By Gretchen Powell
The best reminder of why it’s fantastic to live right outside our nation’s capital comes every July. The streets swell with patriotic pride, fireworks stands crop up in parking lots all over, and many prep their grills for what’s sure to be a real American feast.
For those of us attempting to keep our bellies in swimsuit shape, however, the endless spreads of hot dogs, burgers, barbecue, potato salad, chips, and the like doesn’t inspire much confidence in our ability to resist. But nobody wants to be the person celebrating America’s birthday with a couple of carrot sticks and 10 carefully counted pretzels, either. So in the spirit of the holiday, I’ve compiled a couple of tips to help us waistline-watchers get through the Fourth of July fully intact.
When possible, go bunless. Cookouts these days are pretty much sponsored by Carbs-R-Us. With chips, pretzels, pastas, potato salads, and any other side dish you can think of, there is a thin line between a healthy amount – after all, carbs aren’t innately bad – and going overboard. Help yourself out by ditching the bun for your burger or dog, or opt for grilled chicken or steak if those are options instead. This way you can spend less time torturing yourself over whether you can “allow” yourself an extra chip, and focus on friends and family instead.
Keep your plate ratios in mind. Holiday festivities aren’t exactly a primo time for you to bust out the measuring cups and food scale. Apologies to my calorie-counting friends, but you may very well find yourself burdened with the task of – gasp! – estimating. Luckily, those cookout-staple paper plates can easily help. Just try to keep a plate ratio of 50 percent veggies (like salad), 25 percent carbs, and 25 percent protein. Feel free to fill up half your plate with crudités, salad, or grilled vegetables, plop one burger on the other side, and fill in the rest with carby goodness.
Don’t drink your calories. Who wants to waste those precious calories on fruit punch or soda when passing on the pop means being able to partake in a slice of Aunt Sue’s lemon cream pie? Water is our friend – it keeps us hydrated when we’ve sweat out a metric ton thanks to the 95-degree, 99 percent humidity weather in the area. It’s refreshing, and it’s calorie-free!
Offer to bring a healthy dish. Since “cookout” is pretty much synonymous with “potluck” these days, if all else fails you can make sure there will be at least one dish you can eat by bringing it yourself! Make it fun for yourself by creatively healthifying traditional cookout foods. Whip up a healthy, mayo-free coleslaw, an incredible fruit-filled green salad, deviled eggs made with Greek yogurt … the list goes on! And if you’re the one hosting, even better.
Armed with these tips and a great appetite, you have all you need to enjoy a happy – and healthy! – Fourth of July (or, really, any summer barbecue). Go forth and eat proudly, fellow Americans!
Gretchen Powell is a fitness and healthy living blogger in Falls Church. She is not a registered dietitian, nutritionist, or medical doctor, and a medical professional should be consulted before undertaking dramatic diet changes. For more, visit honeyishrunkthegretchen.com.