- Bring your own healthy dish! That way you can have something to gravitate towards if the rest of the picnic contains mostly unhealthy foods.
- Plate Vegetables First! When it is time to eat, start building your plate with the vegetables. Fill 1/2 of your plate with non-starchy vegetables (carrots, leafy greens, celery, broccoli...etc) so that there is less room for the foods that are higher in fat and calories. The vegetables will also fill you up because they are rich in fiber so you will feel satisfied by the end of your meal.
- Choose Whole Grains! Choose whole wheat hamburger/hot dog buns instead of white buns. The whole wheat contains more fiber, vitamins and minerals, which will make you more satisfied after your meal, and less likely to go back for more.
- Grill Leaner Proteins! Interestingly enough, lean proteins such as chicken, turkey, and fish contain the same amount of protein as higher fat, red meats such as ground beef, steak, or pork, but they contain much less fat, and calories than the high fat proteins. Vegetarian proteins like black bean veggie burgers, or tofu are also leaner sources of protein, but their protein content varies depending on the product itself.
- Strike out the Salt! Instead of seasoning with salt, try to choose more herbs, and spices in your cooking to decrease risks for high blood pressure. Sometimes a little extra black pepper, lemon juice or cayenne pepper can satisfy a salty craving.
- Stay Hydrated! Most cookouts in the hot weather, so it is important to stay adequately hydrated if you will be outside. Also, research shows that drinking a glass of water before meals or in between bites of foods can help you control your cravings, and it will actually help you eat less overall at a meal.
- Limit drinkable calories! Juices, fruit punches, and alcoholic beverages all contain a lot of calories and it can be fairly easy to drink a meal's worth of calories in just a few drinks. Choose mainly water, fruit-infused water, or fruit-flavored seltzer water, to stay hydrated. You could also choose diet sodas, or light beers over their regular versions whenever possible to avoid excess calories from drinks!
- Socialize! Think about it: the more you are talking with friends or family, the less you are focusing on eating. If we did both at the same time, we would choke! Try to put your fork down between bites, contribute to small talk, and it will extend your meal much longer than if you weren't as social.
- Wait for Seconds! It takes the brain about 15-20 minutes after eating to have our satiety signals from our gut alert our brain that we are fully satiated. Therefore, before rushing to grab second helpings, drink a glass of water, go for a walk around the yard, or talk to new people before you go back to the food area.
- Play! Lots of cookouts are usually accompanied by games of cornhole, wiffle ball, volleyball, flag football...etc. Don't just watch the kids play, jump right in! The more we move, the healthier we are!
Memorial Day marks the official beginning of cookout/barbecue/picnic season! Pretty soon we will be grilling in celebration of graduation parties, Father's Day, July 4th, Labor Day...etc With tons of foods laid out buffet-style, cookouts can definitely throw you off your healthy game. Learn from these tips below about how to stay healthy during cookouts this summer!
I am a Registered Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator, and a self-proclaimed foodie currently living in Washington D.C. I genuinely want to help people enjoy healthy eating. I hope that through my blog you will learn a bit more about nutrition, share with me in my love-hate relationship for exercise, eat well, and feel good :)