Summer is the time for barbecues with friends and family, and with that comes seemingly endless opportunities to derail your healthy eating plan. It's easy to stick with healthy eating all year, but then summer rolls around and it becomes nearly impossible.
There's no need to feel guilty about it. Summer is a time for celebration, and there is so much to enjoy. Early on in my healthy living journey, I learned that as much fun as social gatherings were and as delicious as the indulgences tasted, I still didn't like the sugar crashes, sluggishness and stomach aches I often experienced afterward.
I learned ways to enjoy summer parties, not feel deprived and still feel healthy after.
With these tips, you don't have to replace your favorite chips with celery sticks to get by:
1. Control portions.
There is typically an abundance of indulgent food choices on the buffet table at a summer party. The problem many people struggle with is how to balance not depriving themselves, while still sticking to a healthy eating plan.
Portioning is a lifesaver for that dilemma. Rather than sitting at a table with the bowls of cheese doodles, chips and dips or mindlessly munching by the buffet, take a plate for yourself and fill it with a little bit of all the things you want to indulge in.
Take your time eating what you've portioned so that by the end, you actually feel full and can resist getting more. Eating slowly also helps you feel more satisfied in the end because you'll appreciate and enjoy each bite.
2. Eat seasonally.
Summer isn't just a great time for social gatherings. The season offers an abundance of delicious produce that has limited availability. Parties are a perfect time to highlight and enjoy them, from savory dishes to sweet treats.
Try to showcase these seasonal fruits and vegetables in the dishes you contribute as well as what you fill your plate with. It's a great way to eat healthier at a party. Choose foods that provide more nutrients and are (most of the time) lower in calories.
Blueberry pie, anyone?
3. Avoid triggers.
Many people who struggle with weight loss, maintenance and healthy eating have certain foods that trigger overeating. For me, it's chips and dip hands down. I could finish an entire bowl by myself. I typically avoid it altogether because I have difficulty stopping after just a little bit, and I don't want to ruin my fun at a party by feeling overly full and sluggish.
If there is a food you find difficulty in portioning or stopping after a small amount, it might be best to avoid it. There should be enough alternative options to satisfy your party food cravings.
4. Contribute delicious and healthy dishes.
There are many dish options to bring to a summer gathering, from dips, sandwiches, chicken wings and pasta salad to pies. Contributing means you'll be able to add something delicious and healthy to the food table. Just because you know it's healthy doesn't mean anyone else has to.
You can make virtually any dish healthier by utilizing fresh and seasonal produce and high-quality ingredients, which means leaving out the processed stuff. Some great summer favorites are plantain chips with guacamole or hummus, summer vegetable sandwiches or pasta salad and shortbread cookie and berry parfaits.
Thinking outside the typical party food box can help you make dishes healthier and still impress your family and friends.
5. Focus on fun rather than food.
If you find yourself stressing about how to handle the food at summer parties, try to focus on all the other great things about them. Chatting and catching up with friends and family, running around with the kids and playing volleyball, cornhole or horseshoes all add to the fun of summer gatherings and have nothing to do with food. So after allowing yourself some indulgences, try to enjoy everything else your summer barbecues have to offer.
The point of summer social gatherings is to have fun with friends and family, which doesn't need to come at the price of derailing your healthy living efforts. It's fun to treat yourself and allow indulges, but just as healthy living is about balance, enjoying these foods at parties is as well.
Keeping these five tips in mind will help you fully enjoy all your summer barbecues as well as stay on track with eating healthy and achieving your weight-loss, fitness and health goals.
Feeling stuck on what to bring to your next summer party? I am sharing a free resource for Elite Daily readers to ensure you bring a delicious (and healthy) dish. It will also spark creativity and help make meal planning easier for the weeks in between. You can get yours here.