Good morning, guys! Today I’ve got another BBQ-centric guest post for you. This helpful guide comes courtesy of fellow dietitian Lori King, who was kind enough to share her awesome tips on here this week.

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The Healthy and VERSATILE Summer Barbecue

By Lori King

You’ve committed to a healthy lifestyle. But lets face it. Healthy means different things to different people.

I grew up with the Standard American Diet. I spent my late 20s and 30s cooking meat and potato meals, pasta dishes, and casseroles. Then in my 30s, I found myself not feeling so well on a daily basis. I went gluten free and my health, energy and pain levels improved. Since then there have been seasons that I’ve eaten a diet heavy in animal protein, and other seasons where I ate mostly plant-based foods. In this day and age, we all know someone that is gluten free, vegan, vegetarian, Paleo, or raw and food allergies are also more common.

How do you stay true to your own needs and healthy lifestyle plans, and still be social, especially around all the summer barbecues and cookouts?

Here are some tips to maneuver those get-togethers and have a successful healthy and versatile summer barbecue:

Host the Barbecue
Hosting the party gives you more control over what food ends up on the picnic table. A new twist on an old favorite is the burger buffet. The “meat” of the burger can be regular lean beef, buffalo, turkey, or veggie burgers. Portobello mushrooms can serve as either the meat or the bun! If you know of a guest that is gluten free (GF), you could provide GF buns or ask them to bring their favorite bun of choice. Always ask their preference. It may be to go bun-less and eat their burger of choice on top of or on the side of a salad. An assortment of vegetables can serve as toppings for the burger or be combined as a salad.


Bring a Dish to Share
If you are the host, you could also ask everyone to bring their favorite dish according to their lifestyle. Have each of them to bring the recipe card so your guests know what ingredients are in it. This works great for special diets and allergens. If it isn’t your party, you can still make a dish that aligns with your health goals. Perhaps a green, organic salad loaded with vegetables or a quinoa salad (that’s high protein, meatless and gluten free!)


In other words, bring your own meat and/or veggies. If you are gluten free and you know that there will be a grill at the event, let the host know ahead of time that you will be bringing your own food (and foil to avoid cross-contamination). If you are vegan/vegetarian, you can bring your own veggie or Portobello burger. If they by chance are not grilling, you can certainly bring a dish to pass that suits your healthy lifestyle.


Don’t Graze

The quickest way to sabotage your healthy lifestyle is with mindless grazing. At many summer cookouts, you’ll find an assortment of food available from the minute you get there until the time you leave. It is easy to mindlessly wander, picking at food as you go. Instead, choose a time to specifically sit down and eat. Fill your plate mindfully, concentrating on more protein and veggies and less fillers like appetizers, breads, crackers, etc. Spend the rest of your time consciously engaging with people and socializing. If you are conversing, it makes it difficult to keep food in your mouth!



Eat all your meals
Start your metabolism and your day properly fueled! My first meal of the day is a nutritionally dense meal replacement protein shake. If you’re going out to eat or to a barbecue, don’t skimp on calories throughout the day, saving them for the big event. This often causes an increase in appetite and an over indulgence later in the day.


Portion Size
This can often make a huge difference toward a healthier lifestyle. Visualize a deck of cards for the size of your protein, a baseball for one serving of vegetables and a hockey puck as the right size for your starch. Be especially careful at the buffet table and no second helpings!


Opt Out

If one of your health goals is weight loss, decide ahead of time that you will opt out of the extra food and calories that will sabotage your goals. You could opt out of appetizers, drinks, and or desserts.


Take a Break

While you may decide to opt out of a specific food course at a cookout or social event, you could also take a break this summer. Choose an item that you will remove from your diet for 3 weeks or more. You could choose bread, alcohol, coffee, candy, gluten, dairy or sugar. Pick one or more to eliminate temporarily and see how GOOD your body feels without it.


Splurging or enjoying one holiday meal isn’t what derails you from your health goals. Sometimes it is the leftovers that you continue to eat for several days after. If you are the host, stock up on take-home containers to send leftover food home with your guests! Or, if you are a guest, offer your dish to be given to one of the other families and kindly say no to bringing any extras home yourself.



Don’t let the weekend or social calendar be an excuse for skipping your workout. Stick to your regular fitness plan AND add in some extra activity. If the days get unbearably hot, switch your workout to the morning.


Summer cookouts and holiday weekends don’t have to derail you from your healthy lifestyle or food preference. A little planning and creativity and you AND your family and friends will all enjoy a healthy and versatile summer barbecue!

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