Plan a Brain-Healthy Fourth of July

Plan a Brain-Healthy Fourth of July

A star-spangled burger with some stars, stripes, and sweets is likely on everyone’s menu for this year’s 4th. This beloved mid-summer holiday falls at the perfect time to enjoy the warm sun with some family and friends while grilling out, grabbing a drink, and sitting back to relax.

Holidays are the perfect excuse to indulge, and it’s easy to overdo it. But, with a little strategy, you can enjoy a delicious holiday weekend while still supporting your brain health.

Finding a happy medium where you can savor your plate without compromising your nutrition may seem like a difficult task, but your LEAP! coaches are here to help! We’re also here to share ideas on making your 4th physically active and entertaining. Here are some of our tips for a healthy 4th with your family and friends.

Make the Swap for a Healthier Plate

Did you know that one secret to a better diet is swapping staple “bad” foods for healthier ones? Below is a list of some simple swaps you can make for a more nutritious cookout menu:

1. For dips:

The Mediterranean Diet (a healthy eating pattern—not a diet!—that’s promoted by LEAP!), suggests a goal of 2 dairy servings per day. Instead of using sour cream in your dips, consider trying plain Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt is creamy, tastes just like sour cream, and has the benefits of protein and probiotics (great for your digestion!). Here’s an easy dip you can make for your veggies from that only requires Greek Yogurt and some common spices from your pantry.

2. For desserts: 

Energy balls are the latest craze and ridiculously easy to make. (Much easier than baking cookies!) Some have as few as 3 ingredients and can be prepped in just 10 minutes! Peanut butter and oats are typically the primary ingredients. Add a boost of fiber with some chia seeds, some protein with your favorite powder, or some sweetness with dark chocolate—which your brain loves! Stick to natural peanut butters and at least 70% cacao dark chocolate chips that are both low in sugars. You and your family will love these bites! Here’s a link from with several variations for everyone’s taste buds!

3. For pop: 

Beware of consuming too many calories from drinks—especially from those high in sugar, like your great American Coca-Cola or your faithful Pepsi. Instead, get your hydration on with infused water. This will help satisfy your sugar craving and even your thirst for some carbonation when you use sparkling water. Time is key to getting the best kick out of infused water, so prep your pitcher the night before for a summer drink full of natural flavor. Try these fruit combinations from Don’t wanna hassle with cutting-up fruit? Here are 12 pop alternatives from “Eat this, Not that” that you can find at your local grocery store.

4. For chips: 

If you enjoy veggies in their raw form and can snack on them like that, kudos to you. But we know that getting your veggie intake can be hard, especially with kiddos who refuse to even look at a piece of broccoli. Drenching your carrots in ranch dip is an option, but not necessarily the healthiest route to take. What if we told you that you can transform plain veggies into mouth-watering, crunchy chips? That’s right—all you need is an oven, some spices, and a little time to prep and roast the veggies to create a more healthful alternative to that family pack of Lays. There’s virtually no limit to what kind of chip you can create! From sweet potato to kale, or turnips to zucchini—you can even use bananas, apples, or pears to get some fruit crunch, too! Get some ideas from this article we love, and maybe come up with your own flavor combination!

5. For burgers: 

A meaty beef patty sandwiched in a bun with the works—the main course on your plate. Although burgers are known to be high in saturated fat and calories, there are a multitude of ways to make your patty brain-friendly while still remaining taste bud-friendly. Get your weekly dose of fish with a salmon burger, which is high in healthy fats; boost your fiber intake with a black bean burger, which promotes healthy digestion; or stack up on more veggies with a veggie burger. These variations are simpler to make than you think, and can be topped with a number of different, creative flavors. Check out some of our favorites from There are also many frozen products you can buy, but be wary of their sodium levels.

Get Moving While You Grill

Social engagement is a big part of the holiday, and one of our core values here at LEAP! Your brain benefits from spending quality time with your loved ones.

