Sarah Dimitratos, RD
Ph.D. Candidate in Stress Biology & Nutrition Research, American Society For Nutrition
Summer cookouts and healthy eating may not sound like a harmonious symphony, but a simple two-part strategy will help you enjoy any barbecue in a healthy manner.
First, understand what a balanced plate is. Next, optimize your cookout plate according to the following strategies tailored to your health and performance goals.
Before digging in, know one indulgent meal will not override your best efforts. Enjoy the sunshine, your company, and whatever the cook prepares for the occasion. In other words, it takes repeated healthy (or unhealthy) decisions over time to swing the goal-attainment pendulum one way or the other. A few carefree summer cookouts certainly fit in an overall healthy eating style.
Step 1: Learn the template for a healthy plate (not accounting for medical conditions or food allergies). To represent your plate, hold both hands together, palms up. Reserve nine fingers (½ the plate) for colorful fruits and vegetables. One palm (¼ plate) is for protein. The other palm (¼ plate) is for slow-digesting carbohydrates (think a whole wheat hamburger bun). Reserve two thumbs (roughly 2 TBSP) for fats like dressings and oils. Still hungry? Refill the nine fingers first. For dessert, pick your favorite item to savor, or maybe share with a friend. Berries topped with whipped cream is this dietitian’s favorite!
Step 2: Optimize your cookout eats to achieve your personal objective. Use the basic healthy plate as your template, emphasizing certain components as follows:
- Vegetarian: Pick plant-based protein. Consider baked beans, egg salad, tofu, grilled tempeh, or other meat alternatives.
- Weight loss: Choose foods that keep you fuller for longer, including colorful produce and lean proteins like BBQ chicken. Take a conservative approach with mayo-laden salads, or substitute half the mayonnaise for plain yogurt. Also, remember trends over time matter most, rather than evaluating success based on a single meal.
- Strength athlete: Emphasize high-quality protein for muscle growth and repair. Consider lean meats, beans, and/or eggs.
- Endurance athlete: Emphasize quality carbohydrates, your preferred fuel. Consider corn on the cob, whole wheat buns, pasta salad with veggies, fruit, and/or baked potatoes.
- Pregnancy: Pick foods that nourish mom and baby, keeping in mind that “eating for two” is largely a wives’ tale. Construct a basic healthy plate that incorporates fresh foods from all groups. Remember, no alcohol and minimal caffeine!
Follow this eating strategy to enjoy this summer’s cookouts while keeping your health and performance goals in check!
Sarah Dimitratos, RD, Ph.D. Candidate in Stress Biology & Nutrition Research, American Society For Nutrition, [email protected]