Tis’ the season of hot dogs and burgers. The joys of summer are surrounded by food laced with calories and weight gain risks. But, with a healthy eating plan, you can satisfy your taste buds without expanding your waistline. Here are the five most common mistakes people make when eating at a barbecue and solutions on how to avoid popular diet pitfalls.
Diet Pitfall #1. Arriving to a barbecue starving. Are you just going to wing it?
Think again. Attending a barbecue extremely hungry without a game plan is a combination that can lead to overindulgence and diet regrets.
Practice damage control when it comes to your favorite summer foods. Remember that everybody can eat something of everything; it’s just a matter of how much. A small sliver of mom’s apple pie with a side of fresh fruit will do less damage to your waistline than chocolate cream pie a la mode.
Take control of your environment whenever possible. Never engage in conversation while sitting next to a bowl of potato chips. Summer events are a great time for mingling and conversation is calorie-free. Two additional tips that help prevent overeating include wearing snug-fit clothing and chewing on sugarless gum, which can prevent you from returning to the buffet line for second helpings.
If you are starving, you are more likely to eat fast and impulsively, instead of selecting foods based on nutritional value. This can lead to calorie overload—just 1 ounce of potato chips and 2 tablespoons of ranch dip adds up to 200 calories and 16 grams of fat, and that’s before the main course. Take the edge off your hunger before a party. Eat a small low-fat snack such as fruit or low-fat yogurt before you head to a summer barbecue. This will help you avoid rushing to the buffet table when you arrive. It’s also a good idea to eat slowly and savor every bite. It takes 20 minutes for your brain to register fullness. Speed eating (usually as a consequence of extreme hunger) can easily lead to excessive calorie intake. Using chopsticks for salads and noodle dishes can slow down your eating pace.
Diet Pitfall #2. Putting the wrong foods on the grill.
While it is true that outdoor grilling allows excess fat in meat and poultry to drip away, it is worth keeping certain foods off the grill due to their high calories, saturated (artery-clogging) fat and sodium content. The culprits: regular ground meats, dark-meat poultry with skin, beef short ribs (just 3 ounces has 330 calories and 31g fat, pork spareribs and sausages (1 link of bratwurst has 281 calories, 25g fat).
Grill lean cuts of meat. Lean protein adds a “satiety factor” to your barbecue meal, keeping you full on fewer calories. Purchase ground meat and poultry advertised as “lean” or “extra lean” on the package*.
Choose white-meat chicken over dark. Chicken breast is lower in calories and fat than is the dark meat found in thighs and legs. A 3-ounce serving of grilled skinless chicken breast tenders has about 110 calories, 3g fat—that’s 100 fewer calories and 12 fewer fat grams than the same serving of chicken thigh with skin.
Add seafood to your grill. Firm, fatty fish like salmon (which contains heart-healthy omega-3 fat) is the easiest to barbecue. Shrimp also serves as a low-fat source of protein. A 3 ounce serving of cooked shrimp (about 12 large shrimp) provides 90 calories and a modest 1.5g fat. Flavoring with lemon juice and herbs instead of an oil-based marinade can save calories.
When buying beef, look for the words round or loin (eye-round, bottom round roast and steak, or sirloin/flank steak). When buying pork, look for leg or loin cuts (pork tenderloin, top loin. A 3 ounce cooked serving of pork tenderloin has only 116 calories and 4.5g fat. Don’t stop at meats. Lean protein can also be vegetarian. Prepare veggie kebabs using cubes of firm tofu on a skewer with your favorite fruits and vegetables (mushrooms, grape tomatoes, pepper, onions, pineapples, apple slices) For a meaty burger without the beef, swap a hamburger for a Portobello mushroom burger topped with 2 slices of low-fat cheddar cheese (48 calories, 2 g fat, 7g protein per slice of cheese). For added flavor, remove stems and gills of Portobello mushroom and brush with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Non-fat cooking spray (olive oil or canola oil base) can be used in substitution for oil to save calories.
* 4-ounces of raw meat weighs in at 3-ounces after cooking
* Lean beef has less than 10g of total fat, 4.5g or less of saturated fat (the bad-for-your heart-fat that raises blood cholesterol) and less than 95 mg of cholesterol per cooked 3 –ounce serving (about he size of a deck of cards). Extra lean meat has less than 5g of fat and less than 2g of saturated at per cooked 3-ounce serving.
Diet Pitfall #3. Forgetting to factor in beverage calories.
Beverage calories do not register the same sense of fullness as food calories. As a result, if you drink a high-calorie beverage, you won’t compensate by eating less food. It’s not just soda that can add extra calories to your barbecue meal- it’s also fruit drinks, alcohol and other sugar-laden beverages (sweetened teas and vitamin-enhanced water included)
1. Eat your fruit, rather than drink it. Whole fruits not only contain the vitamins and minerals found in fruits, but they offer the added bonus of dietary fiber. Fiber adds bulk to your diet, helping you feel full on fewer calories. If you love juice, downsize your portion to four to six ounces daily.
2. Focus on beverages for hydration. For the most part, that means water, unsweetened coffee (limit to two or three eight-ounce cups daily), tea, and diet soda. Coffee and herbal teas also can provide beneficial antioxidants for your health, and can be very refreshing when iced.
