The Fourth of July just wouldn't be the same without firing up the old grill for a cookout. Luckily for vegetarians, there are plenty of meatless alternatives to satisfy any appetite beyond the traditional burgers and dogs. Low in fat and calories, but high in nutrition and taste, these tasty treats may just convert even the most die-hard carnivore!

The Basics
Not to be overlooked are the easy to make, store bought varieties of veggie burgers and dogs. Try Morningstar or Boca for some interesting varieties - there are even soy free garden burgers made with beans, mushrooms or veggies. To switch things up a bit, try the Asian or Tomato Basil patties - they provide an unexpected kick of flavor.

Not a big fan of fake meat? Try grilling a portobella mushroom. Sometimes referred to as "the vegetarian's steak," it can be cooked on the grill just like a hamburger and seasoned any way you like. Like it hot? If so, try a cajun spice rub, with chili powder, salt, pepper, paprika, onion and garlic pepper. Served on a bun or on a plate, this is always a favorite. For a milder taste, mozzarella cheese and red peppers compliment grilled mushrooms nicely.

Beyond Store Bought
If you have a little extra time on your hands before the big cookout, try making your own black bean veggie burgers.
Drain and mash two cans of black beans.
Into the mixture, add salt, pepper and garlic (usually one to two cloves) to taste.
Add one finely chopped red onion.
Mix in one cup of italian style bread crumbs.
Shape into 6-8 patties.
Can be cooked on the grill, or in a pan with olive oil until crispy on the outside.
Depending on personal taste, corn or diced red or green peppers can also be added.
Top with salsa, cheddar cheese and avocado for a Mexican feel, tomatoes and basil for an Italian style, or hummus and olives for a Greek theme.

Also not to be overlooked is a new take on an old theme - vegetarian kebobs. Try alternating cubed pineapple, sliced red pepper and tofu (be sure to use extra-firm so it maintains its shape on the grill). Remember, tofu usually assumes the flavor of whatever its cooked with, so marinades are especially important. Try a sweet and sour marinade to compliment the flavor of the pineapple.

If your guests aren't able to eat soy products, try substituting tempeh. It can be bought at most any supermarkets, and most already have spices added, thus saving time on marinades.

If all else fails, sometimes nothing is better than fresh cubed squash, eggplant, tomatoes or sliced onions on a skewer. For this type of kebob, a little olive oil and pepper is all you need, as grilling the vegetables brings out each distinct flavor.

If All Else Fails...
Remember the sides! From potato salad to corn on the cob, its not just about the main course for vegetarians this Fourth of July! Hummus, salsa and vegetable dips make great, easy spreads that always look like they took much more work than actually needed. Chips, cheeses, crackers, broccoli and carrots make great dipping items, and whatever you do, don't forget the watermelon for dessert!