10 Easy Ways to Stay on Track at the BBQ

Article posted in: Nutrition
grilled chicken

Summer barbecues have a way of lasting all day, which means there are even more opportunities to eat and drink than at your average get-together. From the chips and dip to the post-barbecue watermelon—and finally the fireside s’mores—the temptations can seem never-ending at the summer BBQ.

To stay on track you need a plan. Luckily, we’ve got some simple suggestions on avoiding temptations. Pick one, two, three or more and you’ll leave the summer BBQ feeling guilt-free.

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Check out 10 ways to stay on track at the Summer BBQ:

1. Go Light on the Booze.


You can have a drink—or two—but no more. South Beach Diet recommends you stick to two servings of alcohol per week, if possible, and pay attention to portion sizes: One serving of beer is 12 ounces; one serving of liquor is one-and-a-half ounces; and one serving of wine is four ounces. Opt for lighter beers because they’re lower in calories and carbohydrates. You can have red or white wine as long as the variety is on the dry side, because dry wines are lower in sugar and carbs. Avoid sugary wine coolers or mixed drinks altogether. To make your drink last longer, sip water in-between drinks.

2. Skip the “Salad.”

Macaroni Salad

If you go to a summer BBQ and potato salad, macaroni salad or pasta salad isn’t on the menu, you’ve somehow left America. These popular “salads” are everywhere, and they’re a far cry from a bed of healthy greens with nutritious veggies. Avoid these carb, fat and calorie bombs altogether and stick to the veggie tray. If you can bring your own salad, do so. It could be a garden salad or something like a three-bean salad with avocado, lime juice, olive oil, cilantro and a bit of queso fresco.

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3. Burger or Dog?

hamburgers and hotdogs

Unless a chicken or turkey dog is available, eat the burger. Just watch the toppings. Cheese, ketchup, bacon and barbecue sauce may be flavorful but contain a lot of sugar and carbs. Eat your burger with lettuce, tomato, mustard and pickles on a whole-wheat bun or without a roll.

4. Beware the Baked Beans.

Baked Beans

Navy beans are an approved food on South Beach Diet but high-sugar content is not. And virtually every baked bean recipe calls for brown sugar, maple syrup, molasses and/or honey, which are all forms of pure sugar. Unless your mom makes the very best baked beans you’ve ever had, avoid this dish. If mom is coming to the party with her famous recipe, allow yourself a small portion. “Remember that all foods can fit into a healthy diet,” says Registered Dietitian Courtney McCormick. In fact, you’re less likely to binge when treats are completely eliminated from your diet.

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 5. BYO Snacks.

protein chocolate shake for a healthy new year

Those kettle-cooked potato chips on the table are definitely not diet-approved. But low-carb snacks are. By coming to the party with your own snacks, you’ll be more likely to resist eating the foods you’ve worked so hard to avoid. You might even bring your own protein shake for dessert instead of indulging in ice cream cake. If you tell your friends and family about your weight loss goals, they’ll likely be happy to supply a blender so you can mix up your own “milkshake.”

6. Don’t Overdo the Watermelon.


Watermelon (along with raisins, figs, dates and currants) is high on the glycemic index, meaning it causes blood sugar to spike. So when the bowl of fresh watermelon surfaces for dessert, be sure to your serving sizes in check. A small dish of fresh fruit salad with watermelon, apples, peaches, kiwi, grapes and/or bananas can be the perfect way to end your meal. If strawberry shortcake is a dessert option, you can also have a few of the berries.

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7. To Tea or Not to Iced Tea?

Homemade Iced Tea

Water is the best beverage choice out there (in our opinion), but there’s no reason you can’t have a tall glass of iced tea at the barbecue—as long as it’s unsweetened. Like water, iced tea can help you fill you up, making it easier to resist a second burger or handful of potato chips. Plus, unsweetened iced tea counts toward your daily water requirement.

8. Grilled Chicken, Please

Grilled chicken

Or salmon. Or shrimp. Or flank steak. As long as you enjoy a three-ounce portion of a lean protein, you’ve got a green light to eat! Without your measuring cups, it can be tough to gauge a proper serving. Here’s a great way to guesstimate: Beef, pork or poultry is roughly the size of cards; fish should be about the size of a checkbook; and a serving of ground meat (like a burger) should be slightly smaller than your fist.

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9. Play Yard Games.


Whether it’s croquet, badminton, ladder ball or horseshoes, if you’re moving, you’re burning calories. A 185-pound person can burn 200 calories after playing just 30 minutes of badminton, according to Harvard Health. If you prefer Frisbee, one can burn 133 calories in 30 minutes. At some point in the day, maybe even multiple times, get up from the picnic table or lounge chair and get moving. If you’re wrapped up in heavy conversation, ask your confidant to walk while you talk.

10. Host or Help.

summer BBQ

If you’re hosting the summer BBQ, you’ll be busy—especially if you’re feeding a crowd. From prepping and cooking to cleaning up afterwards, there will be plenty to do and running around burns calories. If you’re not the host of the summer BBQ, help whoever is (the offer will be appreciated!). Fill drinks for guests, bring food in and outside or entertain kiddos. By having a “job,” you’ll also be less likely to think about food.