Summer and Fall are perfect grilling seasons in Northern California. Odds are, you'll be invited to plenty of backyard BBQs over the next few months, before we move into winter. If you are trying to eat healthy, a friend's BBQ can be a treacherous event for you to navigate. Cheeseburgers, sausages and two kinds of pie aren't exactly a well-rounded meal plan. So how do you keep your nutrition plan on track when you are not in control of the meal? We have pulled together some simple ideas for eating healthy at the backyard BBQ that will keep you from veering off course on your diet.
It's common practice to bring a side dish to a BBQ. This is your opportunity to make something that fits your diet so you know you'll have something to eat that you don't have to feel guilty about. Bring enough to share with friends and you can start encouraging healthy BBQ traditions.
It's OK to eat fun food, just not all the time. Do you really need that 2nd cheeseburger - or should you have some salad? Two desserts, really? Try just picking one. There are simple steps of moderation and self-control you can take to stay on track to your health goals. However, don't forget to live a little.
“Everything in moderation, including moderation.” - Oscar Wilde
#3 Pick Your Protein
Burgers and hot dogs are great, but if you need to reduce your fat and cholesterol intake, consider grilling some chicken or fish. If you wrap a fish fillet in foil and grill it over low heat, you can get perfectly cooked fish that will make your BBQ buddies jealous. If you are sticking to red meat and you want to cut back on calories - try having your burger without a bun. Wrap it in a couple big leaves of lettuce instead. You can still enjoy it's meaty goodness with all the toppings, but removing the bun will save you over 100 calories.
Grilled veggies are amazing. It takes a little extra care on the grill so they don't stick and burn, but when done right they have fantastic flavor and texture. Be sure to brush them with oil so they don't stick and cook them over low heat or in a grill basket. At the very least, try to have equal parts of veggies to protein on your plate. Even more would be better. Zucchini, squash, asparagus, onions and peppers are all pretty easy to grill. Using skewers makes the process more efficient.
#5 What Counts as "Salad"?
Just because some one calls it (______) salad, does not mean it's healthy. Examples: pasta salad, potato salad, egg salad - while there are potentially healthy-ish options of all of these, they are more commonly a dense mass of cholesterol and carbohydrates bound together with mayonnaise. As a general rule, anything held together with mayonnaise should not be considered a health food. Make sure you eat some real salad - we're talking about lettuce or some kind of greens, with vegetables, nuts and a light dressing such as oil and vinegar.
Beer and mixed alcoholic drinks are a common presence at a BBQ. It's OK to enjoy small amounts of these beverages (unless you have a doctor's recommendation to avoid them). The challenge for keeping you on track to your health goals is that alcoholic beverages are packed with empty calories. An average beer contains 148 calories and a margarita could contain as many as 680 calories, and that's just one drink! Having 2 - 3 drinks you could actually reach your target caloric intake for the entire day without eating anything (not recommended). See #3 above and apply moderation to consuming alcohol.
OK, desserts are not the best opportunity to make healthy choices. Pie, cookies and brownies are usually the staple desserts at a BBQ. Live a little and have one, or better yet, split a piece with a friend. But here's another take on dessert that might leave you with less guilt. This is a great idea about grilling peaches from the blog LivingInChico - check out their full grilling guide here.
Our favorite is a grilled peach with cinnamon and honey. Slice a ripe peach in half and place it face down on the grill, once it has a nice seared grill mark on it, flip it over and sprinkle it with cinnamon then drizzle honey over it. Allow a few more minutes to finish cooking and then serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
With a little mental preparation you can get through BBQ season without adding on extra pounds. It's always good to watch what you eat, but don't forget to live a little too. If you want to get an idea of your health baseline and ways to improve it, make an appointment to see us at the Medical Specialty Center, Your Everyday Health Care Clinic.
Our mission at Orchard Hospital is to provide our community with superior health care. We strive to ensure that your experience at Orchard Hospital is as pleasant and comfortable as possible. Our priority is to provide you with the care you need when you need it, with skill, compassion, and respect.