July 4th Healthy Menu Planner

By Sally Cameron on June 23, 2016

Appetizers & Snacks, beans, legumes & grains, Chicken & Turkey, Dessert, Holiday Dishes, the daniel plan

If you are trying to figure out the fireworks of your holiday menu and what will make it sparkle for your family and friends –  look no further. My July 4th healthy menu planner is here to help. Just updated it for 2016. A collection of recipe and menu ideas, food safety reminders plus plan-ahead tips that will help you celebrate with a smile.

If you have any questions, please comment and I will respond right away. I am happy to help make your 4th of July a success!

Parades, Family Time and Great Food

A native California girl, I grew up in Huntington Beach also known as Surf City USA. My memories of 4th of July are filled with the parade down main street (now in it’s 112th year) and fireworks off the pier, grilling at my mom and dad’s, and spending lazy summer time with family and friends.

The closer it got to dark, the more I excited I was to hunt down the best fireworks displays. I’m still crazy about watching fireworks. It’s not the 4th without them!

Turkey burger|AFoodCentricLife.com

July 4th Healthy Menu Planner

To plan your 4th of July menu, get a head count. Know how many you will be feeding. If it’s a crowd, you may want to offer several starters or snacks, 2 main entree options, and a few side dishes, plus dessert and beverages. If it’s a smaller group, maybe one of each will suffice. See the end of the post for a list of recipe ideas and links.

When menu planning, I start with the main dish (protein) and build out my menu.

Grilled chicken is easy, can be marinated ahead and generally works for everyone. For boneless, skinless chicken breasts figure about 6 ounces per adult of raw weight.  Instead of grilling whole pieces, you can cut the chicken into chunks, skewer and grill as kabobs.

For bone-in chicken, go by the piece. For adults, 1 chicken breast is usually good. For thighs, you will need about 2 per person. For burgers, you can make either 4 ounce or 6 ounce burgers.

For main dishes such as ribs, figure about 1 pound per person, remembering you will have snacks, sides and dessert.

avocado basil dip|AFoodCentricLife.com

Share The Load

If the group is bigger than you are comfortable cooking for, it’s ok to ask for help. If people agree to pitch in, don’t be afraid to ask the to make a specific dish to fit within your plan. Give them the recipe if needed. Sharing the work also means sharing financial cost of a holiday celebration for a crowd.

If you have non-cooking people who want to help, have them bring things like heavy paper plates (if you are using them), napkins, cups, ice, and beverages (notes below).

How to cut a watermelon|AFoodCentricLife.com

Planning Around Food Allergies, Sensitivities and Special Diets

With so many people having food allergies, sensitivities and special dietary needs, be sure to ask guests ahead of time about food challenges. You don’t want to be caught short handed, scrambling to find something to feed them. It can be embarrassing and frustrating.

The most common troublemakers are wheat and gluten, dairy, nuts and peanuts, soy, eggs, and shellfish. All can be worked around with a little forethought, so don’t stress.

ginger molasses baked beans|AFoodCentricLife.com

Vegan and Vegetarian Guests

For vegan or vegetarian guests, have big green salads and grain salads as part of the menu options. Quinoa Tabbouleh is a refreshing crowd pleaser (no matter how they eat) that can be made ahead, then assembled and dressed at serving time. If you are doing burgers, veggie burgers could be another option.

And everyone loves a good summer white bean salad with fresh herbs and a light dressing. To make it quick, use no-sodium added organic white beans such as Cannellini beans or Great Northern beans (I like Eden Organics).

Quinoa Tabouleh Salad|AFoodCentricLife.com

Summer White Bean Salad

Tips For Food Safety

One more big consideration – think about where you will be serving your food. If you are entertaining at home, keeping food safe and cold is easier. If you are transporting to a park, lake or beach, that takes more planning.

