When we talk about the Fourth of July Holiday- what comes to mind? Fireworks? Fun on the river? Backyard gatherings? We’re willing to bet BBQ is somewhere in all of those events. It’s doesn’t get much more “summertime” than a bunch of charcoal roasted, sauce slathered, going-to-need-a-napkin-for-this, protein. And then the sides- ah, the sides. And we’ll stop there, as not to make you too hungry.
But really, the sides are what we want to talk about. BBQ’s and summer get-togethers are what we all look forward to this time of year, even though it’s the food temptation equivalent of December Christmas cookies and Thanksgiving feasts, but every weekend for three months. An overloaded BBQ plate (with just a few snacks beforehand) can easily top 3,000 calories, not counting drinks and that second helping. For comparison: average Thanksgiving dinner plates usually top 2,000 calories. HOWEVER, you don’t have to undo a week’s worth of healthy eating, or eat plain lettuce for the week after, if you approach summer foods with a plan!
So here’s how to have fun AND make healthy food choices.
-What makes this holiday special? Or what is your absolute favorite BBQ food?
Is your sister’s potato salad worth “writing home about?” Does your best friend smoke an amazing brisket? Maybe your cousin makes homemade ice cream every Fourth? You don’t have to forgo those special treats!
Where holiday and especially BBQ foods start to get you in trouble is if you load up on your favorites, PLUS everything else. BUT, if you stick to just the favorites, and leave the deli salads alone, you’ll enjoy what you really wanted in the first place and not overload your “food budget” in the process. Things you can eat anytime: bagged potato chips, hot dogs, pre-packaged sides- save those for later. For any special occasion- focus on what makes this Holiday/BBQ special, enjoy those foods, and go easy on the foods you can eat any other day.
Not every BBQ features alcohol, but for those that do, you have to count those calories into your “food budget.” Where most people get into trouble is drinking on an empty stomach, then piling up a full plate, then continuing the snacking/browsing and drinking into the afternoon. Not only is this a recipe for dehydration, but it can cost you thousands of “extra calories” throughout the day, let along the summer. Alcohol is an appetite stimulant, and lowers your inhibitions too, making it harder to stay away from the leftovers.
However, if you eat first, THEN enjoy a beverage or two, you’ll be drinking on a full stomach which means you won’t be nearly as tempted to snack. This also means you’ll go through the buffet line with your full resolve still intact- which will make it easier to say no on a third helping of pasta salad. Eating first also helps to regulate your blood sugar which makes you feel “full” longer.
-Fill up on the veggies, then toss the plate
BBQ plates are notorious for their tray-like qualities- they can be double the size of your dinner plates at home. No matter the size of plate, try to fill up at least half with fruit and vegetables, that still leaves you plenty of room for the aforementioned brisket and potato salad (sorry, potatoes slathered in mayo don’t really belong in the “vegetable” category). Then, once you’ve eaten all the food on your plate- throw it away or wash it. An empty plate is just begging to be refilled, but most of us will think twice before getting a second plate dirty.
-Drink plenty of water
Dehydration and heat exhaustion are very real concerns at BBQ events, especially here in the Tri-City area with triple digit weather. Drinking enough water is the first line of defense against the heat. Water will help you stay full longer as well, keeping you away from the chips and crackers.
-And finally, remember it’s a HoliDAY
Whether Fourth of July, or any other holiday (here’s looking at you Christmas cookies), we have to remember that it is meant to be a DAY of celebration- not a week, not a month. Splurging on food choices for one day isn’t going to hurt anyone, especially if you follow the tips we’ve outlined above. But a whole month of splurges, or a week of leftovers from that splurge- that’s where you’ll start to see some unwanted pounds and health problems creep in. Enjoy your DAY, eat the foods that make this day special; then go back to your healthy routine tomorrow.
Have a wonderful Fourth of July, we hope your BBQ turns out amazing!
We wish you good health,
~Columbia Basin Racquet Club