Burgers, potato salad, sprinklers. For many Americans, Memorial Day is the beginning of warm and sunny times ahead. This weekend is also prime time for social events and backyard bashes – complete with plenty to eat. For me, summer seems to be the most challenging time to "go light" with food and maintain weight (let alone lose it, if that's your goal) because we're more apt to socialize, eat and drink. We all love summer parties, but they don't have to wreak havoc on your diet. Here are a few tips to tackle a barbecue the right way:
● Fill up before you go. Go ahead, ruin your appetite before heading to the barbecue bash. You need a snack that provides satiety so you don't show up half starved. And certainly don't "hold out" on eating beforehand. Fasting all day in prep of a big barbecue is the worst thing you can do. You'll slow down your metabolism and wind up overeating – a double whammy!
● Assess the situation when you arrive. Sometimes, your attitude going into the meal can make or break your barbecue experience. If you see spinach dip when you enter, you may think, "There's nothing healthy here, and I might as well pig out." Then you notice chicken skewers, shrimp cocktail, crudité and way more. Be patient, scope out the scene and then use what is available to create as proportioned a meal as possible.
● Try to skip that first drink. When you have your first drink before you even say hello to the guests, you're probably off to an overindulgent night. You'll end up consuming too many calories from alcohol, and then the effects of said alcohol may inhibit your willpower and make you consume too many calories from food, too.
● Fill your plate once. Take one serving of lean protein – just one! Go for barbecue chicken or fish, which are usually the leanest options. Fill the rest of your plate with other healthy foods, such as grilled vegetables, roasted corn, tomato slices and salad. Enjoy that first plate, but then stop eating and enjoy the people – not food – around you.
● Host a healthy barbecue. If it's your turn to do the hosting, serve delicious and healthy options for your guests. Instead of those heavy, saucy chicken wings, try this recipe for almond-crusted chicken skewers. Light and satisfying, these skewers are the perfect blend of sweet and savory. And unlike some traditional barbecue fare, this refreshing dish won't leave you feeling overstuffed for the rest of the party.
Almond-Crusted Chicken Skewers (Serves 4)
● 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
● 1 tablespoon honey
● 1 tablespoon olive oil
● 1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
● 1 clove garlic, crushed
● 1 cup almonds, chopped
● 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (about 16 ounces)
● 16 (10-inch) wooden skewers
In a glass bowl, mix mustard, honey, olive oil, lemon juice and crushed garlic.
Cut chicken into cubes or strips. Marinate chicken with mustard mixture for an hour while refrigerated.
Soak wooden skewers in water for 30 minutes.
Skewer chicken and barbecue over medium heat until no longer pink in the middle (about six to eight minutes) while turning and brushing with any remaining marinade. Roll skewers in chopped almonds after removing from the grill, and serve.
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Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN, is the founder and president of Nutritious Life, a nutrition practice based in New York City, and Nutritious Life Meals, a gourmet, healthy, daily diet delivery program available across the country. She is a member of Women's Health Magazine's advisory board and has authored Slim Calm Sexy Diet, The O2 Diet, and The Snack Factor Diet. Her fourth book, The New You and Improved Diet, will be released in December. Her expertise is regularly featured on the Today show, Good Morning America, and Access Hollywood Live, among others, and she hosts "A Little Bit Better" on YouTube's Livestrong Woman channel. Read more of Keri's tips every day on Facebook!