  • Transport perishable foods in insulated coolers filled with ice or frozen gel packs.
  • Perishable food should not sit out for more than two hours and in hot weather (above 90 °F), food should never sit out for more than one hour. Set a timer to keep food safe and remind yourself.
  • If you are cooking raw meat like burgers, have separate, clean cutting boards and utensils and do to cross contaminate with cooked foods.
  • If handling raw meat, poultry or seafood, use disposable food handler gloves and change between types of raw food, then toss. And be sure to have antibacterial wipes around if there is no sink. For anything that has touched raw meat, cover with a trash bag and transport home.
  • If bugs could be an issue, get some inexpensive screen covers to protect food.
  • See links to food safety articles at the end for more tips

Vegetable Spring Rolls|AFoodCentricLife.com

July 4th Healthy Menu Ideas

Appetizers or Starters

Main Dishes

Grilled Lemon Mint Chicken Breast|AFoodCentricLife.com

Sides and Salads

mediterranean potato salad|AFoodCentricLife.com

Sweet Endings – Dessert Ideas

Melon Kabobs|AFoodCentricLife.comThe Best Healthy Beverages
  • Sparkling Watermelon-Lime Juice
  • “Spa Water” – Fill a large beverage dispenser or large pitchers with filtered water, ice, and slices of lemon, orange, lime, mint, cucumber, or berries. The colors are beautiful and the fruit provides a nice, healthy, boost of flavor.
  • For iced tea, try herbal or decaf iced tea. To sweeten iced tea, use Sweet Drops flavored liquid stevia drops in lemon with slices of fresh lemon.
  • Skip the soda and sugary, artificially flavored drinks

watermelon lime juice|AFoodCentricLife.com

Planning Notes: What to Do Ahead

Lots can be done ahead. It’s too hard to list all if it here so if you have an questions please comment and I will answer.

  • Steam artichokes a day ahead (if serving cold or planning to finish by grilling) and make the dipping sauce.
  • Make the smoked salmon dip 1-2 days ahead. Cut the raw veggies and refrigerate.
  • Make the hummus a day or two ahead and cut up your vegetables. Place in zip bags.
  • Make the sauce for the turkey burgers (if doing burgers).
  • Make the burger patties, place on a plastic covered rimmed baking sheet, cover with more plastic wrap and refrigerate (the morning of the 4th).
  • Cook the green beans and make the dressing. Finish before serving by adding corn, tomatoes and dressing.
  • Hard boil your eggs, peel, halve. Refrigerate the halves unfilled. Make the filing and refrigerate. Fill before serving.
  • Make the potatoes completely and refrigerate a day ahead. Same for the white bean salad. These could easily be done two days ahead.
  • Make the ice cream base a day ahead and refrigerate. Freeze in your ice cream maker on the morning of the 4th and freeze.
  • Slice the watermelon and store a day ahead.

I hope this helps you plan for a wonderful 4th of July celebration with your family and friends. Since much of this menu can be made ahead, it will help to minimize your kitchen time on the 4th.

Happy 4th of July everyone! Celebrate our nations birthday, enjoy your family and friends, and eat well!

Helpful Links

Food safety tips for the 4th of July, from the USDA

Summer food safety tips from the FDA

Eating outdoors safely


  1. Shut Up & Cook - July 3rd, 2012

    I so wish I was spending 4th of July with you..this looks amazing!

  2. Eileen Sepulveda - July 10th, 2012

    Thanks for the great ideas for the 4th…or anyday! Love your site and your wonderful receipes. Blessings

  3. Brenda Larson - July 1st, 2014

    Ok – I’m new to the Daniel Plan – I just completed my 40 day detox Saturday so am on the hunt for good recipes to incorporate into my new health style. I was reading the 4th of July recipes and was surprised to see sweetened condensed milk in the ice cream recipe. Really? We can use that on the Daniel Plan? I thought we were supposed to be pretty much sugar free and that milk is ALL sugar. Please advise. Thank you

  4. Sally - July 1st, 2014

    Brenda, first, good for you on completing the detox and 40 day plan! That is awesome. I am going to quickly be editing that post for DP readers. The team used my link, but the post was written several years ago before the DP. When I saw their link to day I thought “oh no!”. there are recipes on that list that really do not apply. Recipes I don’t even make anymore, yet they are part of my history and my site. If you look later this evening or tomorrow, you will se an edited version of the post. And last note, unfortunately, on sweetened condensed milk, yet it is all sugar! I used to make ice cream that way, pre-DP, but no longer. Please check out my DP category. There are currently 118 recipes there that are pure DP or are DP with a few small edits. Thanks for commenting!

  5. Denise - June 23rd, 2016

    Great ideas and tips! Thank you!

  6. Donna - June 24th, 2016

    This looks amazing! Thank you for thinking ahead and helping us plan..?

  7. Sally Cameron - June 24th, 2016

    Let me know if you have any questions Donna!

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