When you think of summer barbeque get-togethers, what comes to your mind? Do you picture high-calorie side dishes and tempting desserts? While they are a summertime tradition, the thought of picnics can be disheartening for someone trying to lose or maintain their weight.
Use the tips below to create a healthier cookout for yourself, your family and your friends and to guide you on your weight loss journey.
Begin your meal with a vegetable salad or a broth-based soup.
For appetizers, trade out higher-fat options with baked chips or non-starchy vegetables like snap peas, zucchini wedges and sliced yellow peppers with fat-free dips or fruit salsa.
Have frozen grapes, strawberries or pineapple slices available to snack on while the food is cooking.
Serve low-calorie beverages, such as sparkling water, iced tea or diet soda and garnish with mint, raspberries, grapes or orange wheels.
If you choose to drink alcoholic beverages, choose light beer or make wine spritzers with four ounces of wine and four ounces of club soda. Less alcohol and sugar means less calories for your meal plan.
Prepare a fresh fruit plate, fruit salad or fruit kabob for dessert using seasonal berries and melons — summer is the perfect time to make the most of healthful eating!
Serve grilled fruit, such as grilled pineapple, as a side or a dessert.
Fill a melon boat with strawberries, blueberries and raspberries and top with your favorite non-fat topping.
Select lean meats for grilling such as chicken, fish or steak (loin or flank) with little or no fat — avoid high-fat meats like hamburger meat or pork.
Rub your meats with herbs and spices before grilling to add more flavor without added fat.
Use low-fat or fat-free salad dressings as marinades for poultry, fish and lean meats.
Make potato salad, macaroni salad and coleslaw with fat-free mayonnaise, sour cream or yogurt; mix in chopped celery, cucumber, onions and carrots to add volume to help you feel full without extra calories.
If you use a packaged rice or pasta mix, discard half of the seasoning mixture, use a lower-sodium mix or add in your own seasonings, such as garlic powder or red pepper flakes.
Turn your green salad into a heartier side dish by adding cooked barley or wheat berries and dried cranberries, then chill and toss the salad before serving.
Grill vegetable kabobs of tomatoes, onions, bell peppers and mushrooms, these all count as Free Foods — making your diet plan that much easier!
Season your garden vegetables with fresh herbs, lemon juice, stock, wine, flavored vinegars or low-calorie"butter sprinkles" instead of butter and oil.
Have a variety of Free Foods handy, such as a tray of non-starchy vegetables with fat-free sour cream dip or salsa, to snack on if you are tempted to nibble when preparing food or entertaining guests.
Additional Tips/ Strategies
Use the Healthy Plate Strategy by filling 1/2 of your plate with vegetables, 1/4 of your plate with a starch, such as a small scoop of baked beans or potato salad, and 1/4 of your plate with lean meat, such as skinless poultry or beef tenderloin (3-4 ounces).
To set yourself up for success, plan your summer barbeque events to include a combination of food and non-food activities. For example, play a game of touch football or badminton with the children while the food is cooking.
If you choose to indulge a little, talk with your consultant about how you can work a 250 calorie splurge into your menu while balancing it out with extra physical activity — fitting in a little jog or walk is an easy way to burn the extra calories you may have consumed.