It is officially BBQ season and while these backyard gatherings come with a lot of temptations, there are still ways to stay committed to a healthy diet. One way we can stay on track is by making sure we get enough macronutrients. The three main macronutrients are proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. All macronutrients are equally important to get in our diet — including carbs and fats, which often get a bad rep.
Most of us aren’t going to BBQs every day and let alone all year round. We can still enjoy and make the best of our BBQ experience. Whether you are throwing a BBQ or attending one, it is still possible to stick to healthy diet. Below, I’m breaking down the best ways to get all three macronutrients at your summer BBQs.
1.Carbs make sure we have enough energy to get through our day
There are many fad diets that encourage us to eliminate carbs from our food intake, but carbs help fuel our brain and body. The two main types of carbs are simple carbs and complex carbs.
Simple carbs are found in foods like cake, cookies, and candies. These are foods we enjoy and make us happy, so while we do not need them in our diet, and certainly not on a daily basis, we can have them in moderation.
The other type of carbs are called complex carbs. Examples of foods high in complex carbs are brown rice, whole wheat pasta, starchy vegetables, and fruits. They are called complex carbs, because they are composed of fiber. Fiber is a positive nutrient that we want a lot of; it keeps our digestive system regular and balances our sugar levels. Complex carbs that can easily be added to a BBQ spread are lentils or whole wheat pasta.
2. Fats make sure our hormones are working correctly as well as important for our organs
I’m hesitant to differentiate fats by healthy and unhealthy, but it is important to point out that there are healthier sources of fat choices, while others are unhealthier for our bodies.
For example, omega three fatty acids are a great source of healthy fat. You can find these fatty acids in foods such as: salmon, sardines, walnuts, chia seeds, and flax seeds. Salmon is something you can easily grill at a BBQ in many ways. While sardines, walnuts and chia seeds can easily be added to a salad or side dish.
Monounsaturated fatty acids are also great additions to our diets and can be found in avocados, olive oil, and cashews — all great toppings or add ons to our summer BBQ favorites. It is important that we are getting enough of these fatty acids, but of course, everything in moderation.
Saturated fat, on the other hand, is considered an unhealthier choice. These fats are found in foods like cheese, butter, baked goods, and juicier more sought after pieces of meat.
Lastly, trans fat needs to be limited, although it is less common to find on food labels today. It has become synonymous with being so bad for us that it almost impossible to find. Trans fats are found in TV dinners, frozen meals, margarine, and some baked goods.
3. Protein helps the growth of muscles and cells, are essential for chemical reactions, and help fight infections
Most people do get more than enough protein in their daily diets. 35% of our calories should come from protein sources. Our focus doesn’t need to be on intaking more protein, but instead our focus should be on the types of protein we are intaking.
It is important to focus on lean proteins for a healthier option. Examples are white poultry, fish, nuts, and plant based options. Putting fish or chicken breast on a grill at a summer cookout is a great lean protein option. Fattier proteins are found in your hamburgers and hot dogs, which are traditional BBQ foods. While they may be hard to avoid, it is something you can enjoy in moderation.
Now, if you are throwing a BBQ, you can control the food options. While you still want to offer the hamburgers, hot dogs, and other common BBQ foods many people will be looking forward to, you can make sure to have additional healthy options. Stock up on leaner proteins like grilled chicken, grill starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes and corn, prepare a pasta salad with complex carbs like a lentil or whole wheat based pasta. You can also throw a salad together with an olive oil based dressing and add in avocado. Another great option is a salmon burger. By swapping out a beef burger for one full of omega three fatty acids, you immediately upgrade your nutrient intake.
Being a guest at a BBQ can be a bit more difficult, because the options may be limited. It is still important to work with what is available and be flexible. There’s always a way to add to your plate to make it healthier as we do not want to get stuck with a “brown plate” — which is a plate with only protein and fatty foods. Take the hamburger and hot dog and see if you can add healthier options such as veggies and salad to your plate.
These are a few ways you can indulge in the traditional BBQ fare while staying committed to your healthy diet. I’ll be discussing this topic in more detail during a webinar hosted by my nonprofit Fare Meals on Tuesday, July 26. It will be moderated by social media strategist & journalist Katie Love and registration is free. We’ll have recipes and lots of great info. Hope to see you there!
WRITTEN BYArielle Kestenbaum