Summer parties and BBQ’s are ENDLESS, which comes with its pros and its cons. This is a common concern I get from my own clients ALL THE TIME. “How can I enjoy the parties without packing on the pounds and feeling guilty come Monday morning?” When there’s a will there’s a way and it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. BBQ’s are notorious for copious amounts of food- good food, but not necessarily healthy food. So how do you do it? Below are my top tips (that I follow myself) and a few of the most common questions I get. I can’t promise you that following these tips is easy and mindless. It will require some focus and effort. But what I can promise you is that on Monday morning (and come Fall) you’ll be feeling a lot better about the choices you’ve made over the weekend.
1. Plan ahead!
I can’t stress this enough. Get organized at the beginning of each week. Look ahead for that week and a few weeks ahead to see if you have a party coming up on the weekend. If you do (and most weekends you will) keep the days leading up healthy with well balanced meals, plenty of water and some extra activity. This means you must make it a priority Monday-Thursday to exercise and keep your nutrition in check. You make about 5-10 food related decisions a day, some big some small. Remember, the small things add up!
2. On the day of, don’t skip meals!
This is common to “save calories” but often times leads to over indulging later on. Going long periods without fuel will throw off your energy levels, slow your metabolism (burning less calories) and alter your hunger hormones- ghrelin and leptin. This makes you feel hungrier and makes it harder to feel satisfied once you’ve finally eaten something. Recipe for disaster.
3. Eat a meal before you go.
Arriving hungry sets us up to head straight to the food upon arrival and likely over eating. Have a small meal with protein and fiber (like Greek yogurt and berries) and you’ll be smarter about the food choices you make. You’ve heard the expression ‘don’t go grocery shopping hungry?’ Well same rules apply here- don’t go into a food laden party hungry! It’ll help you make smarter choices.
4. Offer to bring a healthy dish.
Not sure of the food choices being served? Offer to bring something healthy! Fruit and yogurt platters, veggie and hummus platters, shrimp cocktail, grilled chicken and vegetable skewers, corn and bean salads are all great options to share! Trust me there will be others who appreciate a healthy choice and you’ll know you have at least one thing to nosh on.
5. Use the 1-plate rule.
(This one that saves me!) Most parties have a buffet style layout with snacks, grilled meats, salads, sides and desserts. Continuously grazing and picking will make it impossible to know how much you’re really eating. Take a small plate and fill it once with the foods you want to eat. Once it’s gone you know you’re done. This way even if you are enjoying some unhealthy choices, portions will be in check!
SOME OF THE MOST COMMON QUESTIONS I GET RELATED TO BBQ'S..
1) What common foods at barbecues or other summer parties should be avoided at all costs?
I never recommend my clients to restrict themselves completely, rather just plan ahead and balance. Avoiding something you LOVE is incredibly challenge for most (myself included!). Restricting completely leads to feeling deprived, giving in, and over indulging more than if you just allowed yourself to have a small portion in the first place. Instead, allow yourself to enjoy that small portion without feeling guilty. You’ll be able to have controlled satisfaction and avoid overdoing it. The foods to try to avoid if it’s not 100% worth it to you are heavy mayo-based salads, fatty meats (sausage, hot dogs, bacon), large rolls and buns (empty carb calories) and any processed snacks (potato chips, cheese doodles, white crackers etc.). Opt for the fresh whole sources of foods- fruit, veggie platers, lean hamburger/ turkey burger, grilled chicken, shrimp skewers etc.
3) What are some healthy tweaks to make to classic BBQ food?
Swapping out sour cream and mayo with Greek yogurt or avocado is one of the easiest and unnoticeable ways to cut unhealthy fat intake. Veggies dips, french onion dip (or any dips), potato or pasta salads work well with plain Greek yogurt (2% of full fat). Mashed avocado works great in tuna salad, chicken salad, and on sandwiches, burgers or wraps to replace cheese and mayo. I also always recommend to ditch the bun for some greens. Eating a burger or grilled chicken over a bed of greens instead of the bun is a great way to enjoy without the added empty calories or guilt. Finally, skewers are an easy way to keep portions in check. Alternate veggies and protein to balance it out. My favorite go-to is shrimp, bell peppers and pineapple.
4) What are the healthiest drinks to enjoy?
If you do plan on having some drinks at an upcoming social event, make sure you avoid it the days leading up. Choose wine, light beer, or liquor with non-caloric mixers, like club soda. Wine spritzers are also great ways to cut down the alcohol without feeling like you’re holding back (white wine + seltzer or club soda)! One tip that works well is using seltzer as your mixer, drink it about halfway down and fill it back up with club soda. This will help make one drink last a long time without added calories. I also get asked about flavored seltzer. Flavored seltzer is just fine as long as it’s not sweetened. My summer go-to is lemon-lime seltzer, Bacardi rum, fresh lemons and limes and lots of ice. Yum!
5) If over indulging happens, what should I eat the next day to get back on track?
Just as you shouldn’t skip meals the day of to “save calories”, you shouldn’t skip meals to “make up.” One of the best things you can do is load up on the water aiming for at least 64-80oz. This will help re-hydrate from any alcohol drinking the day before and filter out toxins. The best “detox” diet you can follow is fresh whole foods (lots of fruits, vegetables with lean protein, seeds, nuts, and grains), lots of water, and a good sweat session at the gym or outside. Additionally, staying away from starchy carbs and sugar can reduce any unnecessary cravings and limiting sodium intake can help reduce water retention.
I hope these tips will help you keep your summer BBQ's healthy without taking away form the fun! If you have any questions or tips of your own I'd love to hear them! Feel free to shoot me a message on the contact page- always love hearing from you!