The Fourth of July is a time to celebrate family, friends and patriotism, but besides Thanksgiving, it’s the biggest American holiday focused almost entirely around food. And because you’re also prone to celebrating this particular occasion in a bikini, you may find it more stressful than relaxing—it’s so easy to stuff yourself with delicious, not-that-great-for-you food and blow your commitment to clean eating. But never fear: you can have fun at your long weekend cookouts AND stay healthy. To navigate this weekend’s BBQ, follow our guide of foods to indulge in, taste and skip to beat the summer bloat and keep you feeling great. Happy Fourth, everyone!
Whether it’s shrimp, lean turkey, grass-fed burgers, fish or chicken breast—they all have filling protein without a ton of calories. The one downside: condiments. Many marinades are packed with sugar and salt. “The most common culprit for unrealized sugars are in BBQ sauces,” says certified sports nutritionist Shane Allen and nutritionist at PersonalTrainerFood.com. Most contain brown sugar, corn syrup or molasses—tasty, but not healthy. “Look extra hard for the very few sugar-free brands of BBQ sauce that are on the market,” he says. You won’t even taste the difference!
If your goal is staying full and low on calories, stock up on grilled veggies. “Try substituting a grilled portobello mushroom for a burger,” says Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, owner of NutritionStarringYOU.com. “It’s meaty texture is very satisfying, and a 3 ounce portobello contains only around 35 calories!”
Harris-Pincus recommends eating these sparingly (including coleslaw)—about two spoonfuls. “Mayo-filled salads are usually packed with saturated fat and calories, but lacking in nutrition. An alternative, such as an avocado, bean and tomato salad is creamy, satisfying and filled with vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants.”
A small serving of dessert won’t ruin your diet—just make sure to practice portion control. “If you have a choice between a homemade decadent brownie or a store-bought cake, choose the real thing made with fresh ingredients, which likely has less preservatives,” says Brianna M. Diorio, MS, a clinical nutritionist and digital content writer for The Vitamin Shoppe.
Because of their high sugar content, all fruits should be eaten sparingly. So don’t park yourself at the fruit salad all day. However, there’s one exception, says Allen. “Apples. They’re low glycemic (don’t cause a spike in blood sugar levels) and high in fiber.” Grill them for a fun alternative.
Don’t be fooled by the greens. “There are almost always hidden starchy carbs in those,” says Allen. “Starchy carbs and sugars are converted into glycogen by our body for energy.” After the liver and muscles can no longer hold anymore, the body converts the excess to fat deposits—yikes!
Buns and Potatoes.
Here are two more starches for you. “I always ditch the hamburger or hotdog bun—even if it’s whole grain. Starches are starches,” says Allen. If you’re looking to lose weight, steer clear of these unnecessary carbs entirely.
Margaritas may be summer’s signature alcoholic beverage, but they’re not the most flattering for your waistline. “These super sweet alcoholic drinks with sugary mixers and syrups can contain many hundreds of calories,” says Harris-Pincus. As an alternative, she recommends wine spritzers, light beer or vodka with seltzer and a splash of juice.
This might sound harsh (and depressing), but remember there’s no such thing as a never-ever food, says Harris-Pincus. “Choose wisely if you want to avoid weight gain. A small taste of a decadent dessert is all you really need to satisfy that sweet tooth.”
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