Whether you're organizing a Memorial Day picnic or making plans for a summer barbecue, keep things on a healthy track with diet-friendly alternatives of those popular party foods. It's usually easier to eat more greens and lighten up your plate during the warm weather months, but it's just as easy to go overboard with fried foods, sugary drinks, and calorie-laden salads. Fortunately, there are some healthy eats to be found at the barbecue or summer picnic.
Celebrity fitness trainer Chris Powell from "Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition" and author of "Choose More, Lose More for Life" shares some of his best diet tips for navigating that summertime feast below, along with a few recipes. Here's the scoop:
Keeping Things Healthy at the Picnic Table
Loading up on salads is one thing, but what if you want to treat yourself to some of those barbecue foods? Chris says, "Always drink 8-12 ounces of water or a calorie-free beverage first. This will fill you up and put any spontaneous cravings in check."
He also recommends exercising some portion control: "Remember Mom's advice: 'your eyes are bigger than your stomach.' Start small at the picnic table by dishing up half of what you think you will eat. Chances are that you will be full by the time you finish your plate, and you'll be glad you didn't pile it on!"
And the secret to staying full with those smaller portion sizes? Chris says it's all about the protein.
"'Protein first' has always been my mantra. Protein is the most immediately-satiating of all macronutrients, meaning it will make you full really fast. This will prevent you from overeating your heavy starchy, sugary, and fatty foods. So be sure to eat your lean meats before reaching for that potato salad."
Healthy Summer Drinks
Beer, soda, and sugary beverages are readily available at most summer barbecues, but there are some healthy alternatives. Chris recommends plain or flavored water to stay hydrated, along with iced tea (low or no-calorie), and naturally-sweetened energy drinks like Verve BOLD. If you do want to enjoy some soda with your meal, stick with a no-calorie and naturally-sweetened variety like Zevia.
Keeping Your Diet in Check
Even when you have a plan of attack for the barbecue, what do you eat the rest of the day? If you're used to 'banking' your calories for a big feast, it might be time to take a different approach. Chris recommends eating breakfast, no matter what. He also suggests eating every three hours leading up to the BBQ. "Do not starve yourself, no matter how tempted you are," he explains. "You will only be priming your body for massive calorie storage and fat gain."
And don't let friends and family pushing seconds derail your diet. Chris points out it's important to "set your boundaries ahead of time and know when to stop eating."
Bottom line: Don't count on feasting after fasting if you want to lose weight. The key to keeping your diet on track over summer barbecue season is to eat small meals throughout the day, eat high-protein foods first, and exercise portion control.
If you're in charge of preparing food for that upcoming event, Chris recommends these healthy alternatives to two summertime favorites -- fried chicken and homemade ice cream:
Chris' Corn Flake Crusted Chicken Tenders
8-10 ounces chicken tenders
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 cup gluten-free cornflakes
1/8 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp chili powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Put cornflakes into a plastic zip-top baggie and seal. Use a rolling pin to crush the cornflakes to a nice texture for breading the chicken. Add the spices and mix together well.
In a small bowl, combine the egg and mustard.
Dip the chicken tenders in the egg/mustard mixture, then put in zip-top bag. Zip the bag closed and tumble to coat all of the chicken.
Place the chicken on a non-stick baking sheet and cook for 12-15 minutes, or until cooked through and golden brown.
Powell Fudge Pops
Makes 4 2oz. Powell Fudge Pops, 60 calories each
2 scoops Powell Perfect Chocolate Ice Cream Protein Mix
8 oz. Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk
Simply mix the Powell Perfect Chocolate Ice Cream Protein Mix with the unsweetened vanilla almond milk.
Shake and pour into popsicle molds, placing a popsicle stick in the middle of each fudge pop. Freeze. Enjoy this delicious (and healthy) summer dessert.
Interview with Celebrity Fitness Trainer Chris Powell of Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition