The 4th of July marks the kick off of summer and an assortment of fun activities – camping, boating, beaching, water slides, fireworks and, EATING!
And despite all this fun, if you are committed to living a healthy lifestyle, social eating can prove to be a challenge.
Here are some options to maneuver those holiday barbecues and have a successful and healthy cookout:
Host the Barbecue
Hosting the party gives you more control over what food ends up on the picnic table. A great way to offer an assortment of protein and veggie options is with kabobs! This is suitable for paleo, vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, and just about anybody! It’s even kid-friendly. Include lean chicken or beef and a rainbow of colors with your vegetables: peppers, zucchini, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, and more! Be sure to put each item on a different kabob stick to avoid cross-contamination!
Bring a Dish to Share
If you are hosting, ask everyone to bring their favorite dish according to their lifestyle. Ask them to bring the recipe card so your guests know what ingredients are in it. This works great for special diets and allergens. If it isn’t your party, you can still make a dish that aligns with your health goals. Perhaps a green organic salad loaded with vegetables or a quinoa salad loaded with protein (that’s meatless and gluten-free!)
Ask: Wow! What’s in it?
Asking what’s in a dish can actually be done in an easy and polite way. It can be as simple as saying “Wow, that is so colorful and looks delicious! What’s in it?” or “How did you make that?” Be sure to check your tone so that it comes across as curious, not defensive. If you or your child are gluten-free or vegan or have an allergy, let them know and that you just want to be sure it’s ok for you/them to eat and won’t make you sick. If they can’t remember or are not sure, just pass the dish along.
In other words, bring your own meat and/or veggies. If you are gluten free and you know that there will be a grill at the event, ask if you can bring your own food (and foil to avoid cross-contamination). If you are vegan/vegetarian, ask if you can bring your own veggie or Portobello burger.
This is one of my favorite tips as a Wellness Coach. Many of the people I coach worry about social outings or “eating’s.” Often, their plan is to not eat all day until the party, saving their calories for the cookout. This actually works against you, because then you arrive at the party hungry, and you are more likely to make unhealthy choices. Instead, eat healthy throughout the day right up to the party or meal. I often drink my favorite protein shake right before a social event. This is a great strategy as it provides all the nutrients my body requires and it prevents me from being stuck with no food to eat or eating the wrong food. It also prevents me from over-indulging, as I’m already satisfied. And, this way I can focus more on the event and relax with people.
Desserts certainly can be decadent and yummy. If one of your health goals is weight loss, decide ahead of time that you are going to pass on dessert. If you are the host or have been asked to bring a dessert, remember that fresh fruit is a great option. Pineapple is great after a meal with an added benefit of easing digestion.
Splurging or enjoying one holiday meal isn’t what derails you from your health goals. Sometimes it is the leftovers that you continue to eat for days after. Be sure to have take-home containers stocked to send extras home with your guests! Or, if you are a guest, offer your dish to be given to one of the other families.
As always, wear sunscreen, hydrate, and stay active. Don’t cancel your workouts just because it’s the holiday. Grab a friend, throw a ball or Frisbee, go for a walk or bike ride, swim laps, set up a badminton or volleyball net and make fitness FUN!