So you’ve been invited to a cookout, or maybe you’re hosting one? The summer months can be full of these backyard grill-out extravaganzas, and when you’re trying to eat healthy, that can be a problem. Cookouts bring to mind fat-heavy foods like hotdogs, chips, potato salads, and barbeque, all of which can wreak havoc on your heart, and your waistline.
It may seem impossible to make healthy choices at these get-togethers, but you really can join in the flavor and the fun without blowing your eating plan. Here’s your step-by-step guide to making it through the summer cookout season with your health, and your waistline, in check!
Step 1 – Never Go Hungry Again!
The problem: When the promise of free, splurge-worthy food is on the table, it can be tempting to ditch your own meal preparation and rely on the dishes provided by the host. As a result, many people make the mistake of showing up to a cookout with an empty stomach and an appetite that’s ready to go! I guess you can get away with that as long as you’re Scarlett O’Hara laced up in your corset!
The solution: To avoid an all out bender, eat a light, fiber and protein filled snack before you leave for the cookout. Try a small salad with grilled chicken, or a plain yogurt with a piece of fruit. These foods will keep you from feeling ravenous and will make resisting temptation that much easier. You want to leave the cookout feeling happy, not regretful.
Step 2 – Go Easy on the Pepsi!
The problem: Okay, maybe I don’t mean the Pepsi specifically, but go easy on the drinks! Liquid calories are the sly culprit that can ruin healthy eating without so much as batting an eyelash.
The solution: Drink at least two big glasses of water before you head to the cookout. You’ll be hydrated, fuller, and much less likely to indulge in empty calories like soda and cocktails. If you’ve budgeted for one drink in your food plan for the day, have it. Enjoy it! But don’t just guzzle one Margarita after the next. Grab your water bottle and beat the heat in style. Your head will thank you the next morning, and so will your waist.
Step 3 – Life is Like a Cookout…
The problem: You never know what you’re going to get! Leaving your meal plans entirely in the hands of someone else can be risky business. Luckily, you have a few options when it comes to taking some mystery out of the eating equation.
The solution: Many cookouts are potluck. Offer to bring a healthy dish of your own to contribute to the party. Bring a dynamite seasonal salad, a vegetable tray, or some grilled meat and you’ll not only be a great guest, but a healthy eater too! If bringing your own dish isn’t an option, speak up. Ask your host to stock healthy choices like grilled chicken or fish, veggie burgers, fruit, and plenty of greens. You might be surprised by how open they are to stepping outside the box.
Step 4 – Know Your Friends
The problem: Some foods are pretty obviously unhealthy. It doesn’t take an expert to look at a bratwurst or a pan of macaroni and decide that those items don’t constitute lean eating. But when you don’t know exactly what went into your meal options, sometimes the fat and calorie content can sneak up on you.
The solution: Know how to cut corners and find your healthy options. Ditch that white flour bun and eat your hamburger patty a la carte. Steer clear of sauce heavy foods and heavy dressings. Instead, fill your plate with seasonal fruits and vegetables whenever possible. Watermelon, for example, can be a tasty summer treat that keeps you full and hydrated!
The bottom line is, you should go in with a plan. Fortune favors the prepared, and your summer cookout is no exception. Follow my 4 simple steps above and you’ll be well on your way to enjoying these backyard get-togethers while continuing to preserve your good health. Remember, these events aren’t about the food; they’re about the people. Socialize, laugh, enjoy the beautiful outdoors and do something active! Above all else, soak up the happiness that pervades these warm summer months. I’ll be doing the same.