Holidays are for celebrating and are meant to be enjoyed, but you don’t have to sacrifice your health every time you attend a cookout. These cookout survival tips can save you hundreds of calories you won’t even miss, keep your health goals on track, and prevent food allergies from derailing your festivities.
- Eat breakfast: You want to make sure that you start your day off with a well-balanced and filling breakfast. Research has shown that breakfast eaters have good calorie management throughout the day and have healthier body weights.
- Use small plates: Research clearly shows that people who choose smaller plates and utensils eat less without even noticing it. The difference can be as substantial as 50% fewer calories consumed, yet everyone reports the same level of fullness and satisfaction. Try borrowing a plate from the kids table or the dessert tray.
- Eat slowly and mindfully: People who eat more slowly eat fewer calories over the course of a meal. Cookouts are a perfect opportunity to pace yourself as you mix and mingle with friends and family. The more you’re chatting, the less you’re eating. Sit with your family and friends to enjoy their company and enjoy a glass of ice-cold water with lemon and lime slices in it instead of lurking around the food table.
- Eat healthiest foods first: Fill half your plate with grilled veggies and fresh fruit to avoid overdoing it on the higher-calorie options. Plus fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins, fiber and water to help fill you up and nourish your body! Salads are a great place to start because watery vegetables slow digestion and have very few calories. Try to choose something with protein as well, which will help you feel more satisfied.
- Grill lean proteins and veggies: Eating grilled meats is a healthy option, as long as you remove excess fat (and excess calories!) and watch out for high-sugar sauces. Top picks for the grill include: skinless chicken breasts, lean turkey burgers, lean cuts of beef and veggie skewers.
- Skip the chips, crackers and bread: Filling up on refined carbohydrate and high glycemic snack foods like crackers, potato chips, cookies, ice cream, sodas and full-calorie beers offer little satisfaction, loads of empty calories and quickly spikes insulin. Insulin determines your rate of aging, level of inflammation and whether your body is in a fat storage or burning mode. White bread causes a higher spike in your insulin compared to whole-grain breads and makes your body more inclined to store fat. Switching white bread for whole-grain, rye, or sourdough buns can help control insulin levels. You don’t have to eat your burger without a bun, but pass on the pointless chips and other snacks that lure you when you’re not thinking.
- Keep dessert small: The difference between a large slice of cake and a smaller slice of cake can literally be hundreds of calories. And to reiterate, sugar and refined carbohydrates are the most dangerous foods. You don’t have to pass on dessert completely, but keep your portion sizes in check for this course and try juicy, refreshing watermelon, mixed berries and/or melons for your sweet fix.
- Think before you drink: Don’t waste all your calories on sugar-laden sweet tea, sodas, or sugary cocktails. One margarita can have 600-800 calories. That means 3 margaritas can quickly add up to be more calories than most people should be consuming in an entire day! Stick with light beer (around 100 calories for a 12-oz. bottle) or wine (around 120 calories per 5-oz. glass) and be sure to have a glass of water between each alcoholic drink. Stay hydrated by serving a refreshing, iced peach tea sweetened with stevia or agave honey and mint, cucumber sparkling water.
- Bring a guilt-free/allergen-friendly dish to the party: This way, you know there’ll be at least one healthy and safe option to fill up on. If you do eat foods prepared by someone else, be sure you thoroughly investigate what went into the food. And have an epinephrine auto injector with you just in case.
- Resist those mayo-laden side dishes and be wary of sauces: Even a seemingly reasonable 2/3-cup serving of potato salad has an average of 300 calories and nearly 20g fat. Not worth it! In addition, many BBQ sauces contain common allergens like gluten, which is why it’s so important to check the label or the recipe before eating. Here are some ingredients to watch out for: Some bbq sauces contain gluten from barley in the form of beer or malt and may contain soy sauce, which contains wheat. Many barbecue sauces may also contain Worcestershire Sauce, which could contain gluten. Lea and Perrins brand Worcestershire Sauce is gluten-free, while Annie’s Naturals Worcestershire Sauce is not. Some sauces contain mustard, which could contain gluten. Some mustards contain beer or wheat flour, so be sure to check the brand of mustard being used. (Mustard flour is gluten-free.) Most sauces contain ketchup, which should not be a problem because the major brands of ketchup are gluten-free.
* Allergen-Friendly Brands of Barbecue Sauce:
- Bone Suckin’ Sauce is gluten-free and free of all top allergens. It’s got a sweetness along with a spiciness that is so good.
- Sweet Baby Ray’s Barbecue Sauces are both gluten-free and dairy-free.
- Annie’s Naturals barbecue sauces are gluten-free and dairy-free. Sweet & Spicy Barbecue Sauce is also soy-free.
- Any Kraft and Nabisco products will list ingredients that contain gluten (in addition to the required top 8 allergens) on the ingredient statement. These items will be listed using commonly known terms such as Wheat, Barley, Oats or Rye.
* Make Your Own Barbecue Sauce: Try this recipe for a gluten- and dairy-free BBQ Sauce
Makes sauce for one whole chicken or four breasts
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- ¼ cup shallots, minced
- 1 (7 ounce) bottle tomato paste
- 1 cup orange juice, fresh squeezed
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- ½ teaspoon dry mustard powder
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- Warm oil in a saucepan over medium heat
- Add garlic and shallot; cook until soft
- Add tomato paste, orange juice, vinegar, mustard, paprika, salt, and pepper
- Simmer 15 to 20 minutes, stirring often
- Baste over chicken
- Marinate in fridge for 1-3 hours
- Grill & serve!