When healthy eating is a priority, we tend to get a little anxious when it comes to summer barbecues. We fear they will derail our health goals. If you are an avid barbecue goer, they can absolutely do a number on your health efforts, but they don't have to if you are conscious and choosy. With these six smart strategies, you can turn a day of potential caloric chaos into just another day of healthy eating.
1. Don't go starving / don't "calorie hoard"
DO NOT restrict yourself all day in anticipation. It's important to nourish yourself in the time beforehand, especially if the barbecue is a lot later in the day. If you spend all day getting worked up and "saving your calories", you'll more than likely overeat once you get to the barbecue. There is nothing wrong with eating a little lighter than normal throughout the day and it's not a bad idea; but its important that you feel nourished and you don't go to the barbecue hungry enough to eat a horse. You will almost definitely go overboard and your hunger signals will be all out of whack.
2. Appetizers: Bring your own!
If you're going to find healthy options at a barbecue, it's most likely NOT going to be in the appetizer/snack round. Typical party appetizers can pack up to a day's worth of calories, with very little nutritional value. If you're not positive there will be some healthy options, your best bets are 1. cocktail shrimp (high protein, healthy, and low cal), and/or 2. a veggie platter. If you want to go for the chips and pretzels because you truly enjoy them, that's okay! Just put them on a plate so it is more controlled and limit yourself to one or two plates.
3. Choose smarter grilled food
Steak, chicken, kebabs, and/or grilled veggies are your best options if those are available (or lobster- if the host is rich). If you are limited to hamburger versus hot dog, hamburger is the better option. If you are having side dishes, you can definitely skip the bun, cutting out the processed, refined carbs.
4. Desserts- take it or leave it
If you tell yourself you can't have it - you'll want it even more. You do have permission to indulge, but once you give yourself permission, decide if you actually want the dessert or not. Barbecue desserts are usually not anything special; so if nothing jumps out at you, ask yourself if its really worth it. If something does look good to you, then go for it and enjoy it.
5. Don't sip too many calories
You might not realize how quickly calories and carbs add up via alcohol. The average beer has up to 150 calories, hard liquor contains about 175 calories for 2oz, and 1/2 cup of wine contains about 80 calories. You can still enjoy your alcohol by making some swaps that will keep calories in check, but still get you from "point A to point B". If you're going for beer or ales, choose drinks lighter in color over dark colored ones. For cocktails, use seltzer as a mixer which adds no calories or sugar. The carbonation in the seltzer also increases the uptake rate of alcohol into your bloodstream, so you won't need to drink as much. Try and avoid sugary drinks like wine coolers which can really push you overboard with their sugar content.
6. Have a plan for after !
Chances are, while you were enjoying yourself at the barbecue, you completely forgot about grocery shopping or having a plan to get right back to your normal healthy eating come the day after. Make sure you are prepared to get back on track tomorrow!