Summer is in full swing, and many of us are heading outdoors for barbecues, cookouts, and other social events that revolve around food.
If you’re health-conscious though, you may be wondering how you can navigate these summer events while still feeling your best. We asked Elaine Moen, health coach, Ayurvedic practitioner, and our director of wellness, to share their top tips on how to make healthy choices during this season’s social gatherings.
1. Swap beer, wine, or mixed drinks for flavored soda water
For many people, summer cookouts and alcoholic beverages go hand-in-hand. If you’re looking to eliminate the calories or sugar found in many of these drinks from your diet, swap them out for some flavored soda water.
Soda water can come in a variety of flavors, so you can try new ones all summer long. Oftentimes, they have very few calories and sugar too. Put your soda water in a glass to make it feel extra special or add some flavored ice or fruit.
2. Keep water on hand
Being dehydrated can make you feel hungry and cause you to reach for unhealthy foods. But making sure you stay hydrated can help you curb those cravings.
Think water is boring? It doesn’t have to be. Try adding different fruits, such as lemons, strawberries, mint, or even slices of cucumber.
3. Limit sugar intake
Cutting back on your sugar intake will help you feel better. Many summer BBQ staples—think store-bought foods such as drink mixes, salads, condiments, or snacks—can contain added sugar…often a lot of it. In fact, eating copious amounts of sugar is nearly unavoidable unless you actively work to limit it. To cut back on sugar this summer, be sure you take time to look at food labels the next time you’re at the grocery store, then consider making your own dishes and beverages so you know what’s in them.
READ: 6 Tips to Lower Your Sugar Intake
4. Bring nutritious foods you enjoy eating
If you’ve been invited to a summer cookout, your host will likely appreciate if you bring a dish to share with everyone. Do some research on a healthy dish you can make. If you don’t have time to make a new dish, you can volunteer to bring a fresh veggie tray or a low-sugar fruit salad.
This is the perfect opportunity to put some healthier options on your plate, such as grilled chicken or salad. It’s also the perfect opportunity to reframe your mindset around healthy eating: Your goal isn’t to feel deprived, it’s to feel energized while spending time with good company!
For this reason, fill up your plate with foods that leave you feeling energized. Have your share of protein (lean meats), a variety of vegetables, and healthy fats such as the ones found in dairy or nuts. Fruits can also be a source of healthy sugar and carbohydrates that can give you extra energy.
5. Understand the order you should prioritize food choices
When eating a variety of foods, look to eat in this order:
Protein and veggies first: Fill up as much of your plate as you can with a protein source and veggies. By prioritizing protein and veggies, you’ll get essential nutrients and vitamins to stay healthy and energized.
Eat complex carbs second to avoid a glucose spike: It’s perfectly fine to have some pasta salad, multigrain buns, or desserts with your meal, but make sure they take a backseat to the foods that will give you nutrients.
READ: How a Plant-Based Diet Helps You Stay Hydrated
6. Get creative with your food swaps
Need a cheat sheet on quick, healthy BBQ swaps? Bookmark this page and refer to this list for your next cookout:
- Opt for multigrain or whole buns instead of white bread buns
- Choose lean red meats, chicken, fish, or plant-based protein instead of regular burgers
- Go for grilled vegetable kabobs instead of other meats
- Select homemade vinaigrette dressings instead of cream-based dressings
- Pick homemade fruit, pasta, and vegetable salads over store-bought salads
- Drink unsweetened iced tea or flavored sparkling water instead of cocktails
- Fill your plate with berries, watermelon, or fruit kabobs instead of desserts
7. Don’t forget to have fun and enjoy the company!
Having fun is one of the most important things you can do for your health. Don’t get too stressed about sticking to healthy foods and enjoy the moment. One meal outside your traditional eating habits will not kill you. In fact, it’s healthy to simply enjoy the company you’re keeping.
The summer is a time to make connections and memories with other people. Your mental, social, and emotional health is just as important as keeping a healthy diet, so enjoy this time as much as you can without guilt.
The Bottom Line
A little preparation and research can help you eat healthy and feel your best all summer long.
You don’t have to choose between enjoying social time this summer and staying healthy. As with every other factor in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, balance is key.
If you’re looking for support to create healthier habits, an Arootah Coach can help.
What are your favorite healthy food habits for the summer? Share with others in the comments!