Despite being a time for reflection and honoring our troops, Memorial Day also marks the start of summer for most American families, and that means it’s the start of grilling season.
Grills nationwide are uncovered post-winter season, ready for a summer full of cookouts.
And while nothing is better than getting friends and family together for food in your yard, if you are on a weight loss journey, it can be a trigger that pushes you off the wagon.
While we’re all for you enjoying family celebrations, we also want to help you reach those weight loss goals. That’s why we’re sharing some of our favorite, delicious, low-calorie Memorial Day cookout swaps and tips and hints to stay on track toward your goals.
Our favorite low-calorie cookout swaps
But before we kick things off, now is a good time to remind you that health isn’t just about eating well 100% of the time.
Community and connection all contribute to your overall health, so don’t stress yourself out over eating perfectly at family gatherings.
However, with some of these delicious swaps, your friends and family won’t even notice that you’re swapping out the naughtier treats for ones that help you reach your goals.
Grilling food is a healthy way to cook, so cutting out loads of food from your celebrations will be unnecessary. Plus, try to go easy on sauces and condiments, as this can add on some hidden calories, but otherwise, you will eat a lot of the food.
But otherwise, try to swap out some of these options for a healthier Memorial Day cookout.
Skewers vs. Burgers
Hamburgers are the staple of any grill and cookout, and they can be pretty healthy on their own.
However, switch out the burgers for meat skewers for a healthier option. You can choose whatever meat you fancy, but something lean such as chicken or turkey works well, or even shellfish such as prawns.
Peppering the skewers with veggies allows you to get some of your five-a-day in and fill you up with fiber and nutrients.
Top tip: add two veggies for every piece of meat you add to fill up without overeating on calories.
If you want to stick with burgers, then you can swap out the beef for leaner meat such as turkey, tuna or venison, or you can switch out the bread for a lettuce bun. Just beware of the toppings, sauces and condiments, as these can add a lot of calories without you realizing it.
Sausages vs. Hot dogs
Again, hot dogs are a staple at a cookout, but processed meats aren’t great if you are trying to eat healthy.
We recommend swapping out the hot dogs for sausages made of learner meats such as chicken or turkey link sausages. If you don’t want to make your own sausages, then check out your local grocery store for fresh, ground meat sausages.
Again, take it easy on the condiments to avoid additional hidden calories and sugar,
Top tip: if you want toppings, then make your own i.e., salsa
Grilled chicken wings vs. Fried chicken wings
Fried chicken wings are a crowd-pleaser, but they’ll push you way over your calorie budget for the day.
There is no need to abandon the wings altogether, just swap out the cooking style and grill them instead of frying them.
Create a homemade sauce to marinade your wings in so that you know what is in them, rather than using a sugar-filled store-bought sauce.
Loaded Sweet Potato Skins vs. Potato Salad
Potato salad is a great cookout side, but the mayonnaise makes it a heavier option that might hinder your diet.
Instead, we recommend sticking to the potatoes but swapping out regular ones for sweet potatoes and serving them with healthy toppings.
We recommend topping them with veggies, including peppers, onions, tomatoes, black beans, and jalapenos - then sprinkle on a little cheese and spices.
Low-calorie alcohol vs. Beer
Beer might be the classic cookout drink, but if you are on a weight loss journey, then it’s one of the highest-calorie alcoholic drinks you can consume.
If you really love the taste of beer, a “light” beer option is fine for one or two, but we don’t recommend sticking to it all day and night.
If you are going to drink alcohol, then a lighter option might begin or vodka and tonic or prosecco.
But, if you can avoid it, then switching to non-alcoholic, no-sugar drinks will be the best option.
Top tips for staying on track with your diet over memorial day
So, apart from swapping out some of the classic cookout dishes for more low-calorie alternatives, there are other steps you can take to ensure you don’t blow your diet over Memorial Day.
Are you hungry, or are you just thirsty?
We’re not in any way suggesting that you drink water instead of eating - if you are hungry, then eat.
But if you don’t stay hydrated, you might eat more food. That’s because when the stomach is full, it sends signals to the brain to let it know, and filling up on water can do this.
Make sure you’ve got lots of water for your cookout so you don’t reach for food when you need water.
Make it a little more exciting by making up some jugs of water and adding a selection of different fruits - delicious and refreshing and stopping you from overeating unnecessarily.
Watch your portion size…
If you’re trying to lose weight, you need to eat fewer calories than you burn; for most women, this is around 2000 calories per day.
So in many cases, it’s not what you eat during celebrations but how much you eat. And so, it’s worth noting how much you are consuming at your memorial day cookout.
Try not to overload your plate with everything possible, and don’t go back for seconds if you can avoid it. This will help control calorie intake and help keep you on track for your goals.
Play games in the backyard…
Exercise comes in many forms! It doesn’t have to mean hitting the gym or pounding the pavement for hours on end.
Any movement works, and a yard party is a perfect time to get some movement in, especially if you’ve got energetic kids around.
While waiting for the grill to fire up, why not throw a ball, set up an obstacle course or challenge someone to a race?
It’s a great time to get in some cardio and burn off some energy. The great news is this means you can eat a little more guilt-free.
Allow yourself the day off…
Remember! Life is for living, and completely denying yourself is not a sustainable weight loss strategy - it will likely lead to a complete blowout. So let yourself enjoy occasions with your family, even when they center around food.
Just remember not to overdo it completely. And if you do, start the next day with a fresh mindset and get back on your diet and exercise plan to continue towards your goals.
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