A Healthy Approach to BBQ Season

After what seemed like an endless winter, we are finally heading into the summer season and prime cookout weather! For those of us who have been sticking to ahealthy diet, navigating cookouts can be tricky since many traditional BBQ dishes are loaded with salt, sugar and unhealthy fats. But, that doesn’t mean you have to decline your invitations to the season’s backyard parties.

Here’s some guidance to help you enjoy the fun in a healthful way that won’t wreck your summer fitness.

  • Don’t show up starving. It’s never a good idea to show up to any event on an empty stomach. If you’re starving, you’re less likely to be able to resist unhealthy foods and make smart food decisions. Instead, have a nutritious snack before you go. Bonus points if you can sneak in a workout too.
  • Bring something of your own. Now, we’re not suggesting you go to a BBQ with your own picnic basket of food. But it’s a good idea to offer to bring a dish and make it something healthy. That way, if your other choices are limited you’ll have at least one nutritious dish to dig into.
  • Situate yourself near the veggies. If there is a veggie or fruit plate, that’s a great place to start. Raw veggies and BBQ fruit favorites like watermelon and berries are full of nutrients and fiber and can take the edge off your hunger so you’re not diving headlong into the creamy potato salad. Shoot to fill half your plate with fresh vegetables and fruit.
  • Choose a lean protein off the grill. We agree, BBQ sauce makes everything more delicious. But it is also loaded with added sugar and unhealthy carbs. Instead, look for grilled chicken breast, marinated meats or simple burgers. Kebabs with lean meat and vegetables are also a super choice. Move away from the hot dogs and fatty meat slathered in sauce. You’ll be happy you did.
  • Skip the bun. If you’re opting for a burger, consider having it without the bun. Because, although healthy, whole wheat burger buns do exist, chances are you won’t find them at a cookout. This will cut back on empty, refined carbs that add nothing but calories to your meal. Go easy on the ketchup too since most grocery store brands are full of high fructose corn syrup. Mustard is a tangy and tasty alternative.
  • Pasta salad and potato salad are not really salad. These cookout mainstays are usually prepared with mayonnaise or other creamy, fatty white dressings. If there are real salad dishes prepared with vinegar or olive oil, choose those instead.
  • Corn on the cob counts as a vegetable. This summertime favorite can be a smart choice if you have it simply boiled or grilled and limit the butter you put on it.
  • You don’t have to deprive yourself completely. After all, a healthy diet is all about balance. If you choose to indulge, watch your portion sizes. Pick out your favorite BBQ treat, enjoy a reasonable portion to fulfill your craving and move on to healthier foods.
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