Navigating 4th of July BBQs with Dietary Restrictions

By Jenna Gorham, RD of The RD Link

With things starting to feel a little more normal, social gatherings and cookouts are back this summer! After a year of cooking for yourself – you may be feeling a little unsure about how to navigate the food scene that comes with social gatherings, especially if you follow a special diet or have dietary restrictions.

No matter your dietary preferences, there’s no need to go into this long weekend stressing over what will be served at your festive parties. With just a little prep, you can easily enjoy yourself and the foods that make you feel your best. We asked some nutrition experts for their best advice too!

Check out these lightened up cheeseburger sliders by registered dietitian and certified personal trainer, Alix Turoff.

Bring Something Safe

One of the best options is to offer to bring something. You likely won’t be showing up empty handed anyways, so this can be a great way to help the host and ensure there is something you can eat. Hearty side dishes or loaded salads make great options because they can often serve as a meal if there is nothing else that meets your dietary needs. Try this easy Summer Bruschetta (GF, keto, vegetarian) or these Grilled Shrimp Taquitos (GF, paleo)

“I often will bring food for myself that I know I can eat. That might mean a meat and veggie kebab or a foil packet meal to throw on the grill while everyone else has smokies. Something like that is easy to cook and doesn’t add any extra stress to the grill master!” explained Bri Bell, RD of Frugal Minimalist Kitchen.

Give the Host a Heads Up

Any host appreciates notice about food restrictions. Be sure to share your current restrictions and if you will bring a dish to help accommodate. Ask if there are other dietary restrictions you can help prepare for too. It will help relieve stress from the host and it’s another dish accounted for. 

“Definitely bring a dish to share that you enjoy! If you or your kids have a food allergy, consider giving the host a heads up! So many dishes can be served to accommodate allergies (ie: cheese served on the side instead of mixed in if there is a dairy allergy) or at least you can be given a heads up on what dishes to avoid.” Kristi Ruth RD, LDN 

Try these egglife everything bagel dogs for a kid-friendly bbq favorite. These are a great option for gluten free kids or kids with diabetes.

Focus on Fruits and Veggies

KeyVion Miller, Registered Dietitian at The Miller’s Kitchen says “One of the best ways to take charge of your health at gatherings is to bring a vegetable dish. Likely, there will be limited, if any vegetables at all. Plate your vegetables first, then add your other favorite dishes! This allows you to still enjoy your food and not feel deprived”.

Fruits and veggies are often forgotten at barbecues and guests will love the additional healthy option. Bringing something you enjoy and that makes you feel good will likely help other people at the event too.

Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD of Sound Bites Nutrition reminds us that “Most diets allow fruit! Fruit kabobs are a seasonal treat that everyone can enjoy. They are gluten-free, dairy-free, and delicious”. 

Fruit can fit in with dessert too! You make like this fun twist on apple pie or this Cheesecake Fruit Wrap.

Avoid Cross Contamination with Food Labels

If you follow a special diet, you are likely on the lookout for both the foods and ingredients that you can and can’t have. But cross contamination is a little trickier to be on the lookout for. To avoid cross contamination, you may choose to walk through the buffet line first, before hands dig in and utensils are swapped around, particularly if you have a food allergy or sensitivity. 

“As a mom of kids with food allergies, I am very aware that there are other parents or individuals scanning the table having to make decisions on the spot about whether a food may or may not be suitable. I like to create a notecard with the name of the dish I bring and clearly identify any allergens within that recipe. Fold it in half to stand it up – it fits perfectly on a table between other dishes. You can decorate these for nice gatherings or make it very simple but either way, individuals can choose foods with more confidence”. Jennifer Hunt, RDN, LD of Jennifer Hunt Nutrition. 

Be Mindful & Enjoy!

Lisa Young PhD, RDN, author Finally Full, Finally Slim, reminds us to “Be mindful. Tune into your inner wisdom and recognize your hunger levels”.

The most important part is to always enjoy yourself! For more festive, diet and allergy friendly recipes, take a look at the egglife foods recipe collection

For more tips and advice for navigating group gatherings, take a look at some of the tips we’ve shared for the holidays: How to Accommodate Dinner Guests with Special Dietary Needs  and Holiday Food Allergy Q&A with Food Allergy Specialist Lisa Hugh, RD.

Find egglife wraps at a store near you or shop online to support your dietary needs this 4th of July. egglife wraps are gluten free, grain free, dairy free, soy free, nut free, keto and paleo friendly. 

Happy 4th!