A mouth-watering menu of healthy Labor Day recipes

Before you decide that a “healthy barbecue” sounds about as fun as actually working on Labor Day, check out our HellaWella menu. Our surf-and-turf options are sure to make any carnivore/pescetarian drool, and we’ve got vegetarians covered, too, with our watermelon salad, guac, couscous and cucumber salad. And before you break out the beer cooler or decide you’re going to drink the tears you’re shedding over summer’s end, check out our Gin Gin cocktail. We’ve got something for everyone without skimping on nutrition or taste. (Note: Make sure your grilling this weekend is eco-friendly.


Cucumber drink

Beer and wine have their own health benefits — we’ve told you about them already here and here, respectively — but if you want to impress your party guests, the Gin Gin cocktail is sure to please. Refreshing and unofficially tested by us for gender-neutrality (it’s not a “girly drink,” but it’s not going to make your throat burn either), the Gin Gin is a yummy way to get vitamins A and K and potassium.

  • 1 ounce of gin (we recommend Hendrick’s.)
  • 1 ounce of Canton ginger liqueur
  • ½ ounce of mint cucumber juice (Mix together cucumber juice and 4 or more mint leaves.)
  • ¼ ounce of lime juice
  • Top with ginger ale



Sweeten up your Labor Day burgers with some cranberry! Where’s the beef? These cranberry-and-herb lean turkey burgers contain less fat, less calories and slightly more protein than beef burgers. Cranberries provide some vitamin C and fiber; plus, their antioxidants help you maintain a strong immune system.

  • ¼ cup, plus 2 tablespoons, of whole-wheat couscous
  • ½ cup of boiling water
  • 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 stalk of celery
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh thyme
  • 1½ teaspoons of chopped fresh sage
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • ½ teaspoon of freshly ground pepper
  • ¼ cup of dried cranberries
  • 1 pound of 93% lean ground turkey

1. Place couscous in a large bowl. Pour in boiling water, stir and set aside until the water is absorbed, about 5 minutes. If grilling the burgers, preheat grill to medium-high.

2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add celery; cook, stirring until softened, about 3 minutes. Add thyme, sage, salt and pepper; cook until fragrant, about 20 seconds more. Transfer the mixture to the bowl with the couscous, add cranberries and stir. Let cool for 5 minutes. Add turkey and stir until combined; do not over-mix.

3. Form the mixture into 6 patties.

4. To cook on stovetop: Coat a large nonstick skillet, preferably cast-iron, with cooking spray and set over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Add the patties, reduce heat to medium and cook for 4 minutes. Turn and cook on the other side for 2 minutes. Cover and continue to cook until lightly browned but still juicy (the juices should run clear, not pink), about 4 minutes more. (An instant-read thermometer inserted in the center should read 165 degrees Fahrenheit.) To grill: Oil the grill rack and grill burgers for 5 to 6 minutes per side, flipping gently to avoid breaking. Serve immediately.



If turkey burgers aren’t your thing, grilled chicken is a tasty addition to any barbecue — especially when you have this chicken rub/glaze! This recipe is low in calories and fat — and unlike many barbecue sauces you buy at the store, it doesn’t include sugar or high-fructose corn syrup.

  • 4 split chicken breasts (on the ribs, fat removed)
  • ½ cup of olive oil
  • 1 cup of honey
  • 3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
  • A splash of Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of thyme
  • 1 tablespoon of garlic powder
  • Cracked pepper and salt, to taste

1. Combine honey, balsamic vinegar and Worcestershire sauce in a bowl. Stir until well-blended. Set aside half of mixture for later.

2. Drizzle olive oil over rinsed and pat-dried chicken breasts. Rub cracked pepper, salt, garlic powder and thyme over the chicken. Brush on a coating of the glaze mixture. Place chicken on grill, close lid and let it cook for about 35 minutes. Brush on more glaze after 35 minutes.

3. Chicken is ready when the its internal temperature reaches 180 degrees Fahrenheit. (Use a meat thermometer!)

4. Before serving, use a clean brush to glaze the chicken one last time.



This dish adds the surf to our surf-and-turf Labor Day menu with lemon-grilled shrimp. Shrimp are low in fat and are a good source of protein, vitamin B12 and selenium. If you’re the king (or queen) of the grill, make sure you’re aware of any of your guests’ shellfish allergies. Anaphylaxis tends to be a buzz kill.

  • 24 large shrimp (for less work, get deveined frozen shrimp)
  • ½ cup of lemon juice
  • ½ cup of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped parsley
  • 2 cloves of minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons of lemon rind
  • 2 teaspoons of dry mustard
  • ½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  • Pinch of black pepper

Makes 8 servings.