Aside from prepping for your cookout together and catching up on the latest and greatest, why not plan some fun activities to get the gang moving? Physical activities are as fun for the little ones they are for the grown-ups, and some friendly competition is always exciting.

Here are some simple ways to get the family moving, which require little to no equipment.

1. Water Balloon Baseball

This one is a hit with the kids because they love to get splashed—and with some July temperatures creeping past the 90s, it’s a great way to cool off. Though this requires some prepping of the balloons, all you need is a bat and some open space. Get the full details to play ball at

2. Cornhole

Someone in the family is likely to have this classic backyard game. If so, you have hours of fun ahead of you! Did you know there are various ways to cornhole? Add a spin to your tournament by checking out these variations from Don’t have a cornhole set? Many are available at your local home hardware store, but you can also get the drill out and build one yourself.

3. Pantyhose Bowling

You read that right—get your hands on some hosiery (actually, your head in some hosiery), and let the games begin. Unlike traditional bowling, no hands are allowed to help you knock the pins down. In fact, no ball-rolling is involved. Instead, players suit up with a pair of hose on their head, with a ball in one of the legs. Then, the object is to knock the pins down first. Get the full details here for this hilarious competition.

4. Ultimate Frisbee

You’ll need a playing field of at least 100 x 40 meters for this game, which could easily be done at a local park or in a yard space vast enough. Like American football, the object of the game is to score in the opposing team’s endzone. Unlike football, however, ultimate frisbee is a non-contact sport. Split into 2 teams of 7 and grab a frisbee to play this strategy game.

Don’t have the space? Here are other creative frisbee games you can still engage in.

5. Volleyball Variations

Classic or beach volley is fun, but have you ever heard of seated volleyball or blind volleyball? If you like to spike, then you’ll love these variations! Get the rules to these backyard volleyball twists here and split your family into two teams to start a match.

Exercise Your Mind, Too

In addition to building up a sweat and testing your athletic abilities, plan some non-physical cookout games that can also get everyone involved. Here are more activities to try for your 4th party.

1. Fourth of July Jeopardy

Test your American history knowledge with this classic trivia game. To prepare, you won’t even have to come up with your own content. Get the game template here from Jeopardy’s very own website.

2. Fourth of July Scavenger Hunt

Get the adults together to plan this one for the kids, or make it fun for all ages! You can compose your own list of items to find, or check out downloadable kits such as this one.

3. Uncle Sam Hat Contest

Set up a table with craft items such as construction paper, scissors, stars, glitter, etc. Click here for a tutorial on how to make the classic hat and get creative to make it your own! Let the crowd decide whose hat is best.

4. Patriotic Bingo

Add an American twist to this classic game. Download patriotic bingo cards here and try your luck!

5. American Costume Contest

Want to get really into the spirit? Dress up as your favorite American icon for your cookout! Choose a favorite president, historical figure, or even a Hollywood star. Get ideas here for some DIY inspiration and challenge your friends and family to win best dressed.

Enjoy Yourself

We hope these tips help you plan for a healthy, safe 4th that you can savor and enjoy.

Most importantly, remember that the purpose of the holiday is to spend time with your loved ones in celebration of a milestone in our country’s founding. The social engagement that comes with spending this time together is linked to benefits such as improved cognition, reduced risk for mental health issues, and increased protection against illness.

Did you pick out a recipe from above to try? Get the grandkids involved, your spouse, a good friend or a sibling. Not only will having extra hands be helpful, it will teach your friends and family the importance of a healthy plate as well. The more helpers involved, the better!

What game did you choose to play? Perhaps choosing one that’s new to everyone can help establish a unique tradition to your cookout. Additionally, learning a new skill promotes a sharper mind for healthier aging.

Regardless of what you end up planning to do, simply focus on enjoying yourself and your time with family and friends.

Finish off the day by sitting back to relax and watch the fireworks show together—you deserve it.

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