Tips for resisting temptation and making healthy choices at barbeques
By Jennifer Motl, Women’s Heart Secrets Program Dietitian, www.heartsecrets.org
Summer is here! J.G., a Women’s Heart Secrets participant, asked about ideas for eating in the summer months when tantalizing food, like burgers, brats, s’mores, lemonade and alcohol, is surrounding us. She tries to stay away from most red meats but exclaims, “A cookout isn’t a cookout without a burger or brat. Any substitutions or ideas of what to say when barbecuing at friends’ houses?”
J.G. is not alone. Even this dietitian loves brats—I grew up in Wisconsin too, after all.
Barbecues are a challenge for many. I’ve said it before: Nearly half of Americans have pre-diabetes and high cholesterol, and most develop high blood pressure by middle age. And that's not even including those who already have heart disease. Here are five ways to brave the barbecue:
Relax and eat often
It’s OK to eat a brat now and then, despite the fat and salt. It’s only a problem if you overdo it. You can reduce the urge to overeat by scheduling meals or snacks at least every four to five hours. Starving yourself pre-picnic is risky. Think about times in the past that you’ve been ravenously hungry. At those times, did you crave burgers or salad? For most of us, it’s easier to make healthy choices when we’re not hungry.
Step away from the grill
If the aroma of grilled meat tempts you to eat even after you’re full, then think about moving upwind of the grill. Also, consider leaving the table after you’re finished eating. You might stroll around the yard with a friend—it’s a great chance to catch up! Or, play kickball or Frisbee; chase the kids; whatever seems fun!
If your friends or relatives regularly tempt you with junk foods, consider pleading for understanding: "My doctor wants me to watch my cholesterol/blood pressure/blood sugar. I love brats, and I also discovered these delicious chicken Italian sausages. You’re welcome to try them if you want."
The key is to be clear that you’re not trying to change what others eat—you’re merely adding healthy options to the picnic table.
Bring healthy goodies
A barbecue lends itself to healthy dishes:
Climb out of the rut
While it’s natural and good for families and friends to share meals together, don’t fall into a rut where eating and drinking is the only entertainment. Consider hosting a barbecue at one of the beautiful local parks—many have picnic shelters, public pools, lagoons with paddle boats, tennis courts, soccer fields, paved paths for walking and biking, nature trails, swing sets and all kinds of fun things to do before and after the meal.
For information about the Women’s Heart Secrets Program, call (414) 961-3600 or visit www.heartsecrets.org.