmans, a great item to consider is Wegmans’ Organic Chicken Sausage with spinach and Asiago. These sausages scored a 100 in food safety, contain no toxic additives, and the chicken’s eat feed grown without chemical pesticides. It has a moderate level of saturated fat (7% DV), considerably lower than the pork based items in the GreenChoice Database which contain 14% of your DV in saturated fats.

Read this Times article to get more information on the health risks associated with hot dogs.

Another great alternative is replacing some meat items with plant based alternatives as they are a great source of nutrients and also being better for the environment. Dr. Praeger’s Kale Veggie Burger is a great source of dietary fiber and protein, while also scoring much higher in environment than most meat products. This item has a GreenScore™ of 66 with an 86 in food safety and a 70 in nutrition. Further along in this post, we offer more plant-based options!

2. Snacking Your Way Through the Fourth

Many of us love to eat chips and dip, themed jello, and red, white, and blue chocolate covered pretzels on this holiday. Here are some new snack ideas, with high GreenScores™, that you and your guests might enjoy.

Chips and Salsa: Try replacing the traditional tortilla chips with some veggie chips this year! Most tortilla chips are high in saturated fats, sodium, and made of refined grains. Refined grains have been milled, which is a process that removes the bran and germ; additional refining includes bleaching. It is in this process that healthy nutrients like dietary fiber, iron, and many B vitamins are unintentionally removed from the flour.

Brad’s Organic Veggie Chips have a GreenScore™ of 80, score 100 in Food Safety, and are an excellent source of calcium. Try them out with Muir Glen Organic Black Bean and Corn Salsa, which has a GreenScore™ of 70, for a delicious snack.

3. Healthier Desserts

It wouldn’t be a Fourth of July celebration without some tasty, sweet treats! One way to cool off on this hot, summer day is with ice cream! Nadamoo’s Vanilla Ice Cream scores a 67 as it has no artificial additives or toxic additives, a low water footprint, and is a great source of dietary fiber! Ciao Bella’s Blackberry Cabernet is another good option, with a GreenScore™ of 65. It scores a 71 in processing and a 100 in food safety!

A fun and all natural dessert that you can create is fruit salad. You can include all kinds of fruit like strawberries (GreenScore™: 90), watermelon (GreenScore™: 93), bananas (GreenScore™: 84), blueberries (GreenScore™: 81), and blackberries (GreenScore™: 85) in there. It will be a delicious, festive treat that will also fit the American flag’s color scheme!

4. Green Grilling Guide

About 32% of Americans participate in a barbecue or cookout on this holiday. Environmental engineering professor Steve Skerlos, from the University of Michigan, explains the environmental impact of grilling. When grilling with either propane or charcoal, releasing some carbon dioxide into the environment is inevitable, which increases air emissions and your carbon footprint.

However, Skerlos explains the food that goes on the grill has a more profound environmental impact than the grilling itself. The carbon emissions of producing red meat are 20 to 30 times higher than the emissions produced by grilling. Furthermore, there are many health concerns that come with meat and seafood, including high levels of sodium and saturated fats. The GreenChoice Database shows that 57% of bacon, 25% of shrimp, and 10% of beef products contain toxic additives. Beef contains 16% of your recommended DV in sodium while shellfish contains about 20% of your DV in sodium.

Try swapping out your red meat with chicken, turkey, seafood, or plant-based alternatives like Dr. Praeger’s Kale Veggie Burger mentioned earlier. For example, Wegmans Organic Chicken Breast has a GreenScore™ of 73 and a two category score of 100 in processing and food safety. It also has very little sodium and is an excellent source of protein (44% of DV) and vitamin C.

5. Try out a meat-free grill this year

With plant-based diets being on trend, another possible alternative to avoid the health risks associated with many types of meat is grilled vegetables! This includes anything from grilled veggie kabobs and grilled corn to eggplant burgers. They are high in nutrients, better for the environment, and easy on your wallet. Check out Inhabitat for some great meat-free recipes for the grill!

As your personal food assistant, GreenChoice wants to help you during your preparations for the Fourth of July as well as in your day-to-day life. We know that it can be difficult to find products that suit your needs, while also hosting many people with different food preferences. We at GreenChoice hope the above list helps you find healthy and sustainable food options that match your dietary needs and values. GreenChoice wishes you all a fun, safe, and delicious Fourth of July!


GreenChoice offers you product-specific health & sustainability insights and scores for over 55,000 food and beverage products, so you can easily compare products for food safety, processing concerns, nutritional value, and environmental impact. Download the GreenChoice app now for free on iPhone and Android and find foods fitting your dietary needs, values, and budget!

DISCLAIMER: This post is not sponsored content, nor is any link in this post sponsored content. In other words, nobody is paying GreenChoice to write this or reference them. The products we mention earned their place in the post on their own merit. For more info about how we handle perceived or real conflicts of interest, please refer to our FAQ.











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