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How to Navigate Summer Barbecues - Five Expert Tips!

MAC Nutrition Team - Thursday, June 21, 2018

Five Tips on How to Navigate Summer Barbecues

It’s that time of year…beach cookouts, Fourth of July barbecues—all that summer fun! But with summertime celebrations can come some nutrition-related challenges. These celebrations can be laden with heavy foods that may not be the most helpful in reaching your health- or fitness-related goals, or foods that may just not make you feel your best. Here, I share some tips for navigating summer parties so you can have fun and feel great!

  1. Bring your own food. Especially if the cookout is potluck-style, don’t be afraid to bring your own entrée or side dish that you know you will want to eat. If you notice that you feel best when you have a lot of vegetables on your plate, bring a veggie dish, such as a salad or crudités, as your contribution to the party. Others might thank you for it!
  2. Survey the scene. Take stock of all the dishes that are out on the buffet table, and decide which your favorites are and which you want to prioritize. It’s easy to overdo it and end up feeling too full if you take some of every dish, so only have the foods that you know will make you feel good and the ones you are most excited to try. Go for vegetable dishes first and fill half of your plate with those, but make sure you leave room for special occasion foods too! Certain foods only come around once each year, so have your favorite Fourth of July potato salad along with all the veggies on your plate. You can also start with a small tasting plate and try a bite of each dish, then decide which foods you’d like to prioritize.
  3. Think about balancing your plate. A well-balanced plate is generally half vegetables, a quarter protein (such as chicken or beef), and a quarter carbohydrate (such as that potato salad). Balancing your foods in this way may help you to feel a lot better at the end of the meal than if your plate had been half meat and half carbohydrates (which would be easy to do at a barbecue!).
  4. Emphasize the non-food fun. Taking the focus off the food can encourage everyone to eat a more comfortable amount. Organize a softball game, a family walk, a volleyball game, or an obstacle course. Some light activity after a meal, such as walking, can even help improve digestion. Play trivia or board games. Chat with family and friends away from the food table so you’re not tempted to mindlessly pick at the food. Food only makes up a small part of these celebrations!
  5. Enjoy yourself! Try not to think too much about the food, enjoy what you do eat, and, most importantly, enjoy your loved ones and be fully present in the moment. Take a minute to appreciate the lovely breeze, the beautiful sunset, or the way the sand feels between your toes. Bringing a bit of mindfulness to your summer barbecue may help you feel a bit more balanced, even if you are surrounded by rich, creamy cookout foods!

As always, the MAC registered dietitians are here to help. Please feel free to come to us with any cookout-related questions!

This month's blog contribution comes from Louisa Paine, Registered Dietitian at The Mount Auburn Club.

Contact the MAC Nutrition team today.

The information presented here is for general educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or health condition. As always, please speak with your registered dietitian regarding any dietary modifications or nutrition-related questions.