Skip to main content

The Broomfielder

Eating Healthy at Seasonal BBQs

Apr 29, 2019 09:54AM

By Sara Baker, MS, CSCS

Spring and Summer are fun filled seasons that bring many great activities. BBQs are one of the quintessential gatherings when the weather warms up and food is a central element. However, BBQs are not often associated with healthy eating and if you are trying to make good food choices, BBQs can be challenging. Follow the tips below and do not let a few seasonal BBQs derail your healthy eating habits.   

Fill your plate with vegetables and protein first. Fill up on any type of vegetable offered as well as lean protein. Vegetables give you the most bang for your buck. Vegetables are nutrient dense, low calorie, low fat, high in vitamins and minerals, and contain fiber, which helps keep you full. If you are craving something crunchy, try some raw vegetables and dip. Protein is also very satisfying and is satiating.    Grab a few pieces of cheese or nuts before you dig into the chip bowl.

Beware of liquid calories. A nice cold mojito, margarita or PiñaColada is very refreshing on a warm day but liquid calories from cocktails can add up.  Not to mention these drinks are all full of sugar which is detrimental to both your waistline and health.  If you still want to enjoy a cocktail, flavored vodka with seltzer water and lime is refreshing and is low in sugar and calories. A light beer or glass of wine is another sensible choice.  Anything with some type of mix will almost always be higher in calories and sugar. Regardless of the alcoholic drink selected, alcohol is not only dehydrating, but as you consume more, inhibitions often decrease. This makes you more likely to snack on and consume higher calorie and less healthy food. Aim to drink a glass of water for every alcoholic beverage consumed and keep consumption to only a few drinks. 

Offer to bring a healthy side dish. If you are worried there is not going to be any healthy options, offer to bring something to share. A simple salad, vegetable tray with hummus or fresh fruit is refreshing and easy with minimal preparation time. With fresh produce coming into season, you can take advantage of all the healthy food available. Many guests will welcome something light to contrast all the traditional heavy BBQ food.  

Make trade-offs. If you love a good juicy burger on a fluffy bun, then maybe forgo the side of chips and dessert. If you love a great summer cocktail, maybe skip the bun on your burger. Select the few items that you truly love and enjoy them without feeling like you have to consume everything offered.  

Watch the mindless eating. Often at BBQs, bowls of chips, nuts and/or sweets are displayed.  It is easy to over consume if you continue to grab a few chips here and a handful of something there.  Make a plate of food, filled with mostly healthy items and attempt to sit down and enjoy it vs. continuing to grab bites here and there from the food display. 

Take the focus off the food. Though food is part of our culture and social activities, if you struggle with eating healthily at social events, try to take the focus off of the food.  Do the best you can with the options available and then focus on the other aspects of the party. Often BBQs have lawn games, music, and hopefully great conversation.  Focus on enjoying this great time of year with friends and family. 

Laura Brieser-Smith, a local Registered Dietician and Instructor at Front Range Community College gives her advice on eating out this summer. “Many traditional BBQ foods are higher in calories, fat, sodium, and/or sugar.  You can still enjoy your favorite foods, but limit yourself to a smaller serving.  For example, you might try to limit yourself to just 3 ounces of meat and ½ cup of baked beans or potato salad.  Load up the rest of your plate with lots of fresh summer fruits and vegetables.”

Summer BBQs are a blast, but can be challenging for those working hard on eating well.  By loading up on fresh summer produce, watching the liquid calories, and paying attention to mindless eating, you can still enjoy the season without it wreaking havoc on your waistline and overall health.