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Summer Nutrition Guidelines

Summer Nutrition Guidelines

Jim Steffes, ACSM - CPT

With the unofficial kickoff to the summer season right around the corner, we're reminded of one of the greatest temptations that can make even the most dedicated fitness fanatics stray from their meal plans - summer cookouts.

Summertime here in Wisconsin is limited, so we certainly try to take advantage of every waking minute that the temperature is above 60 degrees. That being said, between the handful of summer holidays and the limited cluster of weekends, you're bound to know someone who invites you to a cookout or barbeque on almost a weekly basis. However, this doesn't mean that all of your hard work in the gym and in the kitchen over the last several months has to go to waste. Here are some FT Trainer - approved summer cookout tips to help you stay on track while enjoying all that summer has to offer:

1) Eat before you go to the BBQ - oftentimes all of the food at a cookout is so delicious that it's easy to let your portions get out of control. By eating a small meal before you leave the house, the idea is you won't be as hungry when you get to the cookout, so eating large portions won't seem as attractive. Ideally, your pre-BBQ meal will be high in protein and/or fiber to help keep you satiated.

2) Opt for lean meats on the grill - usually the grill master at your cookout will have certain meat staples ready to serve their guests. You know which ones I'm talking about - burgers, hot dogs, brats/sausages, and oftentimes chicken breast. In this case, go for the chicken - it will be more lean, less fatty, and generally lower in sodium than your other meat options.

3) Don't get saucy with me - condiments are the stealthy ninjas when it comes to the world of calories. Things like ketchup and BBQ sauce can be very high in sugars, and things like mayo and veggie dips can be high in fat - that's why they taste so good! But here's the thing - they're such a small part your meal in the overall picture, so that's why many people don't even think of them when it comes to their calorie content. Cut back on condiments or eliminate them altogether, and you'll be saving yourself a lot of hidden calories.

4) Go easy on the libations - at most cookouts, there's bound to be a cooler or two brimming with barley pops and sugary malt beverages. Alcohol is essentially the biggest waste of calories that exists in this world; they provide no nutritional value. The average light beer has around 100 calories, and the average shot of hard liquor also comes in around 100 calories. If you have 2-3 beers or a couple mixers at your cookout, you're already an extra 200 - 800 calories in. Sticking with a max of 1 drink can ensure that your alcohol calories don't get out of control, and (more importantly) that you'll be able to drive home safely.

5) Don't wear a seat in your lawn chair - stay as active as possible! Help continue a solid calorie burn even as you indulge. You can do this by setting up a game of volleyball, or try to eliminate all the youngsters in a game of Lightning (basketball). At the very least, try standing when you eat your grilled chicken and reasonably-sized portions of sides - standing will naturally burn more calories than sitting, and you won't be as inclined to over-indulge as you won't be as comfortable when you eat.

These are just a few tips to help you stay on track this summer. Don't feel like you can't ever indulge in delicious food, even if it isn't the most healthy. Enjoying good food is one of the simple joys in life, just make sure that you indulge responsibly and sparingly. Happy Memorial Day, this upcoming Monday, May 30th. We hope everyone celebrates safely, and let's not forget to remember those who this holiday is for - the brave men and women who have died while serving in our great country's armed forces.

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