Summer and backyard bbqs go hand-in-hand; there is no better way to spend a warm summer evening than sharing food and drink with friends while enjoying the outdoors. While summer fare can be healthy – nature’s bounty of fruits and vegetables is highest in the Canadian summer months – potluck bbqs also present challenges to the conscientious eater. And it can be easy to be tricked by so-called healthy fare (think salads loaded with creamy dressings, veggie trays with a high-fat dip option and the family favourite potato salad). Here are five tips for maintaining balance this summer, and maybe even slimming down while enjoying time with family and friends.
A 2013 study into summer bbq consumption in the UK found that most people are consuming upwards of 3,000 calories at a backyard bash. What!? That’s about a day and a half’s worth of food for the average woman. While high fat options might be part of the problem, so is the temptation to graze mindlessly while you are chatting with your Aunt Susan, or laughing over your third summer cocktail with your best friend. And the study revealed, many people aren’t filling their plate just once, but going up for round two and even three.
Eat consciously when you are at any social gathering. Separate conversation from eating as much as possible. Instead of dipping into a chicken wing while your brother recounts his latest adventure, stop, and just listen to him. Head to the buffet with the sole intent of nourishing your body, and eating mindfully. Wait 10 minutes after eating before heading up for more. You may think “I’m hungry” when in fact, you really aren’t.
Follow the 80:20 Rule
If your social calendar is full of backyard bashes, find balance in your eating when not out being social. If dinner will be with a few friends, make lunch protein-rich (because it will fill you up) and lighter in calories. Try a serving of salmon on a bed of greens, for example. And when you are at the event, choose the healthiest foods for the majority of your plate, but squeeze in a treat or two so you feel satisfied. It is all about moderation, not abstinence.
Watch for Hidden Calories, Salt and Sugar
Sometimes people are unsure of what the healthiest choices are at a potluck event. And some foods are masters of disguise – salads filled with creamy dressings put on that they are healthy, when in fact that mayonnaise dressing is full of unhealthy fat. Store-bought dips, slaws and even hummus, can be filled with salt, causing us to exceed or daily limit and retain water towards belly bloat. A common culprit for unchecked calories? Drinks. Ice Tea and lemonade are delicious, but store bought varieties contain way too much sugar. Alcoholic beverages count toward your daily calorie count too – with a glass of wine coming in around 150 calories, and some summer cocktails exceeding 300 calories. Drink and eat mindfully, and be conscious that so-called healthy food may not be healthy at all. Stick with whole foods if you are unsure – undressed vegetables, fruit and grilled meats.
Get Active, Get Outdoors
Here in Canada, summer weather offers the opportunity to become more active: with more daylight hours and warmer temperatures. It is a great time of year to try out a new outdoor sport like rowing, paddle boarding, and running. Join a class, team or club to keep you motivated.
Maybe swap out your backyard bbq for a friendly game of ultimate frisbee. Or incorporate a game of volleyball into the event festivities. Get the kids together for a game of tag. Not only will everyone burn calories before consuming foods that may contain more calories than you are used to, but people bond over movement. Create memories that don’t involve Grandma’s cheesecake.
Put the Emphasis on the Social
Getting together with friends and family should be about getting together and connecting. The food comes second. Don’t hang out at the buffet table! Move around and talk with people. Put the emphasis on the social, and not about eating. You don’t need a cocktail or a full plate of appetizers to have a chat with your friend! Once you open up to socializing, and not eating, you develop a relationship with food that is centred around nourishment, and not dependency.
Cleanse the Body, From the Inside Out
And lastly, take advantage of nature’s summer harvest and focus on eating a nourishing, mineralizing and cleansing diet by increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables. Many people find following any kind of diet in the summertime difficult. By eating more salads, raw fruits that are in abundance and raw seasonal vegetables, it’s like a mini cleanse. It’ll naturally help to cut back on carbs, all you need to do is increase protein. Periodically re-set your diet. It helps you to feel better about yourself and in yourself. Breakfast smoothie, chia pudding or oatmeal in the morning, loads of fruit and vegetables throughout the day, and a supper of lean protein and vegetables. Alongside your 2L of water, of course.
Don’t fall victim to the summer bbq and pack on the pounds. Try these 5 rules for living well (and feeling great) this summer. Whatever your goal is – eating well, losing weight – focus on bringing balance to your diet and enjoying summer for everything it has to offer…away from the buffet table.
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