It happens every year… Once Memorial Day kicks off the summer season, I have visions of myself poolside in my favorite bikini, crunching on celery and sipping cucumber water while the peasants look on with jealousy.
Fast forward to every barbecue ever and what do you know? I’ve fallen to the siren song of margaritas and salty snacks, leaving my body bloated and hidden all summer long. Sound familiar? We all know that to look and feel our best, we should opt for carrots instead of potato chips (the main issue, if you’re anything like me, being that “betcha can’t eat just one” is more of a taunt than a slogan when it comes to salty munchies). But what about those cookout classics you just CAN’T (and shouldn’t!) go all summer without? You don’t have to choose between your sanity and your waistline. This year, I’ve gathered some of the season’s best recipes that will satisfy WITHOUT wrecking your beach body ambitions.
I’m not going to lie to you… If you are really trying to do your body favor and eat clean, alcohol should have no part in that. However, I am also a firm believer in moderation (and tequila!) which is exactly how I will be enjoying my guilt-free margaritas this summer. For a simple, traditional margarita with only 145 calories, try this simple 3-2-1 recipe:
1 1/2 ounces 100-percent agave tequila
1 ounce fresh lime juice
1/2 ounce Cointreau orange liqueur
… THAT’S IT. A little fruit purée left over from my juicing might make its way into the shaker, but otherwise I am a purist on this issue. Even if you like your margaritas a little more spruced up, the best thing you can do is avoid premade drink mixes (which can run up to 400-500 calories per drink). Nobody likes a tequila-chemical cocktail, plus artificial sweeteners are difficult for the body to digest, leading to more bloat (a good reason to steer clear of diet sodas, too!).
Don’t fear the burger! Choose mushrooms, turkey or other alternative meats to save on fat and calories without skimping on protein to keep you full. Try one of these unique and awesome recipes from EatingWell.com (I’m a particularly big fan of their ideas for sprucing up turkey and portobello) and never again suffer the consequences of a greasy burger. Extra credit? Load up with lettuce, tomato, avocado and other veggies- and skip the bun. Although carbohydrates are important in a healthy diet, starchy foods attract more water once inside your body, leading to bulge.
If you are going the hot dog route, healthy options are a bit more difficult to come by. Look for brands that are all beef or turkey (no mystery meats here!), as well as nitrite/nitrate-, MSG-, and filler-free, like The Great Organic Hotdog by Applegate Farms (available at most health food stores).
Being that I have been known to literally run screaming from a room due to my inherent disgust for all things mayo, potato salad has never been my scene, but I’ve been told it is something of a cook out staple. Potatoes fall within that category of bloat-inducing starchy carbs we talked about earlier, so they aren’t ideal for a poolside party, but swapping out Greek yogurt for mayo will at least lighten the dish’s calorie counts. If you’re into that sort of thing.
Veggies are always a good option as a filling, low calorie side dish. Try wrapping up zucchini, asparagus, corn and tomatoes in a foil packet with a drizzle of flavored olive oil and grilling (just steer clear of broccoli and brussel sprouts- as much as I love the green goodness when it’s grilled, the fiber causes temporary belly bulge from digestion).
And seriously, no chips, okay? None of that “maybe just one” business either… because we all know how that story ends.
–Allison Ziraldo, featured writer