Summer in Central Oregon is a time to enjoy the outdoors and to inevitably attend outdoor barbecues. Unfortunately, the primary menu options at outdoor barbecues generally tend to be high in fat, sodium, and sugar—the “axis of evil” of nutrition. These three nutrients on their own are not necessarily bad, but combined together and consumed in excess they are known to contribute significantly to many of the chronic diseases Americans suffer from today. How, then, can barbecue goers avoid eating unhealthily yet still enjoy all these events have to offer? Here are three tips for keeping on track with healthy eating at your next summer barbecue.
Stick with chicken, fish, or beans instead of red or processed meat.
Of all the food options typically available at a summer barbecue, none are worse than sausages and hot dogs. These highly processed meats are laden with sodium and fat (and in some cases sugar). More recently, they have been associated with an increase risk of colon cancer. The same is true of red meats, which include beef, pork, and lamb. These meats are not only hard on the body, but often lead to consuming far too much saturated fat, which leads to weight gain. Barbecues nearly always have multiple meat options, so sticking with chicken, fish, or beans where available is the healthiest option.
Keep in mind that eating a burger or hot dog once in a while is perfectly safe. The point here is that as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle it is best to avoid these foods as a general principle.
Be upfront and honest with the cook.
If you are actively watching what you eat for fitness and health reasons, you need to be honest and upfront with the person cooking the food. It’s ok to request a piece of chicken breast with less or no barbecue sauce (which reduces your sugar intake), or to request something different, such as fish, if available. If no such options are available, there is no shame in abstaining from eating one of the primary meat options. Fall back instead on the side dishes, some of which you may have made yourself. This brings us to the next tip.
Bring your own side dish(es).
It is customary to bring a side dish to a community event like a barbecue. This is your opportunity to sneak in your dietary requirements while contributing to the greater good. Make a salad with all the healthy bells and whistles, such as spinach, quinoa, onions, cucumber, or whatever you think will make a great dish. Or create a desert with healthy fruits and little added sugar. You will be surprised by how many other people will go for the healthy options as well. Most of us are cognizant of the fact that the traditional “American diet” is about as unhealthy as it gets, so when given an option we tend to gravitate toward the healthier options.
Other tips for avoiding weight gain at barbecues.
There are many other small tricks you can employ to stay on track at summer barbecues in Central Oregon. One of these is to keep alcohol consumption to a minimum. It is tempting to reach for that second or third beer, but each one you drink adds anywhere from 100 to 300 calories to your daily intake. This can add up very fast. There’s also the issue of finger foods, such as chips and salsa, cheese and crackers, among others. The key here is to set a strict eating limit and to count and tally everything you put into your mouth and to cut yourself off when you have reached your limit. Therein lies the key to your success: set limits, track consumption, and stop yourself when your limit is reached. This is true at summer barbecues as well as at any social events you attend.
Need help creating a plan, setting limits, and developing tools to stop yourself from eating too much? Talk to one of our Personal Trainers.