This is the time of year we all daydream about during the cold winter months. The spring and summer are often filled graduation parties, celebrations, picnics and beach days. While fun in the sun is always a good time, many people get overwhelmed with all the social commitments and how this will affect their weight loss goals. It is important to plan for these occasions and remember that you can still enjoy time with friends and family without sabotaging your weight loss journey. The key to any weight loss plan is planning ahead and setting one self up for success. Just as you food shop and keep your home stocked with essential items, you can prepare for social gatherings and trips to the beach in the same way. When you attend parties and barbecues use the same approach you have been using with an emphasis on menu planning, meal prepping and portion control. Below are some tips that will help you enjoy these seasonal foods and avoid tipping the scale.
This is the season to take advantage of fresh produce. Try incorporating some
colorful vegetables that make dishes more aesthetically pleasing. You can take a simple salad and add green, red and yellow peppers; which adds different flavors and brightens up the meal. Vegetables add a nice crunch, provide fiber and have some health benefits too. Every party needs a vegetable platter so volunteer to bring one and these crunchy and colorful vegetables can take the place of chips. Lets not forget about seasoning and spices to make food colorful and flavorful too. Throw some cilantro, mint leaves, or fennel in to any dish and this will wake up the palette.
Take any protein and grill it up this season and you have a quick heart healthy entree. Be mindful of how you prepare the foods and choose seasoning and spices instead of high sodium and sugary marinades and sauces. Some alternative ideas include Dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar or a fat free Italian dressing. Another great idea is to use chicken, meat or fish combined with some colorful vegetables and make a kebab. This is a perfect option as it combines your protein and vegetable and 1 skewer can be considered a complete meal.
Remember to stay hydrated throughout the day. If you are planning an outing to the beach or just to be outdoors put a large water bottle in the freezer the night before and it will melt throughout the day and keep you cool. Add a few slices of lemon, lime or cucumber to make it more flavorful. Many brands like crystal light have single serve packets that you can throw in your bag and make a sugar free lemonade or iced tea which is always a nice treat on a hot day. The water will fill you up between meals and keep in mind you may be taking in more sodium when eating foods not prepared at home which makes hydration even more important.
One of the hardest parts about these outdoor summer parties is food is in abundance and the days feel longer and this often leads to picking and grazing throughout the day. The disposable plates that have compartments can be helpful and allows you to pick a protein, vegetable and a single side dish. So choose wisely and limit yourself to one plate. This is the time to use all the principles you have learned so chew your food well and eat slowly.
My favorite way to prepare for a party of social gathering is to volunteer to bring an appetizer or entree that I will feel comfortable eating. I always advise clients to do the same and find an interesting recipe or bring some easy no prep items like a fresh shrimp platter, vegetable platter, baked sweet potato fries or a whole grain side dish like a quinoa salad. The traditional side dishes like potato and pasta salad are often high carb options and may be made with mayonnaise or oils so having something you can eat allows you to enjoy the meal along with every one else and the other guests will enjoy it too! Some other easy options include a hummus, a salsa or chutney and guacamole all of which can be used to top a burger or as a side dish with some fresh vegetables.
No dessert table is complete without a platter of fresh fruit. A nice idea is to use fruit cookie cutters and carve the fruit in to different fruit shapes like berries, pears, and pineapple as this makes it more fun especially for the children. While all fruits are not created equal and some contain more sugar than others, I always recommend a fruit salad so you get a variety of flavors and micro nutrients. Another idea is to buy some ice pop molds or disposable ice pop bags and make your own ice pops using sugar free pink or yellow crystal light lemonade. This is a quick and easy prep dessert and a low calorie and refreshing treat you can enjoy instead of sugary ices and ice cream.
 Food is always at the center of every social gathering but it is important to remember that you can enjoy the festivities and remain focused on your weight loss or weight maintenance meal plan. If you have questions about food choices and planning ahead ask one of the dietitians for help and we can provide guidance and suggestions. Enjoy the season and keep up the good work!