While the bustling back-to-school season is drawing near, grilling season is still hanging on. From relishing in the amazing flavors to enjoying great company surrounded by the outdoors, there is so much to love about summer cookouts. Whether you prefer the classics or are looking to introduce creative spins and branch out from typical cookout fare, adding more fruits and vegetables can help to bring more flavor, texture, color and nutrients to your cookout recipes. For your next cookout, plan to incorporate sides and sweets that prioritize produce, aiming to make plants half your plate.

Get creative with different flavors and textures.

Experimenting with different flavor profiles can be a great way to encourage higher intake of fruits and vegetables. Try adding a kick to your salad with spicy jalapenos, sliced radishes or cabbage. Balance the flavor of peppery arugula with sweet berries, plums or diced watermelon.

  • Sweet – berries, banana, carrots, pineapple, bell peppers, tomatoes, watermelon
  • Bitter – cabbage, kale, broccoli, cauliflower
  • Sour – pickles, kimchi, lemons, limes, kiwifruit
  • Spicy – radishes, cabbage, jalapeno, arugula

Texture can be just as, if not more important when it comes creating a satisfying dish. Cucumbers, carrots, bell peppers, apples, jicama and celery are a few choices that offer a crisp texture to your favorite meals.

Put a spin on cookout classics with vibrant produce.

Brighten your tried-and-true recipes by packing it with more colorful produce.

  • Potato salad is a staple at many summer gatherings. Green beans, peas, radishes, onion and carrots are excellent additions that supply a snap of color and crunch!
  • Give your pasta salad a makeover by making it mostly plants. Beans and chickpeas can make a great addition to pasta salad to supply more protein and fiber to the dish, bringing more balance to the staple side dish. Add more color with broccoli, tomatoes and red onion and a crunch factor to your pasta salad with bell peppers, celery and cucumbers.
  • Beef up your burgers with hidden vegetables. Beyond the typical lettuce, tomato and onion trio, pack your burger with more produce by incorporating grated zucchini, carrots, tomato paste, or riced cauliflower into your burger patties.
  • For a plant powered side dish that offers plenty of protein and fiber, try this Edamame and Corn Salad with Oregano Vinaigrette.

Plants can be a star in savory and sweet dishes alike. Add fruit to your favorite desserts.

  • Top ice cream with sauteed peaches or plums. In a skillet, sauté fruit with cinnamon until sugars have begun to caramelize and spoon onto your favorite ice cream flavor. For a high protein alternative try incorporating your favorite fruits into the viral cottage cheese ice cream: simply blend together low-fat cottage cheese, 1-2 tablespoons of your preferred sweetener and favorite fruits in a food processor until the consistency is smooth and creamy. Freeze the mixture for six hours or overnight.
  • For a fresher take on berry pie, enjoy a berries and cream parfait. Simply alternate layers of blackberries, strawberries and blueberries with dollops of whipped cream and crushed graham crackers for a single-serving dessert.
  • Use up smoothie leftovers by making popsicles. Simply pour whatever remaining smoothie you have in your blender into popsicle molds and freeze overnight for a refreshing sweet treat.

Enjoy the bounty of fresh produce by adding plants to your meal plan all summer.

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