It’s officially summer and you know what that means BBQ cookouts! One of the great classic American summer traditions. After July 4th the cookouts really start to pick up, and between the gorgeous weather and the love of food, who can resist? However, cookouts are not always conducive to healthy eating. It can be tempting to mindlessly munch away on greasy, fatty food and desserts with friends and family. For athletes, this can be very detrimental to their training, diet and athletic progress.
Although, with the right knowledge and some effort you can enjoy a good ole’ fashion BBQ cookout without feeling guilty or sick the next day. If you want to eat smart and healthfully at your next cookout, make sure you follow these simple, healthy BBQ cookout tips.
1. Fill Up Beforehand
While this may seem counterintuitive, you don’t want to take the chance of falling into temptation because you arrived at the BBQ half-starved. When you do this, typically your notion of healthy eating goes right out the door, as your eyes have become as big as your stomach. You actually want to ruin your appetite before you head out to a BBQ cookout. This allows you to make healthier food choices at home, so this way you aren’t as tempted once you arrive. It’s hard to say no to anything when you are half-starved, so make sure your head is clear beforehand by eating something that provides satiety ahead of time.
2. Be Mindful of Your Protein
Usually on the BBQ grill, there are a variety of different kinds of meat cooking. While they all look delicious, not every choice is the healthy one. Hot dogs and hamburgers are part of the traditional BBQ fare, but these options are not the healthiest for you. While hot dogs are almost void of any nutrients, beef can be a good choice, but only if the cut is lean. In addition, both choices can be stuffed with fat, so instead lean towards turkey, chicken, seafood or even bison. While bison is a red meat, the meat is extremely lean and usually isn’t treated with any antibiotics or hormones (who want’s to get that close to a bison?).
3. Pick Healthy Side Dishes
To properly accompany your protein, make sure you choose smart, healthy sides. Be sure to avoid adding pretzels, tortilla chips, or potato chips. While delicious and tempting, they do not constitute as a healthy side dish. If you can’t avoid the temptation, make sure you limit yourself to just a few fatty snacks. Picking your side can make or break your meal, so make sure you choose wisely. Beans, real potatoes, fruit and grilled/non-grilled vegetables are always good, delicious choices. Watermelon makes an excellent side dish, as well as peppers, tomatoes, squash, and asparagus. Raw vegetables are another winner, just make sure you don’t drown them in ranch dressing!
4. Not All Salads are Created Equal
Cole slaw, macaroni salad, pasta salad, and egg salad all feature the word “salad”, but don’t be confused and mislead by the use of that word. While these “salads” can be delicious, they are most certainly not nutritious . In fact, mayonnaise-based salads are typically high in calories and sodium, are low in nutrients, and are fat-laden. This mean’s these “salads” are not beneficial to any athlete, or to their performance, and should be avoided at all costs. Instead, stick with the traditional fruit or vegetable salad in order to stay on the road to good health. Just make sure if you are having a green salad that you pick a low-fat dressing and restrain from covering up any green that you see in your salad.
5. Avoid Sugary Drinks and Desserts
Fruit juice, wine coolers, sweetened ice tea, soda, candy, gum, baked goodies, and soda are all frequent attendees at summer BBQ cookouts. However, these sugar-laden food and drinks are not good for your teeth or for your health. Practice some self-restraint and stay away from those sugary desserts, and eat some fruit instead. Fruit is much healthier for you and can still give you that bit of sweetness you are looking for in an after-dinner snack. It is also important to practice restraint with what you drink as well. Sugary drinks are full of empty calories, so make sure you reach for water instead. If you find water in itself to be plain, try mixing it up by cutting up some of your favorite fruit and throw it into the water to help enhance the taste.
6. Be Sensible About Your Portions
As an athlete, you should always be sensible about serving size, no matter how delicious the food may be. It is important that you don’t overindulge, or if you do find yourself overindulging, make sure it’s not a common theme. Practice some self-restraint when it comes to dishing out your food by only serving yourself portion sized food. There are plenty of resources online that can help you determine the proper serving size so you can be more efficient in your portion control efforts. While food is delicious and enjoyable, you want to enjoy it in moderation and not go overboard. Remember, you want to eat for health and in order to do that you need to have healthy eating habits!