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7 Strategies for Healthy Eating at Cookouts

Summer barbecues don’t have to mean disaster to your diet

Ah, summer … bring on vacations, lounging poolside and cookouts. Kicking off a season of long summer days with a Fourth of July barbecue doesn’t have to mean putting an end to your successful season of healthy eating. Here are some easy ways you can enjoy the party without sacrificing your resolve to keep your eating clean.

Person pouring mixed nuts into their hand from a jar

1. Whittle your hunger before you go

That plan to save your day’s calories for the cookout? It’s a great strategy, but likely, for overeating. Eat a healthy snack before you go to shave the edge off hunger. One of the best defenses to falling prey to the lure of unhealthy foods is making sure you’re not ready to eat the first thing you get your hands on when you get there.

Tabletop view of a variety of grilled foods during a cookout

2. Get a lay of the land

It’s a safe assumption to expect the worst, in unhealthy food, that is. Survey the situation when you arrive to see what you’re up against. Take a moment to think through your strategy — choosing the chicken breast over the bratwurst, jumping past that potato salad to the grilled veggies, and making a hard right away from the table before the desserts.

Glass pitcher and glass full of flavored water with lemon and lime slices

3. Drink smart

There’s no better way to beat the heat than with a tall, cool drink. A cold, sweaty can of soda, fruity punch or a frozen margarita is easy going down, but takes a slew of empty calories and added sugars with it. Sipping on low- or no-calorie beverages instead, like water, sparkling water or unsweetened tea, keeps you cool and hydrated — and full, too.

Plate full of a variety of vegetables

4. Fill ‘er up — once

Load your plate once, taking the heftiest portions of the healthiest choices available. Summer’s a great time for veggies and fruits to show off. Indulge in seasonal treats like tomatoes, corn and berries if they’re available. And don’t forget a portion of protein. Chicken, fish or a hamburger will help keep you full longer.

Person turning a grilled meat with a spatula on a charcoal grill outside

5. Do your part

If you’re hosting, you hold the cards to dishing up food and drink that’s good and good for you. Your guests will likely be as grateful as you are for the lean proteins, veggies, and fruits you serve. When you get to contribute to the menu as a guest, make eating healthy the enticing option, with one of your favorite good-for-you recipes.

Person placing a spoonful of whipped cream on a small chocolate cupcake

6. Pick your poison

When the pull of Aunt Martha’s homemade macaroni and cheese or your neighbor’s gooey caramel brownies is just too strong, treat yo’ self — but with limits. A spoonful or a bite can satisfy the craving without blowing your diet.

Father and son playing football outside

7. Take focus off the food

Sure, cookouts are a chance to enjoy good food, but they’re also a chance to enjoy friends, family and fun. Dive into conversations, the pool or a good game of cornhole, and you won’t even miss the food.

Need help planning meals for the rest of the week? Check out our tips from the pros.