The Fourth of July marks the season for summer barbecues. For many of us, that means burgers, hot dogs, and more diet disaster. But it doesn't have to be.
As a nutritionist, I spend a lot of time educating clients on how to stay healthy, or even lose a few pounds, when attending summer BBQs and parties. While I know lots of people who simply decline invitations to parties for fear of overeating, I generally suggest that you enjoy the company of great friends and family, and make some wise food choices as well.
These days, most hosts, offer some healthy choices in addition to the usually barbecue fare. So, it is not too difficult to choose health.
Here are nine simple and painless strategies to try at your upcoming July Fourth barbecue.
1. Eat before you go.
Eating a healthy snack before heading to your summer food fest may seem silly (after all, you are going to eat at your party, no?) but it is actually one of the best ways to fend off overeating. Eating a healthy snack, preferably with fiber and protein, will cut the edge off your hunger so that you don't arrive at your party famished and ready to eat anything. Some good choices include: a yogurt with fruit, hummus and baby carrots, or an apple with a thin schmear of nut butter.
2. Wear tight-fitting clothes.
Wearing tight-fitting clothes is a simple way to remind you not to overeat. After all, you don't want to see your belly bulge. For men, this means wear a belt. It would be great, of course, if we listened to our internal hunger as a cue to stop eating. But unfortunately, so many of us are not in tune with our bodies in that way. While we are working on it, wearing tight fitting clothes can help.
3. Drink a glass of water or seltzer before eating.
Oftentimes, we think we are hungry, when we really are just thirsty. So I suggest starting off with a glass of water or flavored seltzer as a way to hydrate. Also, if we drinking water, we are less likely to guzzle down sugar-laden soda.
4. Do a lap around the buffet line before filling up your plate.
Check out what foods are available instead of starting at the beginning of the buffet table and piling up on everything in sight. When we survey the selections first, we can pick a few healthy choices while also choosing a small portion of our favorite treat food. Taking a treat also makes it easier to skip the high-calorie unhealthy foods we can do without.
5. Choose something green.
Yes, I know it's July Fourth, and we'll be patriotic for dessert (more on that later), but be sure to fill up in some greens: mixed lettuce, spinach, kale, cucumbers, celery, or broccoli. Your host will probably offer at least one of these healthy vegetables. These green veggies are low in calories and high in fiber and antioxidants -- a great way to fill up. Another healthy green option is choose some guacamole which contains heart-healthy unsaturated fat.
6. Try a veggie burger.
These days, with so may people following vegetarian diets, many hosts offer veggie burgers, a healthy addition to a summer barbecue. Give it a try. Top your burger with tomatoes, fresh avocado and you've got a super healthy meal. Free of artery-clogging saturated fat.
7. Go bun-less.
I often suggest skipping the refined white bread and choosing a whole wheat bun, if available, or skip the bun altogether. Choosing a fresh salad and topping it with a burger makes for a delicious and nutritious meal. And you save room for a healthier starch option.
8. Enjoy corn on the cob.
If you decided to skip the bun, corn on the cob makes for a great starch option. Corn on the cob is high in fiber and will keep you feeling full for a while. And fresh corn on the cob also tastes delicious right off the grill.
9. Be patriotic for dessert.
Here's how to be patriotic -- enjoy a delicious fruit salad for dessert. Choose fresh blueberries, watermelon, and pear. If your host doesn't make a fruit salad, offer to bring one.
We would love to hear your healthy tips.
Happy Fourth! Safe travels.
This blog post is also featured on www.portionteller.com HERE.