3. Try diet sodas and other diet drinks, such as Crystal Light, which have five or fewer calories per serving and are ideal for increasing your beverage options while minimizing intake of added sugar.
4. Don’t be afraid of artificial sweeteners. The majority of research on aspartame (NutraSweet), sucralose (Splenda), and saccharin (Sweet 'N Low) shows them to be safe for human consumption. While you only save about nine calories using an artificial sweetener instead of regular sugar, they can definitely add up over time.
5. Skip vitamin water, which contains added sugar. You are better off drinking water and taking a multivitamin.
6. Drink non-fat or one-percent milk. Milk contains nine essential nutrients vital to your health. Drinking milk as a protein source can help prevent loss of muscle mass and promote fullness for individuals trying to lose weight. Soy milk is also a healthy option.
7. Avoid or limit alcohol consumption, especially if you are trying to lose weight. Avoid mixing alcohol with any type of fruit juice or non-diet soda, which add unnecessary calories. Combined with alcohol, these can lead to fat storage. Lower-calorie drinks include light beer and red or dry white wine. Avoid alcohol on an empty stomach. Instead try a sparkling water with a twist of lime. If you drink alcohol, practice moderation. (one drink for women, up to two drinks for men per day) 1 drink = 5 ounces wine (about 120 calories), 12 ounce beer (about 145 calories), 1.5 ounces 80-proof liquor (about 100 calories)
Diet pitfall #4: Grazing.
Grazing can easily lead to overeating.
1. Put together a meal on an actual plate.
2. Use small plates as a built-in way to control your portions.
3. Bring a healthy dish to a summer party. Mixed fruit salad or a spinach salad drizzled with olive oil & vinegar are simple to prepare and easy to carry. Other nutritious pot-luck contributions include shrimp cocktail or vegetables crudités with low-fat bean dip or hummus.
4. Portion your plate wisely. Fill ½ of your plate with steamed or fresh vegetables, ¼ of your plate with lean protein (fish, skinless poultry and lean meats such as sirloin or flank steak). Leave the remaining ¼ of your plate for a “small taste” of high-fat dishes (that includes vegetables prepared with fatty sauces, fried items or mayo-based salads)
5. For dessert, choose the Angel cake instead of the Devil’s chocolate cake. Ice cream and frozen yogurt can pack a nutritional punch, delivering calcium, protein, and phosphorous. Stick to simple flavors like vanilla (1/2 cup provides 140 calories, 7 g fat) or choose low-fat ice cream and frozen yogurt. (1/2 cup Edy’s Slow-Churned Light ice cream flavors provide 100 calories, 3.5 g fat). Once you start adding cookie dough, brownie chunks or candy bits to ice cream, the calories soar. A ½ cup serving of a premium brand with peanut butter cups packs 380 calories and 26 gm fat. It’s also a good idea to factor in fresh fruit. Top your ice cram with a cup of chopped fruit to boost your fiber intake by 3 grams. Savory additions include diced bananas, mangoes or strawberries. While juice bars and other icy treats may provide some vitamins and minerals, they tend to contain more sugar than nutritional benefits. However, these treats can still satisfy a sweet tooth at a lower calorie level (1 Edy's frozen whole fruit bar provides 80 calories). For a cool chocolate fix, try fat-free frozen chocolate pops or sliced strawberries drizzled with chocolate syrup.
Diet pitfall #5 Assuming all salads are healthy.
A seemingly healthy salad can become calorie laden with ingredients such as fried chicken, fatty dressing, cheese cubes, croutons, bacon bits, or fried wontons. A Caesar Salad Kit sold at your grocery store contains 170 calories and 15g fat per serving (there are 3.5 servings per bag). One bag contains as much total fat as a fast-food cheeseburger! Salads drowned in mayonnaise (potato, tuna, macaroni salads) can add up to nearly a quarter of a day’s worth of fat. (1/2 cup potato salad contains about 180 calories, 10g fat)
1. Salads can easily serve as a nutritious and refreshing summertime side dish or even a main course. Fruits and vegetables are among the best sources of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Fresh fruits and vegetables have fewer calories than anything already mixed in dressing.
2. Do think beyond iceberg lettuce. Take advantage of dark leafy greens which are loaded with nutrients such as vitamin C, beta carotene, folate, calcium, fiber, and potassium, all for only 25 calories per cup.
3. Do make salad a satisfying dish by adding lean protein and unsaturated fats (heart-healthy fats).Grilled skinless chicken breast, salmon, cubed tofu, or flank steak hot & fresh off the barbecue serve as low-fat protein sources. One of my favorite diet tricks: When you make vegetables the centerpiece of a meal, it’s easy to keep calories low without counting. Low fat shredded cheese and legumes (beans, peas, and lentils) also add a protein punch.
4. You don’t have to give up all fat and flavor. Choose one of the following nutrient-rich fats for added flavor: a few avocado slices, a sprinkle of nuts or seeds, or a tablespoon of hummus.
Don’t dress to kill. If there’s a dressing that you love, try a “light” variety, use 1 tablespoon instead of 2 and dilute it with vinegar. Even better, avoid pre-made salad dressings and go natural with olive oil and lemon juice. (Oily dressings coat vegetables pretty well, so 1 tablespoon (120 calories) will do the trick).
Dr. Deborah Neiman MD
49 U.S. Highway 202
Far Hills, NJ 07931