The food is hot off the grill and oh-so-good, the drinks flow—it’s tempting to just forgo your goals and hard work. You could give up going to these parties to stay on point with your healthy ways... But no one wants to do that. And you don’t have to! It’s possible to take part in them throughout the summer and remain true to your health goals. All you need to do is follow a few easy tips.
You know there's going to be lots of hot dogs, burgers, ribs, chips, and dips. Offer to be of service: Bring something healthy that you can pile high on your plate—maybe a huge, beautiful salad with a lot of greens and some lemon and olive oil dressing. Or bring a bunch of good-for-you appetizers. Try fruit kabobs! Guacamole, for sure, and hummus—but accompanied by carrots, peppers, and celery to avoid munching down on chips.
With cocktails come calories. Here’s a fun mocktail that’s unusual and has health-giving properties.
Watermelon-Ginger Summer Mocktail
Half a cucumber (peeled and chopped into small pieces)
4–5 mint leaves
Juice from half a lemon (according to taste)
Four ¼-inch slices of fresh ginger
Liter fresh-pressed watermelon juice
Oftentimes people think they’re hungry, but actually it’s not really food they crave—it’s water. It’s easy to fall off the hydration train, especially in the summer months when the sun is high and you can unknowingly become dehydrated. Aim to drink two liters a day; keep a bottle near you at all times and sip regularly.
Say you love barbecue and can’t pass up potato salad? That’s not a problem if you handle it this way: Fill up on the salad and veggies first, coating your tummy with the good stuff. Decide ahead of time what foods you really want but would normally shun and—key—imprint on your brain how much you’ll allow yourself. Some chips, a burger, etc. You are less likely to go for the less-healthy choices once you have filled up on the good-for-you options.
A snack beforehand will keep your blood sugar in check—which will prevent a faceplant into the cream cheese dip later. It doesn’t have to be much: a few vegetables, a handful of almonds, a piece of fruit. The idea is to take the edge off your hunger so you don’t arrive at the party famished, hangry, and eager to shove every morsel in view into your mouth. This practice will probably make you a better guest as well.
Now and then put yourself in charge of the party and the menu. Your challenge is to choose a healthy summer meal that to your friends is simply delicious. Instead of hot dogs, grill kabobs with marinated shrimp and veggies (or just plain veggies is one of my favorites). Make a salad with corn, black beans, red peppers, and onions finished off with coriander, olive oil, and lemon juice. For dessert? Watermelon, of course! I also love a good dark chocolate as a treat. Just make sure it's over 70 percent dark to reap the benefits.
Instead of mindlessly feeding your face, slow down and pay attention to the luscious food before you. Give silent thanks for it. And on the celebration of Fourth of July, practice gratitude for the country we are blessed to live in. Even in these crazy times, it’s still the best ever.