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These tips and tricks will help you stay slim all summer long.
Ah, summertime and the livin' is easy. Sadly, however, eating healthy this time of year is anything but a walk in the park. Think about it: how many barbecues and picnics feature healthy options? Further complicating matters, when it comes to a barbecue or picnic, you really relinquish control to the host or hostess. Here are five strategies to help you navigate the typical summertime buffet — without sacrificing flavor or fun.
1. "Pretend your plate has a line down the middle," says Kristi Epps, a clinical dietician at Middle Tennessee Medical Center in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. "One half should be filled with vegetables and fruits, one quarter can be filled with starchy sides (think bread or potato salad), and the remaining quarter should be your meat," she says.
2. When faced with a variety of choices, pass up store-bought items (potato chips, for example) and instead sample a homemade item, such as pasta salad. "Wouldn't you rather try Mrs. Baker's 'world famous' apple pie over store-bought cookies?" says Epps. By narrowing down your options to "homemade," you'll automatically limit the amount of food available for consumption.
3. Reach for all things red. "Watermelon, for example, is 90% water," says Ruth Frechman, a registered dietician and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, so filling up on it prevents you from filling up on empty calories. Salsa is another smart offering on the table. By dipping chips and vegetables into lycopene-rich salsa as opposed to cream-based dips, you'll save a significant amount of calories.
4. Sip smart. You know filling up on water is good for you, but — let's face it — H20 isn't always that appealing when your beverage options include lemonade, soda, sangria, wine, beer and so on. A few suggestions: If you prefer lemonade, try mixing one part lemonade with one part water. That way, you'll still enjoy the tart flavor while cutting your calories in half. Same goes for white wine. "By opting for a wine spritzer (a glass of wine split with seltzer water), you'll cut calories — and alcohol," says Carolyn O'Neil, a registered dietician and author of The Dish on Healthy Eating and Being Fabulous (Simon & Schuster). (A 12-ounce white wine spritzer is usually 100 calories.)
5. Grab a frisbee. Or find something — anything — to do other than linger beside the tempting spread of snacks.
Now that you're armed with a few healthy tactics, here's what to keep in mind when it comes to your favorite summer foods:
Hamburgers: An appropriate patty should be about three ounces (roughly the size of the lid of a small pickle jar, notes Epps). Forego the cheese and pile on lettuce, onion and tomato. Better yet, see if the person at the grill is amenable to firing up a few vegetables (red peppers, mushrooms, onions), and pile those on to the bun for a flavorful vegetarian option.
Hot dogs: When it comes to meats, a hamburger is usually a better option because it is usually lower in fat, less processed, and one patty is more likely to leave you satisfied than one dog. If you do opt for a dog, pile on the relish, spicy mustard or pickles instead of cheese or chili.
Deli meats: Typically, any commercial turkey, ham, chicken, or roast beef lunchmeat without skin will be low in calories and fat. Avoid ham loaf, bologna, salami, and other very processed lunchmeats which contain skin.
Fried chicken: Choosing between light and dark meat won't make a huge difference in terms of calories. However, removing the skin saves you roughly five grams of fat and 150 calories per three ounce portion.
Potato salads: Mustard-based salads are preferable to mayonnaise-based options. Still, if you're faced with only a mayo-based option, look to the skins. If you can still see the red peel of the potato, then you can rest easy the dish isn't overly doused in mayo.
Pasta salads: Preferable to mayo-based potato salads because they usually provide a heart-healthy helping of olive oil. Look for ones that include vegetables and consist of whole-grain pastas.
Chips: If you can, reach for baked chips. Otherwise, skip the chips in favor of pretzels.
French fries: Avoid, if possible. Oven-roasted slices of sweet potato, when available, provide a smart substitute.
Deviled eggs/egg salad: If you choose one, eat a deviled egg because it provides the luxury of portion control (half an egg). Still, pasta salad is a better call.
Coleslaw: A small side is a good, healthy bet.