While most of us associate 4th of July weekend with family, friends, and fun, it can, unfortunately, also be a time when many of us end up feeling guilty over getting off track when it comes to our diet. Presented with one unhealthy option after the next, it’s no surprise that weight gain is a common occurrence after this festive holiday weekend. Here is your guide to avoiding the dreaded post-BBQ bloat.
Possible Calorie Bomb: Hamburgers/Hot Dogs
-Pass on a bun, saving yourself anywhere from 100-300 calories. Or compromise and make an open-faced burger using half of the bun. Maybe your health-conscious BBQ host will even have bun-alternatives, like Oroweat Sandwich Thins, clocking in at only 100 calories, and providing you with 5 grams of filling fiber. Check with your host—if these won’t be at the BBQ, why not bring them yourself!
-Avoid high-calorie condiments and topping, like mayonnaise, cheese, and bacon. Replacing these with more waist-friendly options like avocado, fresh or grilled veggies, spicy or sweet mustard, and low-fat cheeses.
-You can always opt for burgers and dogs made with lean beef, or replace hamburger patties with turkey burgers (make sure to choose extra lean ground turkey as the regular has just as much fat as beef in many cases), portabella mushrooms, or lean fish. Veggie burgers can be good options too, but be careful! They can pack on the calories just like their meaty counterparts. I’m a big fan of Harmony Valley vegetarian mix and they are currently running contest on their website to build the best ‘burger’ – The Great Grill Challenge. Check it out if you are feeling creative at the grill.
Potential Diet Wrecker: Chili
-Offer to make the chili, so you know what goes into it!
-When cooking, you can replace high-fat ground beef with leaner ground-beef or extra lean ground-turkey.
-Chili can be a great chance to rack up your veggie points for the day. I double the vegetables in all my chili recipes. Try adding chunky tomatoes, onions, or carrots. Maybe you could even shake things up with some squash. Vegetables can allow you to cut calories without cutting portions, a key component to successful weight loss.
-Go vegetarian—add lean protein by tossing in any variety of beans.
Mega Offender: Potato/Macaroni Salad
- It’s not a bad idea to avoid these side items entirely. They tend to be packed with high-fat mayonnaise, and can be a major contributor to the calories you consume. Some alternative side items that won’t break the calorie bank include fruit salad, whole wheat pasta salad, baked beans, or colorful mixed green salads—just watch that dressing.
-If you plan to make potato or macaroni salads, try using less mayonnaise or light mayo. Also, add more non-starchy vegetables like broccoli and carrots for flavor and crunch!
Calorie Contributor: Pie
-Make pie crusts lighter by reducing butter and substituting some other high-cal ingredients. Or check out this low fat pie crust recipe from cooks.com.
-Fill your pies with fresh, seasonal fruit if it is available to you, avoiding the high-sugar, syrupy pie fillings.
-If you’re tempted by the pie at your hosts weekend bash, enjoy a small slice—cutting your portions in half can decrease your calorie intake by as much as a few hundred calories. You can also cut the crust off the end and shave 50-100 calories while still enjoying some of the crust and the flavorful filling.
-Skip the whip cream (or use whipped topping spray – only 15 calories for 2 tbsp) and save about 100 calories!
Waistline Woe: Alcohol
-Alcohol—often in abundance at holiday BBQs—can contribute more than just calories from the drinks themselves. These drinks also lower your inhibitions, so you are less likely to make wise decisions when serving yourself and more likely to munch mindlessly on chips and dip all afternoon.
-If you’re craving summery cocktails, such as pina coladas, try making a “mocktail,” or a low calorie, alcohol free version of your favorite blended beverage. Check out this recipe from my pal Lisa Lillien (aka Hungry Girl)
-Cut calories (and alcohol) by diluting white wine with sparkling water for a deliciously satisfying spritzer.
-If you are drinking alcohol, make sure to alternate a large glass of water or calorie free beverage with each drink to keep calories and inhibitions under control.
And perhaps the most important thing that you can do is to get right back on track Tuesday morning. Don’t let one slightly indulgent weekend turn into a week or two or poor eating.