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  • Writer's pictureRT Drake

How to survive your summer BBQ's while staying fit

Updated: Jul 26, 2023

It’s the time of the season for (small) gatherings, refreshing alcohol, burgers and hot dogs. Backyard BBQs are starting up and can cause many of you big time stress when it comes to staying on your fitness game. The temptation to munch on chips and overeat is a fast way to take a step back in your progress.

How can you stay on your fitness game but also enjoy your summer BBQ plans?

We are here to give you some tips and tricks to help you manage the inevitable feelings of “it’s just one day I can eat what I want” mentality. We want to help you stave off that next morning feeling of bloat and guilt from enjoying a good BBQ!

We’ll go over some ideas on how to best set yourself up for success while not feeling like you are missing out on any of the delicious BBQ food.

Set a strong foundation of good choices prior

Here you are - it’s Saturday morning at 8AM and you are excited to head over to your friend or family’s house for a day of sunshine, good drinks, good people and good food!

You’ve come off a pretty good week of eating where you didn’t eat many desserts and have made healthy choices the past 5 days.

You might be thinking…”since I did so well, I can sit back and enjoy this day the way I want.”

Now we’ll never tell you to not enjoy your BBQ - but instead focus on ways to help manage this day so that you don’t go off the deep end. It’s very easy at a BBQ to have a ton of calories above your allotment, enough to even out the lack of calories during the week. One day can impact the whole week so it’s very important to be mindful of this.

The last thing we want for you is to totally negate all the hard work it took during the week to stay within your own guidelines of healthy eating.

As you get ready for the day and plan out what time you will be getting the kids ready, what time you need to leave and what you will need to bring, consider this first.

Start your day off the best you can before you go to the BBQ

One way in which you can help lessen the impact of your BBQ time is to focus on eating a breakfast that includes plenty of protein, and veggies. If you know you are going to drink a good amount at this party - consider having a breakfast with very little carbohydrate. Alcohol gets broken down like a carbohydrate and therefore makes it very easy to surpass the “recommended” amount of carbs for one day.

One meal we recommend is one of our favorites...scrambled eggs with spinach, onions, and peppers. If eggs aren’t your thing then go with a Greek yogurt with some nuts and fruit. This type of meal will fill you up enough so that you don’t need to snack until you get to the party as well as provide a lower calorie meal to help start your day with plenty of room for the BBQ!

Another way to help keep you on point is to drink plenty of water prior to going to the party. Alcohol causes dehydration which sometimes can be mistaken for hunger. If you feel hunger, you will eat more. By drinking about 40-60 oz of water before leaving for the BBQ you keep your body feeling hydrated and energized.

Lastly, set your expectations for the party. No we don’t mean start guessing who’s going to be there, what kind of time you will have etc. (although we know this banter takes place before hand!).

More so we want you to set the tone for the day by imagining how you will eat and drink at the party.

Are you going to start snacking right when you get there and pop open a drink?

Will you wait for the main BBQ food and avoid the other chips and dips?

Roughly, how many drinks will I feel okay with having during this party?

These are solid questions to ask and answer quickly before going to the BBQ. These questions will help to frame your eating habits while you're at the party and therefore help keep you on a more positive trajectory. The answers to these questions don’t need to be 100% followed and 100% accurate. Instead try to stick true to your plans about 80% of the time.

See some snacks that you really enjoy but told yourself you were going to wait till dinner? That’s okay, have some of the snacks and enjoy them! We can guarantee that if you are setting your expectations prior to the party you will be less likely to binge on these tempting snacks.

Bring something you know you will eat

The host of the party will normally ask people to bring some dishes or snacks for the party to help spread the love!

In these cases (or in cases where you want to help out regardless) aim to bring a food that you don’t think will be readily available at this party.

For example, if you know that your hosts are not big into grilling up vegetables and you know you love them - think about bringing a plate of some vegetables that you know you will eat. When the time comes to start putting together a dinner plate you will know that you can count on your dish to help keep a good balance of proteins, carbs, veggies, and fats.

I know that some of you may feel a bit awkward bringing food to a party if you weren’t specifically asked to bring something. It may come off as selfish or disrespectful to the host (hopefully not but we know this is a possibility) but consider how important being fit and healthy is to you. Let this be your motivating factor and if asked “why did you bring spinach to my house!” you can politely answer you wanted to have a range of choices and wanted to help out the host.

How to eat during the party

So you’ve made it to the party even after the kids were giving you a hard time to get dressed and ready. Here you are, at the promised land, at a place that you were looking forward to going to this past week.

Now is when your fit life is put to the test - how will you perform?!

The smells of BBQ are in the air as you sit back with a drink and converse with family and friends. Catching up, talking about this pandemic and how much you’ve missed social interaction!

This is the fun part and the part you’ve been looking forward to.

What you might not be looking forward to however is the temptations all around you.

Your eyes might start to wander over to that big bowl of chips. Be weary and consider this..

IF you are going to snack...snack slowly.

You already know we love the skill of eating slowly. It’s been talked about time and time again here on these blogs and it’s no different in this situation.

