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Tips for a Healthy July 4th BBQ

Steaks and grilled chicken slathered in barbeque sauce. Mayonnaise-based salads. Red, white, and blue-themed cookies. A few American-brewed stouts. The food and drinks that can be found at a July 4th BBQ goes on and on.

Sure, you need to celebrate your national pride and American freedom with a day full of gluttony. Who wants to be the health nut that dampens the party spirit with veggie-only dishes?

But there is a way to throw a BBQ or survive the annual celebration at your neighbor’s house without having to compromise your waistline. “It all comes down to portion control, being mindful when you eat, and having a game plan when you get there,” said Sarah Schein, a dietitian at Abington Memorial Hospital.

“A lot of people get nervous when they hear the word diet. They immediately think they can’t have all of their favorite foods. But it’s all about moderation,” said Schein.

Curious to find out how it’s possible? Here’s the secret:

For the Host:

  • Select healthy meats: Burgers, pulled pork, fried chicken, and hot dogs are all high in saturated fat and calories. Instead, Schein recommends serving grilled fish, shrimp cocktail and grilled chicken. If you must have at least a burger, be sure to buy meat that’s at least 90 percent lean. And to make it extra healthy, opt for whole-wheat buns as well.
  • Make healthy kebabs: Mix up bite-sized chunks of veggies, such as cherry tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers, some cubed chicken or salmon, and maybe even add fruit, such as pineapple chunks for this fun and healthy alternative to the traditional burgers and hot dogs.
  • Create healthy side dishes: Grill up some veggies, such as corn, asparagus, potatoes, and make colorful salads with spinach, tomatoes, carrots, etc. You can also create a healthy version of coleslaw or potato salad by replacing half the mayonnaise with nonfat plain yogurt. And if deviled eggs are your vice, Schein suggests substituting the mayo with cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, or even avocados to make it a guilt-free appetizer.
  • Make Healthy Desserts: There’s nothing like fresh fruit on a hot summer day. But since we love to conclude our meals with sugary treats just as much as you do, here are some low-cal options.

 For the Feast:

  • Have a Game Plan: Setting limits is a great way to prepare yourself for healthy eating. If you say you’re only going back to the food table once, for example, then stick to it! 
  • Steer Clear of the Chips: Stay away from the chips, crackers, and bread. Instead, go straight to the healthier stuff first, such as salads, in order to fill up on foods that take longer to digest and have fewer calories.
  • Embrace Portion Control: Since it can be difficult to control how much delicious food you eat when you’re surrounded by it, grab a small plate if one’s available. Research has shown that those who choose smaller plates than average eat up to 50 percent less calories, and don’t even notice the difference.
  • Drink in Moderation: Whatever you choose, go for low or no-calorie beverages to help cut down on calories.
  • Eat slowly: Not scarfing down your food isn’t just an etiquette thing. It can also help you eat fewer calories, since you’re more likely to feel full sooner.

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