When the weather gets warmer, the grilling starts, and who doesn’t love a good cookout? But, if you’re not careful, your summer food fling will lead to extra pounds. Super-processed meats, mayo and sauce-laden salads, and barbecue ribs are all easy to over-eat. Wondering which foods you should look out for? Here are the 5 most common diet-wrecking summer foods, along with healthier alternatives for each.
1. Processed Meat
Bonfires and cookouts are classic summer events, and unless you and your gang are all vegetarians, you’ll probably be filling your grill with hot dogs and hamburgers. If you’re going to be grilling, take the time to find out where your meat comes from.
Those highly processed meat items are rough on your body, causing problems from obesity to stomach cancer to heart disease. Processed meats, like hot dogs or bacon, have been shown to increase the risk for heart failure, premature death, and cancer.
Opt for grass-fed, organic meat that has been humanly processed, and if possible, buy locally. Wild-caught fish is a healthier option; better yet, substitute meat with some filling veggie dishes like grilled avocados or vegetarian quesadillas.
2. Extra-Saucy Salads
Pasta and potato salads are staples at most cookouts, and they are usually smothered in a mayo-based, creamy sauce. Read: They’re loaded with fat and simple carbs. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, about a cup of potato salad comes in at about 400 calories, and that’s probably not going to be the only thing you eat.
It’s not just calories. White potatoes and white macaroni are two of the highest glycemic foods around, and cause blood sugar and insulin spikes. Having a lot of high-glycemic foods in your diet may increase your risk for chronic disease and make it a lot easier to gain weight.
For healthier salads, go easy on — or don’t use — the mayo. You can make delicious dressings and sauces using heart-healthy fats like olive oil or avocado. Incorporate fiber using whole grain or bean pasta, which will be digested slower. Ditch the regular potatoes; sweet potatoes and purple potatoes will add some life, and tons of color, to your potato salad.
3. Snacks and Appetizers
Every good host will have a plethora of snacks and appetizers within easy reach. Have a plan going in about whether you plan to indulge in snacks or the main dishes — doing both will seriously throw off your weight-loss goals. That mindless munching really adds up. Twenty potato chips have about 200 calories, and a half cup of dry-roasted, salted peanuts will set you back 427 calories.
If you really want to treat yourself to appetizers, put a portion on your plate, and stop when you finish that. Going back for seconds or having a huge bowl to grab from will skew your sense of portion size. All those appetizers can contain as many calories as your actual meal, and they’re usually salty, so you’ll probably drink your cocktail faster.
A 5-ounce glass of red or white wine, or a 12-ounce beer, is about 150 calories and a 1.5 ounce shot is about 100. That’s not even including the soda, juice, or sugar that’s added in cocktails. Some generous cocktails contain 500 calories or more (like a long Island iced tea, strawberry daiquiri, margarita, or pina colada).
A summer of excessive alcohol consumption can easily lead to weight gain and health problems. You’ll also be in for some serious bloating, which is not what you want during bikini season. To keep that waist slim, stick to one or two servings, and don’t make drinking a nightly habit. In the same respect, keep track of what you’re mixing with your alcohol. Juices like lemonade and soda contain a lot of sugar, which also quickly adds pounds and causes you to feel bloated.
5. Ice Cream
It seems obvious, but it’s worth repeating: too much ice cream makes you fat. And when summer comes, ice cream sales shoot up. Enjoying ice cream is a no-brainer in summer, but take note of the serving size (½ cup), and know that a typical “small” size treat contains twice that. Cones and toppings also add up quickly, so get your treat in a bowl, and if you’re not able to put on your own toppings, it’s probably best to skip those.
If moderation is difficult for you, check out some of the non-dairy ice creams, as many of them contain fewer calories. Or, if you’re completely committed to that bikini body, make a tasty fruit smoothie your summer dessert of choice.