Snacks are the easiest foods to overeat with - you take a handful, throw that handful into your mouth and within 20 seconds you are reaching for a second handful to toss back. Before you know it you’ve eaten half the container of pretzels and don’t even notice if you’ve actually filled yourself up at all. Most of the time snacking like this is just a social construct, something that everyone else is doing and therefore, you should be doing.

There’s nothing wrong with having chips and dip prior to the bigger meals, the problem arises when you eat too much of it. By slowing down you can better control the intake as well as keep the amount of snacks to a minimum.

A good practice to help with snacking slowly is to engage in conversation when you start reaching for that bowl of chips. If you are actively in a conversation you’ll have less time to sit and chew because you will be talking!

This in turn helps to put a buffer between you and the snack monster that you might become during these early party times.

Once the snacks get boring for you, or you become occupied with something else you might notice that there are some burgers and hot dogs being put on the grill.

Real food is the next hurdle for you in this BBQ of shattered fit goals. Eating a ton of bread with your burgers and hot dogs can really add calories quickly. (Another carbohydrate food that is so popular and goes hand in hand at BBQ’s, note that you also are drinking alcohol which is considered a carb!)

Fill up half your plate with vegetables, and eat them first.

For the party that has options for vegetables we advise you to focus on trying to fill your plate up halfway with vegetables. Vegetables are great for keeping calories low as well as filling you up. This makes it much less likely that you will need a second plate, and makes it that much easier to keep overall calorie count for the day down.

Now we know during BBQ’s, there is more than one plate being eaten! This is fine and you can have seconds but try to focus on that first plate having half of it be vegetables.

We know that you might get weird looks from other people because you are eating something green! These looks or even comments are most likely coming from people who wish they were doing what you are doing! They wish they had the willpower and plan of attack to help keep them on track for their fitness and health.

We always take this as a compliment even if it’s shrouded in judgement and negative connotations.

Go easy on the condiment use! Condiments like BBQ sauce, and ketchup have a ton of sugar in them and are an easy way to bump up your overall calorie intake for the day without really “noticing it”.

It’s very easy to smear BBQ sauce on some chicken or ribs without truly knowing the impact it will have on your overall eating day. Mustard is a good choice for condiment as it’s one of the better, healthier options.

Drinking your calories away..

We all know the struggle of wanting to have a good time, enjoy all the traditional BBQ food while ALSO enjoying some drinking and socializing.

If you’ve been mindful of your carbohydrate intake during the day (before the party, during the main meals) then you are allowing yourself space in your day to drink to your pleasure.

IF you haven’t been very mindful you can still save yourself with this tip..

Drink one cup of water at least once every hour.

Here we are back at the water thing again...but for good reason!

We all know that alcohol will tend to dehydrate you and leave you craving more alcoholic drinks. You get stuck in a vicious cycle of being thirsty, wanting to enjoy your drinks while also running a higher temperature because of the beating down sun! (causing sweat which draws water out of your body)

With all these factors it’s very easy to stay dehydrated and again have this impact your ability to define your true hunger level. Sometimes extreme thirst presents itself as hunger - causing you to reach for that 3rd plate of food!

On top of this - reaching for more alcoholic drinks will only continue to boost up your calorie intake of the day (this is why it’s super helpful to decide BEFORE the party how much you plan to drink).

Water is a nice buffer that allows your body to feel hydrated as well as fill you up enough to slow down some drinking.

A good recommendation for clients that we give during parties is to think about having 4-6 servings of carbs/drinks (for women) and 6-8 servings of carbs/drinks (for men).

So if you’ve been mindful prior to the party and had limited carbs, limited your snack intake as well as your bread you can happily and knowingly enjoy 4-8 drinks without it going over your daily allotment of calories.

This is a conscious choice and one that we have found provides clients with a sense of freedom and control in their alcohol intake.

This is all about setting yourself up for success and doing your best to maintain the fitness levels you’ve been working hard to reach.

BBQ’s are a time of fun and connection

While all of this might seem stressful at first to think about - remember that at the end of the day it’s always most important to be happy and enjoy your time spent with family and friends.

We don’t want you to feel constricted and feel like you need to be on a diet during these summer months.

There are always going to be better days than others - and better choices than others throughout your summer months of BBQ parties.

Connecting with people who matter to you is often MORE important than sticking to your fitness and health.

Know that this is under your control and that by using these tips and tricks you will be able to have the best of both worlds. A fit lifestyle in times of temptation alongside experiences that are memorable and enjoyable.

The last skill we want to impart on you is how to deal with the post BBQ shame.

Simply put - once you return home from your BBQ take stock of the good things that happened. Less focus should be put on how you “fell off the wagon” by having a cupcake at the end of the night. In the grand scheme of things this is very small and won’t put you over the edge.

As long as you stay mindful of the above tips and tricks you can lay your head on the pillow at night knowing that you successfully managed your fit life during a party that begs you to over indulge.

Try these out during your next BBQ and let us know if it worked for you!

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