Parties, barbecues, and outings with friends and family are back on the calendar in a good way. Whether you are the guest or the host, these events are typically centered around food. What’s on the menu can make a huge impact on nutritional goals and your waistline. Plan some summer strategies and avoid the pitfalls of summer fun.
Simple Rules for Smart Eating at Summer Events
- Contribute something that’s good for you. Bring a healthy potluck dish to get something nutritious in, no matter how decadent the other dishes are. This Summer Salad with a Mediterranean flair contains potato, tomatoes, and crisp green beans tossed in a light white wine dressing. No mayo needed! Or try this Carrot and Raisin Salad for a fun alternative to a traditional coleslaw. Pineapple, carrots, and raisins make this salad colorful, but also perfect for summer and a low-cal option with just 70 calories a serving.
- Pay attention to portions. Use these 3 memorable points of reference:
- A tennis ball or baseball or clenched fist is the equivalent of about 1 cup of food. This measure is useful for scoop-able sides like potato, pasta, and bean salads. To keep a cap on calories, aim for 1 cup total of these starchy side dishes.
- Your cell phone or a deck of cards represents about a 3-ounce portion of protein. This measure comes in useful when for meat, chicken, and fish servings.
- Use your thumb as a guide to estimate the portion size of a single tablespoon. This can be useful when reaching for dressings, dips, or spreads. Keep in mind, most full-fat salad dressings have 50 to 100 calories per tablespoon. This light and flavorful Sesame Maple Vinaigrette is a tasty option with just 38 calories a tablespoon. A delicious blend of maple syrup, soy sauce, and toasted sesame oil acts as a sweet and savory base for this healthy dressing.
- Fill up on vegetables first. Eat loads of green salad but remember to watch the dressings. Crunch on the crudités instead of chips and keep an eye on the dips. This healthy Greek Salad is a classic Mediterranean recipe that is both easy and delicious.
- Have a little lean protein. Studies show that, gram for gram, lean proteins help you to feel fuller than carbohydrates or fats. Enjoy what’s on the grill, from a lean-beef burger, a piece of chicken or fish, or try a vegetarian option. This Veggie Burger made with black beans is packed with flavor. For a bit of a twist, these Mushroom Stuffed Burgers melds the rich flavors of red wine and mushrooms to make a hearty patty.
- Don’t go crazy with starchy carbs. Consider making this protein and fiber rich Chickpea and Tomato Salad for the win.
- Keep a close eye on liquid calories. Whether alcoholic or not, fluids can contribute a significant amount of empty calories to the daily total. Drinking plenty of water will not only help to fill you up, but the water will help to maintain adequate hydration during the heat of the day.
- “Prioritize” your favorite food. Whether you are dying for a big cheeseburger, craving a scoop of creamy potato salad, or longing for a piece of your favorite cake, you can indulge without feeling guilty by planning accordingly. Lose the bun, skip the pasta salad, or go heavy on the veggies to make room for that special something.
- When you’re finished, go play. Toss a ball with the kids, rally the adults to play horseshoes or go for a walk. Just pull yourself away from the food and get moving!
Enjoy all the celebrations of the season, making sure to enjoy time with friends and family. Don’t spend time fretting over what you can and cannot eat. Practice simple strategies and avoid being too hard on yourself. Tomorrow is always a new day!