As summer approaches, so do invitations to graduation parties, barbecues, and picnics in the park. Tempting as they may be, you end up feeling sluggish, bloated, and upset with yourself after indulging in some of the unfavorable foods served at these events. The best summer party accessory is a healthful-eating action plan.
On the days before and after, make a conscious effort to eat nutritiously so that, if you do splurge a bit, you don’t suffer guilt (or stomachaches) later. Have a hearty breakfast the morning of your gathering, or a small snack—like whole grain pretzel sticks and peanut butter—a couple of hours before the event. As you’re heading to the venue, visualize your plate piled high with colorful and varied foods. At the very least, most functions will usually have salad fixings, so fill up on the items that will give you the most nutrients, vitamins, and fiber, then reward yourself with a small portion of something decadent. After all, you are celebrating!
Aromas may entice, but barbecued and fried foods like steaks, burgers, pork ribs, and chicken wings can be high in fat, calories, and sodium––especially if accompanied by seasonings, sauces, and buns. A basic cheeseburger will run you about 350 calories, 20 grams of fat, and 600 milligrams of sodium, which is nearly 25 percent of your daily recommended value. (Not to mention the potential safety issue at these gatherings, when foods that contain meat and dairy have been sitting outdoors for too long.) Even a handful of nuts come in at 10 grams of fat, and that refreshing cup of sangria will cost you 20 grams of sugar. You don’t have to cut out everything completely, but keep these numbers in mind before you approach the food tables.
While you may be out of your element, you don’t have to be out of control when it comes to your nutrition as long as you plan on being mindful before you even head out the door. With a healthful eating strategy, you can successfully confront that smorgasbord of harsh foods on the other side.
- Plan ahead. Call and ask the hosts what they plan to serve on the day of their event and bring a side dish with you (a three-bean salad, baked kale chips, or carrot sticks and hummus) if there’s going to be nothing but fried foods and salty snacks.
- Choose well. If the venue doesn’t allow for outside food, then make smart adjustments. Forego the hamburger bun; select a leaner meat and omit the toppings; replace French fries with salad. And always––always––eat off a plate.
- Keep moving. Mingle, mingle, mingle. Take a lap around the buffet before every course. If you’re outdoors, engage in a game or two. Each little burst of movement will keep your nibbling to a minimum, and your calories in check.