We may not be able to gather in ballparks or big groups yet, but summer is coming. Whether your area is still on lockdown or starting to loosen restrictions, you can always enjoy a healthy cookout in the comfort of your own home. Memorial Day isn’t canceled and warm weather has arrived. Take your social distancing to the backyard and whip up some nutritious and delicious food that fits into your Nutrisystem plan.
In many places, smaller gatherings are going to be allowed with proper social distancing. