It's that time of year again. Family and friends are gathering for BBQs and cookouts complete with fatty meats, delicious sides, and indulgent desserts. But it is possible to eat healthy at summer gatherings, even if you love everything on the grill. Here's your guide to a balanced BBQ and how to enjoy it while sticking to your healthy eating goals.
Don't Come Hungry
Before you head to your next summer BBQ, come prepared by eating a healthy snack first. When you smell that mouth-watering food at the gathering, you'll already feel satisfied and can avoid snacking while you wait to prevent overeating. Choose something light but filled with protein, like a Greek salad, that curbs your appetite. It comes with an organic chicken breast, red onion, tomatoes, dried cranberries, roasted almonds, romaine lettuce, and our own light Greek vinaigrette.
Load Up On Green Sides
Once you're at the cookout and the food is ready to go, make a beeline for the greens. Load up on green beans, collard greens, salad, and celery, but skimp on the sauce and dressings as much as possible. It's also wise to avoid cheese-drenched dishes that pack on the calories and saturated fats.
Add Some Whole Grains
Whole-grain foods provide fiber, vitamins, minerals, and nutrients for a well-balanced diet that could help control cholesterol levels and blood pressure. You probably won't find a wide range of whole-grain options, but all hope isn't lost. Some buns, crackers, and pasta salads made from whole grains can give your nutrition a boost.
Look for Lean Proteins
There are plenty of BBQs out there serving up ribs dripping in sauce, oversized burgers, and brisket. But you get to decide what you eat. Take a small portion or ask if there are any bean burgers or veggie options for the guests. Otherwise, taking a small portion and turning it into a side dish alongside healthy greens helps keep your diet in check.
Contribute to the Party
Before you head to the big event, ask the host if you can contribute to the BBQ, then brainstorm healthy dishes that will delight the crowd. But don't just bring a traditional side salad that doesn't add much to the flavor of the day. Instead, whip together veggie and lean meat kabobs, whole grain pasta and bean salads, or a tropical summer fruit salad.
Plan for a Dessert
If you're struggling to eat healthy, there's no need to skip dessert completely. A small portion can curb the cravings. Or you can focus on fresh watermelon and mouth-watering cherries. Another way to approach dessert is to look for nuts and a hard piece of cheese that keeps your mouth busy with a satisfying crunch. Even ice-cold water with fresh cucumber and a sprig of mint can feel like an indulgence.
Bring Your Own Healthy Drink
Whether or not the BBQ is BYOB, bring a healthy drink along with you. Sugary sodas, beer, and cocktails can quickly drive up your sugar and calorie intake and derail your healthy eating habits. You're also more likely to overeat if you're feeling a bit tipsy. Research shows that alcohol can give you the munchies by stimulating the nerve cells in your brain's hypothalamus. In turn, these neurons can create a hunger sensation and prompt uncontrollable cravings.
Offer to Lend a Hand
If you have trouble staying away from the snacks and treats when your hands are idle, ask if you can help out. Get involved by gathering together the napkins, utensils, and plates or cleaning up after the meal prep to give your host a break. You'll end up eating less and establishing yourself as the most popular person at the party.
Host the Party Yourself
if you're tired of the usual fatty BBQ fare, throw a summertime gathering at your place. Make sure your guests understand the menu and what to expect and encourage them to bring their own healthy dish or drink. Think about traditional dishes with a twist, like veggie burgers and grilled fruit instead of a half rack of fatty ribs. They'll thank you for the focus on health and variety in their summer eating plans.
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