If you are anything like us, you’ve been waiting all year for the summer! The sun is shining on your morning walk. The balmy nights are perfectly relaxing. And there’s nothing better than joining your best friends for delicious food and a cold drink at a summer cookout. So why is this blog titled “Surviving” Summer BBQ’s? What’s not to love? Well, for many people who have made the effort to eat right, a BBQ can cause a little anxiety. You may worry that you’ll fall off the “health wagon” and lose the habits that you’ve worked so hard on all year long. After all, it’s an all-day event that involves loads of not- so- healthy food, tons of alcohol, and friends and family who may not live the lifestyle we do. Not to worry! Below are some tried and true tips, as well as a few smart recipe ideas our team has developed to help you enjoy your next BBQ without compromising your healthy lifestyle.
1.Remember, balance is the key to a healthy lifestyle. There will be times in life when you may overindulge; an extra glass of your favorite wine, a heaping scoop of ice cream or maybe even a pile of fall –off- the bone ribs at a cookout. Taking part in the occasional treat is normal, in fact it’s great! Because if you can live a healthy lifestyle while still allowing yourself the occasional treat, you’ve truly mastered balance and that leads to permanent change! The lesson to be learned here? A little indulgence is good for you and keeps you from craving or feeling deprived. Just make sure to get right back on track with a balanced meal at the next opportunity to get your metabolism moving in the right direction again.
2.Plan for the event. If you know that you have a summer cookout planned for this Saturday, aim to be extra consistent with your nutrition and fitness routine all week long. Acknowledge the fact that you may overindulge at this Saturday’s BBQ, and actually plan the “off” meal into your week. Use this “system” of acknowledging the “off” meal and planning it to help you to make extra effort all week to eat clean, balanced meals every few hours. Let the fact that you’ll be indulging on Saturday spur you to kick butt at the gym and make the most of every workout all week long. The process here is both physical and mental. By working extra hard all week to make room for this Saturday’s fiesta, you’ll physically be in prime fat burning mode by the time the party rolls around. Mentally, you’ll be able to let go of any guilt you may normally have (see Tip #1 above as a reminder about the importance of balance). After all, you’ve worked hard all week and you’ve planned to relax and indulge a bit with your friends and family. It’s a win, win situation!
3.Believe it or not, it’s a bad idea to deprive yourself all day Saturday to save “room” and “calories” for the big event. If you walk into a BBQ with every type of food imaginable at your fingertips and you haven’t eaten all day, you are heading for disaster! Always eat balanced meals one hour within waking and every 3 hours before a cookout. This way your mind is in control of your food choices, not your empty stomach! It’s a smart idea to also eat one hour before the event. Try snacking on a protein bar before the party to help keep blood sugar stable and allow you to make conscious food choices when you arrive.
4.And lastly, it doesn’t hurt to bring along some healthy and delicious choices, or at least know how to identify them at a cookout. Do your best to build a balanced plate with some protein and carbohydrates and keep in mind that most dishes offered at a BBQ will have more than enough fat (way more actually!). Whether you are hosting the event or attending, the following list makes for delectable (and healthy) party food that everyone will enjoy.
-Try Marinated or BBQ grilled chicken breasts, shrimp (skewered with tails on), pork tenderloin, salmon steaks, large sea scallops, or filet mignon (the leanest red meat) on the grill. Meat, poultry or seafood and vegetable kabobs are also healthy and a fun change of pace.
-Instead of regular hamburgers, try using 97% lean ground beef. Serve with all the regular toppings and whole wheat buns.
-Chop a mixture of your favorite vegetables in large chunks (corn, tomato, zucchini, red onion, bell peppers) or try whole asparagus with the bottom of the stalk cut off. Toss in a bowl with quality extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper. Grill until slightly charred to really bring out the flavors.
-Instead of plain old pasta salad with a few veggies tossed in for good measure, go in the opposite direction. Use your favorite pasta salad recipe only make a few adjustments. Triple the vegetable content (and vary it up- grape tomatoes, fresh bell pepper, onion, cucumber, banana peppers, etc.) and use the pasta as the filler, not the main event. Use a reduced fat version of your favorite dressing such as low fat Italian dressing in place of regular. If using a mayo based dressing, try cutting the amount of mayo in half and replacing the rest with plain, low fat yogurt- it will add a little tang and a lot of flavor. Lastly fresh herbs like parsley or basil really make a dish stand out from the crowd.
-Try whipping up a low fat dip like hummus or mango salsa (combine chopped mango, red onion, a small amount of minced garlic and jalapeno with a splash of lime juice and good olive oil. Toss with fresh cilantro and season to taste with salt and pepper). Serve with home -made baked whole wheat pita chips. (Hint- Mango salsa also works beautifully on grilled meat, poultry and seafood.)
-Fresh fruit platters are always well received and a perfectly sweet way to complete a meal. Try serving a variety of fruit with a home-made dip of Plain Yogurt, vanilla extract, honey and lemon zest.