5 Fool-Proof Strategies for a Better BBQ

When barbecue season is in full swing, nothing beats the smell of grilled goodies like ribs, corn on the cob, and all the fixings. The only problem is your typical American barbecue fare can be toxic. And if you’re watching your weight, the steady stream of picnics, block parties, and summer celebrations do have the potential to throw your healthy eating routine way off course.

Don’t let the bad news get to you—after all, summer is about having fun!

Think ahead and put together a plan to help maneuver your way through the next family reunion or beach outing, so you don’t end up veering off track. Follow my five goof-proof strategies for healthy eating at summer festivities while still enjoying delicious foods.

1. Eat Before

Going to a party on an empty stomach is like going to the grocery store hungry—you’ll find yourself filling the shopping cart (and plate) with extra goodies. Make it a rule to never arrive at a barbecue famished. Have a light snack (no more than 200 calories) about an hour before you make your entrance. This will help curb hunger pangs so you don’t end up with a belly full of greasy potato chips and creamy dip. Smart pre-party snacks include a nonfat Greek yogurt with berries, a banana with one level tablespoon peanut butter, or a stick of string cheese with an apple or orange. Eat one of these mini-meals before you arrive and you’ll be able to conquer the temptations in slim-style fashion.

2. Socialize

Instead of plopping yourself down at the food table, get involved in activities like beanbag toss, or take part in conversations away from the eaters. Keeping yourself busy and far from the fattening fare will help you avoid mindless overeating.

3. Fill Up on Protein and Produce

Load your plate with protein-packed foods, plus plenty of vegetables and fruit.

Protein takes a long time to digest, helping you to eat less of everything else. Fruits and veggies are packed with fiber, which will fill your belly with minimal calories—and, they shower your body with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Go for whatever floats your boat; BBQ chicken, sliced steak, burgers, shrimp and salmon.; think corn on the cob, fresh salads, grilled asparagus, mushrooms, zucchini, sliced watermelon, pineapple and berries.

4. Be Splurge Savvy

If you are going to splurge, scan the spread and stick with a small portion of your favorite items. Pick just one deliciously tempting appetizer, one plate of food (filled with anything you choose), one alcoholic drink, and one dessert (or a sliver of two, if you can’t decide). Or better yet, go with my “two bite” rule: Have two bites of whatever looks the most amazing to you. That’s usually enough to satisfy a craving, and really, it’s the first couple of bites that taste most delicious anyway.  

5. Be a Gracious Guest

Showing up at any type of party—barbecues included—can be challenging because you never really know what dishes will be served.

A simple solution is to delight the hostess with a delicious and nutritious appetizer, side dish, or sweet treat. This way, you’re somewhat covered. Think fruit salad, a lightened-up potato salad, or even a delish low-cal dessert like a slimming apple cobbler. Here are a few of my favorite recipes that are sure to please even the toughest crowd:

  • Watermelon Cakes – naturally sweet and filled with Vitamin C, they’re a fun way to enjoy a summer staple!
  • Edamame Hummus – is the perfect high-fiber, flavorful app for a backyard party. Just be sure to bring sliced veggies for dipping!

By Joy Bauer, MS, RDN, CDN, Health and Nutrition Expert for NBC’s Today Show and founder of Nourish Snacks.

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