For so many of my athletes and patients, the 4th of July becomes a day that really challenges their nutrition goals. The parties, BBQ’s, and social functions are everywhere, usually loaded with hot dogs/hamburgers/sausages, potato salad & pasta salad, chips, alcohol, and lots of sweet and rich desserts. Some individuals throw their goals out the window altogether for the day, and for others it may even cause anxiety knowing how much food they typically consume. Yet I will argue this is completely avoidable. There are 2 ‘simple’ tips I recommend for making the 4th an healthy and enjoyable day.
First, have a plan! Decide ahead of time what you will eat (that is, have a rough plan – you will likely not know exactly what will be served) – this takes the decision making process out of the equation when you’re faced with a smorgasbord of calories. Here are some specific tips to consider for your plan:
- Do not arrive overly hungry! This will prevent overeating and helps avoid snacking on all the high calorie apps. Perhaps have a high protein snack before you go (like a Greek yogurt). Do not ‘save up your calories’ all day – this will result in overeating in many cases.
- Think of the plate method: when making your plate, be sure it is still ¼ whole grain, ¼ lean protein, and ½ fruits and vegetables (or some variant thereof that you have been following based upon your goals). Definitely aim to make ½ your plate fruits and veggies!
- Try to avoid going back for seconds. Usually it is not out of hunger, but just wanting more – distract yourself, engage in conversation, drink some water… Do not go back to the table!
- Bring a healthy salad or fruit plate – this helps with the goal above of making half your plate fruits and veggies. You’ll know there will be options for healthy food if you bring it!
- Look for grilled chicken or other lean protein options. Hot dogs really are not our friends.
- Set an alcohol goal. A suggestion is one drink for women, 2 for men. This is where the empty calories can really rack up! Try alternating drinks with water – the helps slows the pace of drinking (alcohol).
- Be sure to exercise that day.
Second, consider hosting your own BBQ that will serve healthy food options so there is no stress about what’s on the buffet. Here are some of my favorite 4th of July BBQ recipe ideas:
- The protein: Asian marinated salmon and chicken – http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/asian-grilled-salmon-recipe-1944413
- The veggies – so many choices! Here are a few of my fav’s:
- Kale Waldorf Salad from Whole Foods – http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipe/kale-waldorf-salad
- Roasted Summer Vegetables – http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/roasted-summer-vegetables-2303527
- Or, just grill lots of veggies! Chop veggies (zucchini, bell peppers, yellow squash, tomatoes, red onions, eggplant, asparagus, etc.) into large sections, toss in a bowl with a little olive oil, S & P, and grill until desired charring.
- Summer corn salad – http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/summer-corn-salad-recipe.html
- Fresh watermelon salad
- The grain:
- Whole wheat orzo with roasted veggies – (I replace the orzo with whole wheat orzo and use about 2/3 of the dressing called for) – https://barefootcontessa.com/recipes/orzo-with-roasted-vegetables-1
- Barley, kale, and roasted beet salad – http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/barley-and-kale-salad-with-golden-beets-and-feta
- Quinoa and Tabouleh Salad – http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/quinoa-salad-recipe0-1946649
- Dessert: honeyed yogurt and blueberry tart with ginger crust – http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/honeyed-yogurt-and-blueberry-tart-ginger-crust