Navigating the BBQ


It’s Saturday. 

It’s summer.

School’s out for just a little while longer and everyone is rushing to squeeze the last bit of vacation mode out of these last long days.

You know what that means: BBQ time

And BBQs mean buffet tables full of potato salad, macaroni salad, pasta salad (a lot of salads, but hardly any of them veggie-based!), as well as eggplant parmigiana, sausage and peppers, hot dogs, burgers. And don’t forget the brownies and the cookies and the angel food cake covered in berries that likes to pretend it’s healthy while hiding under a scrumptious pile of fresh whipped cream. 

OMG. So. many. things.  

Do you do what I do if I’m not paying attention?

Pick at a little something here and a little something there until that “two-spoons” ice cream was really almost the entire bowl and you might as well have had a whole one (or *cough* two) since you really did anyway? Tell me I’m not alone here!

It really is possible to both stay on track with your eating goals and actually enjoy yourself. Here’s how: 

How to navigate your next BBQ:

1. Don’t deprive yourself.  Depriving yourself is typically not a strategy that works.  At least not for me or any of my clients. It seems to be a trick of human psychology that the second we make something we want off-limits entirely, that thing dominates our thoughts and we only want it that much more. If deprivation is a strategy that works for you, feel free to continue doing what you're doing. For the rest of us mere mortals, however, my advice is to take a walk around and scope out what you most want, make decisions about the available choices, and then go get your plate so you can fill it with intention.

2. Size matters.  Ehem...plate size matters.  Do yourself a favor and take a smaller plate. A serving size that looks puny on a large dinner plate looks generous on a salad plate and there is some science that indicates that we are more likely to feel satiated based on that perception of a larger portion even though it’s no bigger. Plus, you’ll simply run out of room on the smaller plate and have to make additional trips for extra food. All of this makes you more likely to decide you don’t really need that second hot dog after all. Smaller plates for the win.

3.  Go green. Load that small plate up with as much green as possible: salad (of the lettuce, not the macaroni, variety...nice try), broccoli, celery. I mean, who can resist grilled asparagus? Or brussel sprouts? Look around and find the green (and no- jello shots do not count!). Follow all that green with a helping of protein like fish, chicken, hamburger, or steak and you’re likely to find yourself full and satisfied with no regrets.

4. Indulge. Yup, you heard me right. Let me say it again- do not deprive yourself. It’s simply counterproductive. Instead, get a fist-sized or smaller portion of your favorite food. My mother-in-law makes the most amazing eggplant parmesan, complete with crispy eggplant and plenty of gooey mozzarella. If she makes it, I eat it, plain and simple- I just can’t resist. And I don’t try to. I never deprive myself of the food or drinks I love, and neither should you. It’s not sustainable. Instead, indulge with a bit of restraint, knowing that the next time that favorite food is offered, you’ll be able to have some again.

5. Slow down, Speedracer.  What’s the rush? Take your time and savor your meal. Eat slowly, enjoying the smell, taste and texture of your food. Bringing just a bit of mindfulness will not only help keep you from overindulging, but it will also increase your enjoyment of the experience. Win-win!  

One final tip: as a general rule, look for foods that are closest to their natural state. Think apple slices versus apple pie, or marinated artichoke hearts versus artichoke dip. Foods that are broiled, grilled, or steamed are often a good bet. Load your plate with vegetables and a fist-sized portion of protein and you can enjoy your BBQ guilt-free!

(Hint: these same principles apply to holiday parties and pretty much any other gathering where we have a tendency to overindulge at the pot luck table!)

Your turn! Leave me a comment and tell me: How do you successfully navigate BBQs and what do you struggle to not go back for a third helping of? I want to know!