1. Peel shrimp, leaving on tails, and devein. Put in plastic bag and set in bowl. Stir remaining ingredients. Pour over shrimp and close bag tightly. Squeeze gently to coat shrimp. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

2. Remove shrimp, reserving marinade. Cook shrimp on greased grill over medium-hot coals or at medium heat until opaque, brushing over with marinade for 2 minutes on each side until pink and firm to touch.



You can’t say goodbye to summer without some watermelon. This refreshing, all-American fruit contains vitamins A and C, and recent research has shown it contains as much lycopene as tomatoes, if not more.

  • 6 cups of watermelon
  • ½ cup of finely chopped fresh mint
  • 5 ounces to 6 ounces of feta cheese
  • Fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • Fresh lime juice

Serves 6.

1. Chop watermelon into cubes, approximately 1-in. squares.

2. Place in a large mixing bowl and squeeze in the juice from half of a lime. Add fresh ground black pepper to taste.

3. Rinse mint sprigs, remove the leaves from the stem and finely chop the leaves.

4. Toss the mint, lime juice and pepper with the watermelon.

5. Transfer from the mixing bowl to a serving platter where the watermelon can spread out a little.

6. Crumble feta over the melon evenly and serve.





The key to any successful guacamole recipe is having good, perfectly ripened avocados. Make sure they’re almost black and soft enough that you can feel them give a little when you apply pressure to them. Avocados contain vitamin K, dietary fiber, potassium, folic acid and vitamins B6 and C. They’re a good, healthy source of fat for your diet and have the nutrients that can contribute to a good complexion too.

  • 3 avocados (we prefer Hass avocados)
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon of cilantro
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • 1 or 2 limes, juiced
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • Optional: Onions

Makes 4 servings.

1. Cut the avocados in half and remove the pits. Proceed to scoop the insides of the avocado into a large bowl. Use a masher to mash up the avocados to reach the consistency you desire.

2. Dice or chop the tomatoes into small pieces. (Precise size depends on your preference for more- or less-chunky guac.) Add tomatoes to the bowl.

3. Cut or rip up the cilantro leaves and sprinkle them into the bowl.

4. Cut the lime in half, and squeeze the juice into the bowl. Be careful to avoid pits. The amount of lime(s) you use is by taste, so be sure to try the concoction after every half of lime that you squeeze in.

5. Stir in the cumin.

6. Add salt to taste.

(Optional: If you like the flavor profile of onions, you can dice some up and throw those into the mix, too. We recommend red onions.)



Bring on the veggies! This couscous is the perfect healthy substitution for high-calorie, high-fat potato salad. Couscous provides thiamine and niacin, as well as selenium. For an even healthier twist, use quinoa instead of couscous; quinoa contains more vitamins and minerals. Zucchini is a great source of dietary fiber; vitamins A, C and K; folate; and potassium.

  • 2 cups of Israeli-style or pearl couscous
  • 2 medium zucchini, sliced into ½-inch rounds
  • 1 medium shallot, finely diced
  • 1 large tomato, finely diced
  • ½ cup of arugula, roughly chopped or teared
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil

Spices to taste:

  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Dried oregano
  • Dried basil

Makes about 4 to 6 servings.

1. Follow the cooking instructions for couscous. Generally, the ratio is 2 cups of water to 1 cup of couscous. Add water — you can substitute chicken or vegetable stock for added flavor — to couscous and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover and simmer couscous for about 10 to 15 minutes (until liquid is evaporated).

2. Meanwhile, in a medium sauté pan, add oil — you may need a bit more or less than 1 tablespoon, depending on your cookware — and sauté shallots on low to medium heat until they become translucent (about 5 to 7 minutes).

3. Next, add the zucchini and cook for about 10 minutes until they become tender but still crunchy.

4. When zucchini is close to desired texture, add the tomatoes and arugula and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes.

5. Stir in couscous and season with salt, pepper, oregano and basil to taste. Fresh herbs also can be used, but in moderation because the arugula flavor is very strong.

6. Couscous can be served warm or cold.



Don’t forget the green in your Labor Day menu! Stay as cool as a cucumber this weekend with this refreshing cucumber salad. Besides being tasty, cukes are a great source of vitamins A, C and K, potassium and magnesium. Save some extra cucumbers if you want to make your own cucumber juice for our Gin Gin cocktail!

  • 5 or 6 medium to large cucumbers
  • ½ to 1 Vidalia or white onion, thinly sliced
  • 1½ cups of sugar
  • 1 cup of water
  • 3 cups of white vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon of white pepper
  • 2 tablespoons of salt
  • Optional: ½ teaspoon of dried dill weed. (Fresh is better, but you’ll need more for that.)

Note: It’s helpful if you have a mandoline slicer to cut the cucumbers.

1. Mix together sugar, water, white vinegar, white pepper and salt in a large mixing bowl.

2. Add cucumbers and onion.

3. Refrigerate.