The Fourth of July is just around the corner and it is one of the most popular days for fun backyard barbecues with family and friends. In this post, we share practical tips for a healthier cookout.
Barbecues are a wonderful way to spend time with those we love, but a real minefield for those who are watching their weight. It is easy to indulge in sugary cocktails, sweets, and rich foods that can hinder weeks or months of hard work on your figure. Let’s break down some guidelines to help you enjoy your BBQ without sacrificing all your effort.
Have a Plan
When invited to a barbecue, most of us will ask the host what we can bring and what will be served. This is a great way to be both polite and strategic when it comes to figuring out what the spread will look like. By bringing dishes that you know are healthy, it will provide you the opportunity to have something to nibble on that you know is good for you. Something as simple as a veggie tray or watermelon slices can be an easy dish that everyone will enjoy. If you’re looking for a sweet, colorful 4th of July dessert to bring, try this delicious, high-protein 4th of July Fruit and Jell-O recipe on our sister site.
Make Good Choices
When you arrive take a thoughtful look at everything that is on the table. Pause and consider which things really stick out to you. If it is the baked beans, put it on your plate but consider giving the potato salad a pass as a trade-off. The point is to be strategic about your calories and the content of the food you choose to eat. In other words, those grilled vegetables might be better for you than a handful of salty potato chips or whatever is lurking on the sweets table. Still, there may be times when it is hard to avoid offending someone who insists you have to try their dish. You can explain that it looks/smells wonderful, and so you will take just a taste because you are trying to actively manage your diet for health reasons.
The star of the show at most barbecues is the grilled protein. Protein will keep you feeling full, and help you to avoid indulging in empty carbs. So, load up on the hamburgers or chicken (though watch out for sugary barbecue sauce) and you will be ahead of the game. If in doubt, remember: protein is your friend. We have a whole article on the benefits of protein supplements here if you’re interested in this topic.
Watch the Booze
Keg parties might have seemed like a great idea in college, but spending an afternoon downing beer or sugary summer cocktails is a great way to drink hundreds, even thousands, of empty calories in an afternoon. Watch these liquid calories carefully because they can undo a lot of hard work that you have already put in. Stick to lighter alternatives instead. Remember, not all alcohols are created equally. We’ve written a quick guide to help you think about how to drink alcohol on a low carb diet.
Know When to Step Away
At a barbecue it is easy to hover around the food table and pick or graze while chatting with other guests. Yet, this often results in eating quite a bit more than you may realize. When we are not mindful about what is on our plate or going into our mouth, it sets us up for indulgence. It is easy to get distracted in a conversation and then reach over and grab a few cookies or a second piece of pie while continuing to talk. When we nibble while distracted (a problem a lot of cooks have too!), we tend to eat way more than we may realize. Therefore, it is best to set it in your mind that you will only eat when sitting down at the table, but otherwise, when you are standing or walking around, you will focus on enjoying your conversations with others.
Chill out a Bit
We all want to be healthy and look our best, but there is a place for relaxing a bit. You do not have to be a robot about your eating, and a guilty pleasure is fine here and there as long as you are focusing on eating mostly things that are healthy for you. The point is, you are at the BBQ with friends and family and you want to enjoy their company as much is possible!
With these quick and easy tips, you can enjoy the barbecue and maintain your figure.