Healthy eating at summer barbecues
Every time of year seems to bring its’ own special occasions and the eating challenges that go with it. During the summer months it’s barbecues and outdoor cookouts complete with macaroni salad, burgers and chips that put us to the test.
It isn’t uncommon for a person to indulge in over 2,500 calories in one afternoon barbecue. That would take five hours of hard exercise to equalize and can wipe out an entire week’s worth of one-hour a day cardiovascular activity. If you find you are just maintaining your weight when you want to lose or you are gaining despite a good workout regime, read on to find out how to decrease the calories while still enjoying a good old-fashioned backyard barbecue.
Most barbeques feature hamburgers as the main choice of meat. One way to minimize the calories of this favorite without feeling deprived is to buy 95% lean ground beef in place of the most commonly consumed 85% lean beef. What most people don’t understand is that 85% lean is a representation of the percent of fat to protein in the meat. But fat calories are 2.5 times denser than protein calories, so 85% lean beef is actually 62% fat by calories!In other words, a four-ounce 85% lean burger is 244 calories with 153 coming from fat!
A wiser choice is to buy the 95% lean beef, or better yet, buy the 99% lean ground turkey and mix it together with 95% lean hamburger. Very few people will notice the difference from a taste perspective and you are saving them from tightening their belts.
Another option for a barbecue that can minimize calories while adding to the festivities is to serve kabobs in place of whole burgers. Use extra lean cuts of beef like sirloin tips or top sirloin cuts, which are about 45 calories per ounce (as compared to 85% ground beef at 65 calories per ounce) and combine with cherry tomatoes, small baby potatoes of various colors like purple, red and white, onions and zucchini. Guests will fill up on mostly vegetables and less meat, but won’t feel deprived since they are still consuming the traditional beef barbecue fare.
Taking it a step further, use chicken breast or wild Alaskan salmon and increase the health benefits while further lowering the calorie consumption. Chicken breast is 30 calories per ounce while salmon is 40-50.
There are few things more American then corn on the cob. It’s a healthy choice for a side carbohydrate to accompany the lean meat entrée, however it is what we tend to put on it that takes the average cob from 120 calories to over 300 calories; the butter at 200 calories per ounce or 100 calories per tablespoon!
An alternative is to combine 1/3 mayonnaise to 2/3 non-fat plain yogurt, mix in chili powder and spread the cobb with this tasty and tangy concoction and a spritz of lime wedge.
You can go a step further and mix the 2/3 yogurt with 1/3 crushed avocado and spread on the cobb with salsa on the side for another healthier fat option.
The same spread can be used with grilled baby potatoes, cut into small wedges used for dipping. Potatoes are 20 calories per ounce and loaded with potassium, an electrolyte that is lost in sweat when exercising and needs to be replaced. This is a healthier fat and lower calorie option to replace potato salad, which is a calorie killer at 75 calories per ounce.
Dips and spreads
Butter, mayonnaise, Ranch dressing and oil-based dressings like vinaigrettes are all barbecue favorites and are all about 150-200 calories per ounce (two tablespoons). Research shows that people will eat the same volume of food regardless if the food is swimming in high calorie dressings or lower calorie options, but the calorie amounts will be dramatically different if the “wet” is something tasty, but lighter.
Options to lighten up the calories of our favorite spreads and dressings do exist. While there is no replacement for butter, there is a way to still get the taste and coverage while minimizing the amount used. Instead of putting a stick of butter on the table, melt it and have a brush next to it so that guests can brush it on instead of taking a slice and letting it melt and then sopping up the rest that is on the plate.
Instead of using straight mayonnaise, mix mustard with mayonnaise to dilute the high-calorie number. Mayonnaise runs around 100 calories per tablespoon, but when cut with mustard it drops to about 50 calories per tablespoon. Another option is to mix it with salsa for a similarly lower calorie spread that still has the taste and feel of the mayonnaise base.
Instead of Ranch dressing as a dip, use plain, fat-free Greek yogurt and mix in a dry soup mix of your choice or use one of the sweet chutneys found in the international aisle of the grocery store. One option is Pemberton’s Mango Salsa mixed with yogurt for a sweet and creamy dip for either vegetables or chips. This dip is around 20 calories per tablespoon as compared to Ranch dressing at 75 calories per tablespoon or more!
Soft drinks that accompany traditional barbecues include soda, sweetened iced teas, lemonade and various juice drinks. Research shows that human’s bodies don’t register the calories from drinks in the same way that calories from food are imprinted. What this means is that you will eat the same amount (or more) of food regardless of the fact that you may have drank your meal’s worth of calories before a bite even enters your mouth.
Alternatives are healthy non-calorie drinks that use stevia in place of chemical non-calorie sweeteners. Instead of diet soda, try Vitamin Water Zero and SOBE Zero Calorie Life Waters. Another option for the soda lover is Zevia, a stevia sweetened non-calorie soda now available in our local grocery stores and health food stores. Unsweetened iced tea with Truvia or stevia added is another healthier non-calorie cool liquid to accompany your healthier barbecue fair.
Eating is a pleasure of life, regardless of the season. By following these tips you can engage in the fun and festivities and both lose and maintain your weight. Remember that no matter how much you exercise, in today’s food world you will always be able to eat those calories back faster than it takes to burn them. Take a few different steps when preparing or bringing a dish to a barbecue and you can be lean, fit and enjoy the foods of the season!
Judy Torel is a USAT coach, personal trainer, nutrition consultant and psychotherapist. Her office is Judy Torel's Coaching and Training Studio at 116 Everett Road, Albany. She can be reached at 469.0815 or email@example.com