Attending a Labor Day Barbecue does not have to wreak havoc on your diet or fitness goals. You can still enjoy a BBQ with your family and friends and engage in healthy eating by using these easy tips and tricks.
Most Appetizers Are A+
Almost all barbecues have a crudité platter filled with guilt-free raw vegetable options. Fill your plate with a variety of veggies, but beware of the dip. Limit yourself to a single scoop of dip as most crudité dips tend to hold hidden calories and fat. Filling up on vegetables at the beginning of the BBQ will set the tone for a healthy BBQ experience.
Instagramable charcuterie boards are also likely to make an appearance at your Labor Day BBQ. And, lucky for you, there will be items on this beautiful board that you can indulge in--guilt-free, of course. Cheese, the star of the board, is a great source of calcium and can improve heart health, but be sure not to have too much as cheese is typically high in saturated fat and calories. On the other hand, steer clear of the cured meats on the charcuterie board as they are very high in sodium. Instead, search for the small bowl of nuts that is typically featured on most charcuterie boards as they are good sources of fat, fiber, and protein.
Shy away from the chip bowl. Grabbing a handful of chips often leads to a habit of repeatedly reaching into the bowl for more. If you avoid indulging in the chip bowl at the beginning of the party, you will be less tempted to continuously meander over to the chip bowl and reach in for another serving.
When choosing what to drink at your Labor Day BBQ, water should always be your first choice. Water is a natural, hydrating, zero-calorie beverage option which makes it the supreme beverage. Sticking with water will ensure that you do not waste calories, fat, and sodium on beverages and it will leave room for more satisfying indulgences, like dessert.
Since there will most likely be tempting beverage options available at your Labor Day BBQ and water is not always the most exciting beverage to drink, try adding some fruit, lemon, mint, or cucumbers into your water to infuse some flavor into it. And, if the infused water option is still not quenching your thirst, try some sparkling water or coconut water.
Do your best to avoid alcohol at your Labor Day BBQ this year as most alcohol has little to no nutritional value. But, if you must have some booze, stick to red wine as it has powerful antioxidants and is believed to have a number of health benefits.
Magical Main Dishes
For your main dish, choose a lean protein like chicken or turkey. Instead of choosing a hot dog, a burger, ribs, or pulled pork, opt for a skinless chicken breast or a turkey burger. These lean protein options have much less saturated fat and cholesterol than traditional barbecued meat.
If you simply cannot avoid pulled pork or ribs, limit your serving size to about 3-4 ounces (about the size of your palm).
If it is available, fish is always a good main dish option too. Fish is low in saturated fat, but high in omega-3 fatty acids which is good for heart health.
If a beef burger is your only option, go bun-less and load up on the veggie toppings (lettuce, onions, tomatoes, pickles) - almost like a burger salad. Adding these toppings will not only make your main dish even more delicious, but it will add more nutritional value to your meal.
Cap The Condiments
Ranch, BBQ sauce, ketchup, mustard, mayo, galore! These are some of the common condiments you will most likely find at your Labor Day BBQ. But, try to avoid these tempting condiments to the best of your ability. Using copious amounts of condiments can destroy your healthy meal in seconds. For example, ketchup holds a lot of hidden sugar, and a tablespoon of mayo contains over 50 calories and 5 grams of fat.
If you want to use some condiments to add flavor to your meal, be sure to take a glance at the nutritional facts before slathering your food in sauces and spreads. Look for a condiment that is low in fat, low in calories, low in sugar, and low in salt.
My personal favorite guilt-free condiment is Tabasco sauce. A couple shakes of Tabasco sauce provides you with an abundance of flavor and spice. Plus, it has 0 calories, 0 grams of fat, and only 35 mg of sodium per serving - so, you can feel good about it.
Another guilt-free condiment most nutritionists/dietitians recommend is mustard as it is low in calories and does not have any sugar or fat added. So, indulge in some dijon mustard over ketchup, mayo, or BBQ sauce.
At your Labor Day BBQ this year, try not to be tempted by the macaroni salad and potato salad as these side options are heavy in calories and fat due to their high mayo content. Go for a plain baked potato, instead. A baked potato is a low-calorie option (about 110 calories for a medium sized baked potato) that is a good source of vitamins C and B6, manganese, phosphorus, niacin and pantothenic acid. But, try not to load your baked potato with toppings as this will tip the scale and make the healthy side not so healthy.
Beans are also a smart side option. Beans are excellent sources of dietary fiber, protein, and vitamin B. They have also been proven to help maintain a healthy gut. But, beware of some bean preparations that are overly saucey, as they are most likely calorie-heavy, sugar-heavy, and/or sodium-heavy. My personal favorite way to prepare beans for a BBQ are bean salads. Bean salads are loaded with a variety of beans and veggies and tend to have a low-calorie dressing.
Lastly, don't forget about the corn. Corn is a sweet and delicious veggie that does not need anything to enhance its flavor (well, maybe just a pat of butter). It has a high fiber content, contains great antioxidants, and has essential minerals, like zinc, magnesium, copper, iron and manganese. However, remember to consume this veggie in moderation as it is high in starch, which can prevent weight loss and spike blood sugar.
Every good meal ends with a delicious dessert. And, contrary to popular belief, you do not have to avoid the dessert table at all costs to be healthy. If you have a sweet tooth like me, dessert can be a time to reward yourself for healthy eating by indulging in one serving of any sweet you may like.
But, if you are challenged with choosing which dessert option is best, here are some tips to consider.
Load up on fruit salad. Fruit is a tasty dessert option that will satisfy your sweet tooth while also providing you with necessary nutrients.
Opt for dark chocolate, instead of milk chocolate. If you are staring at a tray of chocolate chip cookies and half are made with dark chocolate and the other half are made with milk chocolate, go for the dark chocolate chip cookies. Dark chocolate has a much lower sugar content, has less calories, and has four times the amount of fiber as milk chocolate. Overall, dark chocolate tends to offer more health benefits than milk chocolate, making it the better option.
You can also bring a delicious guilt-free dessert with you to contribute to the BBQ dessert table. Therefore, you will know that there will be something delicious and guilt-free for you to indulge in. I recommend bringing Apple Nachos or Black Bean Brownies, as these desserts have wowed the crowd at every event I have brought them too.
Focus On Balance
Don't go crazy trying to eat healthy at your Labor Day BBQ this year. Labor Day is a celebration - a time to enjoy yourself and spend time with family. It is not a time to obsess over healthy eating and to completely limit yourself. Remember, everything in moderation is the key to being healthy.
So, if you do overindulge at the dessert table or repeatedly find your hand in the chip bowl, don't obsess over it. It happens to the best of us. Brush it off and remind yourself that "cheating" on your diet or breaking your healthy eating habits is okay. And, you can always jump back into it tomorrow.
Best of luck out there and don't forget to have fun!