Ah, Summer. Take in a deep breath and smell the barbeque. One of the best parts about Summer is gathering with friends and family around a big table of grilled corn, baked beans and ice-cold tea. Eating at a cook-out can be difficult when you are surrounded by foods that may not be particularly nourishing for your body. Thankfully, there are easy ways to get the party started with healthy foods.
- Fill up with the veggies first
And no, chips don’t count! Look around for vegetables to fill up at least a one quarter to a half of your plate. Take a stroll past the vegetable tray, the green beans, and the salad before you make your full round. Prioritize the dark green vegetables first (if available), such as spinach, collard greens, broccoli, and zucchini. Next, keep an eye out for colorful produce including peppers, tomatoes, beets, and carrots. Lastly, you can finish off by checking for the light and more starchy vegetables such as corn, potatoes, and yams. Keep in mind that there are always exceptions to general guidelines – cauliflower is a light vegetable and a nutrient powerhouse!
- Embrace the sea
Change things up and grill fresh fish instead of burgers. Fish is filled with vitamin D, vitamin B2, calcium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, iodine, magnesium, and potassium. It is low in fat but contains a large amount of protein, making it a great meat choice. Fish is most famous for its high omega-3 content. Omega-3 is essential for heart and brain health; it can lower blood pressure, is vital for vision and nerve development, may decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s, and prevent inflammation.2Because our body doesn’t produce omega-3 on its own, we must obtain this fatty acid from the foods we eat. Good fish choices include salmon, tuna, trout, sardines, and herring.
- Skip the seat
Are all of the camp chairs or picnic table seats full? Don’t sweat it, stay on your feet! Walk around and socialize, run with the kids, or sway to the music. While standing for long periods of time may cause discomfort for some, staying up and active is a great way to focus on your health. Cornell University points out that sitting for more than just one hour can lead to biochemical changes in the body that can impact glucose metabolism and fat metabolism. Sitting for long periods of time has also been associated with heart disease risks.1
- Request a special order from the chef
Who says being a diva is a bad thing? If you’d rather skip the barbeque sauce or want to substitute olive oil for butter, bring it up to the king (or queen) of the grill. Come prepared to be picky with alternative options such as balsamic dressing to replace the ranch or sparkling water to share instead of soda. Feeling uncomfortable about requesting a change? Steal the show and make your own healthy dish that everybody will love! Who knows, maybe you will be inspired to host the next cook-out.
- Indulge with the 80/20 rule
A healthy diet is a well-rounded diet. Restricting yourself too much can lead to unhealthy eating habits, including binging. If you have been eyeing a piece of apple pie, take a small slice or save some for later. The 80/20 rule is a great way to gauge your diet. Aim for filling up on 80% of healthy foods and allow yourself that extra 20% to eat something that looks yummy. Nobody is perfect and life is too short!
- Health Benefits of Fish. Washington State Department of Health. https://www.doh.wa.gov/CommunityandEnvironment/Food/Fish/HealthBenefits. Accessed June 20, 2018.
- Sitting and Standing at Work. Cornell University Ergonomics Web. http://ergo.human.cornell.edu/cuesitstand.html. Accessed June 20, 2018.