It’s that time of the year – your calendar is filling up with lake days and barbeques. Summer cookouts are a delightful part of the season, filled with the aroma of sizzling burgers, the smoky char of grilled veggies, and the refreshing clink of chilled beverages. However, if you’re trying to lose weight, cookouts can pose a challenge to your goals. Although it’s a great way to socialize and spend time with friends and family, it can also be daunting as you try to be mindful of your own health goals. Traditional barbeque and finger-food favorites can make it challenging to stay on track. But fear not! With a few smart strategies and mindful choices, you can enjoy the summer cookout season while staying true to your weight loss journey. Here are some helpful tips to survive (and thrive) through your summer social season!
- Offer to bring a healthy dish to share. Contribute something that you know is part of the diet with your health goals in mind. This way, you’ll have control over one item on the menu and ensure there’s a nutritious option available. Consider bringing a colorful salad, a platter of grilled vegetables, or a refreshing fruit salad. Sharing your healthy creation may also inspire others to make healthier choices. See the end of the article for some suggestions.
- Be mindful of your food choices, always scope out your protein options first! Protein is an essential component of any weight loss plan as it helps keep you full and boosts your metabolism. Opt for grilled chicken breasts, fish, or lean pork or beef tenderloins instead of processed or fatty meats like sausages. Remove the skin from poultry to reduce unnecessary calories.
- Stay hydrated. Bring a water bottle with you and keep it with you as you mingle with others. Oftentimes we confuse hunger with thirst, so staying hydrated is an easy way to prevent overeating.
- Don’t linger by the food table. Gravitate towards a different area so that you’re not tempted to snack while you socialize. Try to participate in a friendly competition with one of the outdoor games. If you are by the pool, don’t hesitate to jump in!
- Set your fork down between every bite. After you’ve chewed and swallowed the bite, place your fork or utensil down on your plate or table. This simple act creates a pause between each bite and prevents you from mindlessly reaching for the next one. While your fork is set down, engage in conversation with the people around you. Enjoy the company and the social aspect of the cookout. This diversion allows you to take a break from eating and helps you tune into your hunger and fullness cues. Before taking another bite, check in with yourself and assess your hunger level. By pausing between bites, you give your body a chance to communicate its signals of fullness. This tactic is sure to slow down your eating.
- Take 1, then ditch the dessert table. If there’s a fruit platter or fresh fruit available, choose that as a healthier alternative to traditional desserts. Fruit offers natural sweetness and is packed with vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants. Enjoy a colorful assortment of berries, watermelon, or pineapple to satisfy your cravings. You can also prepare a healthy dessert option to bring with you to the cookout. This way, you can enjoy a sweet treat that aligns with your weight loss goals. However, if there is a dessert you really want, just take one and ditch the dessert table.
- Portion sizes matter. Your aunt may make an amazing potato salad, but a couple of forkfuls is enough (especially if you’re making good choices on the dense proteins). If you are trying to lose weight, or just want to have a healthier diet, portion control is key.
- Focus on the conversation. Remind yourself that it’s not always about the food, it’s about the company. Use this as an opportunity to get to know your friends and family better.
- Find a way to get some activity in. If people are playing badminton, corn hole, bocce ball, or other yard game feel free to join in! Or perhaps venture off for a short walk with an old friend.
- Limit your alcoholic drinks. Not only is alcohol high in calories, but it’s also dehydrating and increases your appetite – which is why limiting your intake of alcohol can be very helpful as you aim to stay on track.
Here are some suggestions for healthy and easy cookout items to prepare for your next gathering:
- Grilled Burgers (lean steak, bison, or turkey)
- Grilled Chicken (or steak or shrimp) kabobs with peppers, mushrooms, onions
- Grilled Ginger-Soy Salmon
- Charcuterie Board (meats, cheeses, pickles, pickled veggies)
- Deviled Eggs
- Grilled Asparagus with Lemon and Garlic
- Coleslaw or Broccoli Salad
- 7-Layer Chicken or Beef Taco Salad
- Caprese Salad Skewers
- Marinated Italian Green Bean Salad
- Cucumber Salad
- Veggie Tray
With these summer cookout survival tips, you can navigate the world of BBQs and picnics without sabotaging your weight loss goals. By planning ahead, making mindful choices, and being conscious of portion sizes, you can enjoy the company and delicious food while staying on track. Remember, it’s all about balance, moderation, and making choices that align with your long-term health and wellness objectives. Happy grilling!
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