We celebrate Independence Day to commemorate the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, which sought to give the American colonies freedom from Great Britain. I love the U.S. and Great Britain, and I love the freedoms we have to live our lives as we see fit.

The Declaration of Independence proclaims that we are all endowed by our creator with unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I interpret these rights to mean that we are all born with the ability to make the best choices, including choices that improve our overall health and well-being. But with obesity and associated healthcare costs on the rise, it seems that our free will is not so “free” after all.

This weekend you will probably celebrate with loved ones while indulging on burgers, hot dogs, maybe a little macaroni and potato salad all washed down with some beer or a margarita. That doesn’t seem so bad. Or does it?

Just one serving of this Independence Day diet contains more calories than most people should eat in a day: 2,155 calories with half of the calories coming from fat — 115 grams of fat, 30 grams of saturated fat and less than 10 grams of fiber. You should have at least 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories. Fiber helps push food through and out of the digestive tract. This heavy holiday meal might be hanging around for a few days, long after the celebrations have ended, potentially hindering your pursuit of anything.

Why not try a lighter version of some favorite foods? Instead of the multi-pack, high-fat burger, try a four ounce turkey and beef burger with mushrooms, olive tapenade and homemade barbecue sauce. As an alternative to potato salad that is destined to languish in your belly, try some sweet and tangy slaw. After that, enjoy six ounces of non-alcoholic strawberry margarita. All this for a grand total of 500 calories with 15 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 10 grams of fiber and 10-50 percent of the daily value for every vitamin and mineral. Eat like this and the next day you’ll jump out of bed in pursuit of happiness once again.

Elizabeth Brown is a registered dietitian and certified holistic chef specializing in weight management, sports nutrition, disease prevention and optimal health through whole foods. She can be reached at eat2liv@earthlink.net.

Turkey-Beef burgers with Olive Tapenade and BBQ sauce

1/2 pound ground turkey breast

1/2 pound grass fed beef

1/2 cup mushrooms, chopped

1/2 cup olive tapenade

2 tbs. barbecue sauce

1 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. curry

1/4 cup parsley

Combine ingredients into four patties. Broil four inches from heat, or grill four minutes per side. Serve on whole grain buns with lettuce, tomatoes and onions or as part of a big vegetable salad.

Top with additional olive tapenade and barbecue sauce. Per 4 ounce burger with whole grain bun and fixins: 365 calories, 28g protein, 15g fat, 4g saturated fat, 6g fiber, 10-50 percent DV for every vitamin and mineral.

Olive Tapenade

1 cup kalamata olives, pitted

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 cup pine nuts

1 tbs. olive oil

Juice of one lemon

1/2 tsp. dried basil

1/4 tsp. ground pepper

2 cups parsley, chopped

Chop everything or pulse in the processor to blend.

Great topping for grilled vegetables.

BBQ Sauce

4 Plum tomatoes, skins removed

1 tbs. olive oil

1 yellow onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 mango, peach or nectarine, peeled, pitted & chopped

1 (15oz can) whole tomatoes

1 cup water

1 (6oz can) tomato paste

3/4 cup maple syrup

1/2 cup unsulfured organic molasses

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

2 tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice (1 lemon)

2 tbs. Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp. sea salt

1 tsp. ground pepper

Sauté vegetables and mango in olive oil. Add rest of ingredients. Bring to a boil on med-high, simmer med-low for 30 minutes.

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