Sun and surf time has arrived! Although summer gets most of us outside and moving more, it can also get us eating more. Barbecue, beer, chips, salsa—you name it—the foods of summer taste great and go down easily on hot days. You can enjoy these foods as long as you don’t overdo them. Here are six tips for enjoying popular summer foods while keeping an eye on calories.
- Salsa and chips: Salsa is low in calories and relatively healthy, save for its hefty sodium content. Chips, on the other hand, are easy to overeat and contain a substantial amount of calories. Depending on the chips you choose, they may contain around 130 calories for about 13 chips. Try to limit yourself to one serving (a couple of handfuls) and have salsa on each chip to help fill you up and slow you down. You can also “fill up” without filling out if you replace chips with some fresh veggies.
- Barbecue: Barbecued meats are succulent and delicious. Barbecuing can cause some of the fat in meat to drip away, giving you a leaner product. However, after adding barbecue sauce, olive oil and other marinates to your meat, you can end up adding back many of the calories that you saved.Take it easy on sauces. Try giving foods a light coating of oil rather than soaking them in heavy dressings. Try marinating in wine and spices, which are lower in calories and high in taste. When choosing meats, portion control is the key. Try to stick to 3-4 oz. of steak (a palm-sized portion), 5-6 oz. of chicken (a couple of legs of a small breast), and single, reasonable portions of sausage, hot dogs and hamburgers.
- Veg Out: If you’re hosting the barbecue, try to offer a variety of barbecued foods, not just meat. Why not grill some vegetables such as portabellos, onions, peppers, and corn? Some fruits, such as pineapple, also grill terrifically well, and provide color and interest to your barbecue. Pizza is another terrific barbecue meal and can be loaded with veggies. Remember, the more veggies, the fuller you’ll feel, the more nutrient-dense your meal and the lower the number of calories you’re likely to consume.
- Desserts: Ice cream, chocolate, and pies taste great after salty barbecue. But they can be big-time calorie bombs! Stick to ice pops (especially the ones with chunks of real fruit), which are usually under 100 calories a piece, or fruit, a portion of which is also below 100. These high water-content foods are more refreshing than heavy desserts and they make a smaller dent in your calorie budget.
- Alcoholic beverages: A 12-oz. bottle of beer has around 140 calories, and most light beers have about 100 calories. A 5 oz. class of wine has around 125 calories. Many drinks made with hard liquor and flavored mixes can contain 300 calories or more. Watch your drink intake to control calories and to prevent dehydration when it’s hot outside. Remember that alcohol can also increase your appetite, causing you to eat more. Enough said!
- Condiments and Sides: You may have the lightest meats and treats, but you can ruin the low-calorie theme with high-calorie side dishes. Shy away from potato salad (which also spoils easily in the sun) and go for pasta salads that contain grilled veggies and a light vinaigrette. Go easy on sodium-heavy ketchup and barbecue sauce. If you’re hosting, put out trays of slices onions, tomatoes, and lettuce for dressing burgers. Avocadoes are also excellent in salads and when layered on burgers and even hot dogs.
In short, enjoy your summer treats. Just watch portions, salt and alcohol-induced hunger!
This post was written by frequent AppforHealth contributor Christen Cupples Cooper, MS, RD (coopernutrition.com, nutritioned.net)