Healthy Eating & The ‘Unofficial’ Kickoff To Summer

May 17, 2021

Warm weather and the kickoff to the summer means one thing… GRILLING SEASON IS HERE! Often during summer gatherings, the BBQ is fired up and the side dishes roll out, along with the cool plethora of desserts and treats! Don’t let these all-you-can-eat occasions set you back! You might find yourself wondering how your family can stay on track with your healthier habits and goals. There are ways to tackle that BBQ buffet, which will leave you satisfied and super excited that your healthy lifestyle is still on track! Before Memorial Day creeps up on you, here are a few of our favorite tips for your next gathering!

Tips for Healthy BBQ Eating!

Build Balance

  • Try filling your plate with the proper balance of food:

½ Fruit & Vegetable

¼ Protein

¼ Carbohydrate

Meat, Poultry & Fish

  • When hosting, try preparing meats that either have the skin removed or remove prior to eating. The skin has loads of unhealthy saturated fats. Choose chicken breasts, ground chicken or turkey burgers, or a lean beef. Add spices, diced onions, chopped spinach and grated garlic for more flavor!
  • When selecting your red meat or pork choice, choose loin or round cuts, and buy choice or select grades of beef instead of prime. These cuts have the least amount of fat. If you notice excess fat during preparation, you can strip the fat prior to cooking. Also, use a rack when cooking to allow excess fat to drip off the food. 
  • When putting your protein choice on your plate, remember the portion should be 1-2 palm-sized portions, no bigger. Choose one hamburger OR one hot dog, NOT BOTH!
  • Fish is the leanest of protein options. Try choosing shrimp or salmon if it’s available. Both are a good source of protein and salmon is also high in healthy omega fats too!
  • For the kiddos, try to serve proteins in an exciting way… kabobs are always a fun + festive idea!

Side Dishes

  • When building your plate at a BBQ, try to remember what a balanced plate looks like (see image). Many times, on the buffet there will be numerous carbohydrate choices and only one vegetable or fruit option. Try to keep 50% of your plate filled with fruits and veggies, 25% meats or proteins and the last 25% with the healthiest carbohydrate choice you can find.
  • Here are some common foods that you may find at your next summer BBQ:

Vegetables: salad, grilled zucchini or tomatoes, string beans, coleslaw, grilled mushrooms, kabob vegetables, cucumber salad, carrots

Carbohydrates: hamburger or hot dog BUN, bread/roll, potato salad, macaroni salad, corn-on-the-cob, wraps or pita bread, baked potatoes, baked beans

Proteins: hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken, steak, pork, seafood, quinoa salad

  • Tips for getting in more veggies this summer:

Marinate vegetables to help give them more flavor!

If not marinated in advance, brush veggies with some olive oil prior to grilling and sprinkle with a pinch of salt, pepper, garlic or other spice rubs.

Cut grilling veggies into shapes or throw on a skewer to make for easier cooking.

Remember, most vegetables are usually done cooking within 7-10 minutes on the grill.

  • Choosing better carbohydrates:

Try selecting ‘cleaner’ carb choices… ones that don’t have extra sauces, mayo, or oils.

When choosing a carb, brown is usually better. Try choosing a whole grain or slower digesting option, if possible, for more filling fiber which will keep you more satisfied. (Think: whole wheat bun, baked or sweet potato, quinoa/barley salad).

When putting a carb on your plate, remember the portion should be NO larger than your fist. Try choosing only one carb choice to make things easier. For example, if you have a bun with your burger, skip the potato salad; but if you skip the bun (hello lettuce wrap!) then you can serve yourself a scoop of the potatoes.

Portions

  • If nothing else, try to watch the portions of what you are eating.

Protein= 1-2 palm-sized pieces

6oz. burger

1 hot dog

1 chicken cutlet or fish filet (about 5-6 oz.)

5-6 oz. steak

Carbs = fist-size (about ½ cup)

Vegetables= unlimited if there are no additives

Condiments= 1-2 tablespoons… think golf ball sized at most

Helping Hands

  • If you know your friends or family don’t offer healthier options, offer to bring something you know you can eat, that you can also share with others! Sometimes, it may even be better not to offer, but to just bring the dish!
  • We recommend bringing either a vegetable side dish for the main meal and/or a fruit salad or fruit platter for dessert time.

Temptations & Hidden Pitfalls

  • At your summer BBQs and parties, often there are chips and other appetizers prior to the main meal. Try to avoid these pit falls. Save your appetite for the entree. If you find yourself snacking too much, grab a glass of water and take a break. It’s always a good idea to sit near the veggie crudité!
  • Try not to show up starving. This will not help you when you are trying to navigate through the tempting snacks at the start of the party.
  • If you want to have some of the appetizers, we recommend not taking from the main bowl or dish. Instead, grab yourself a small cup or napkin and dish out a portion for yourself. You’ll be more aware of your overall intake.
  • Remember all the ‘add-ins’ you may not see. We’re talkin’ dressings, dips, cheeses, bacon bits, BBQ sauce, etc. etc. …

Did you know just a spoon full of traditional BBQ sauce contains 10 grams of sugar?! Most people take at least 2 tablespoons in reality…that’s 20 grams of sugar!!

  • Tempted by sweet, creamy desserts?  Share one dessert with your child, spouse, sibling, or a friend and then pair the treat with filling fruit (remember that fruit salad you brought)!

Wishing you and your family a happy and healthy Memorial Day weekend!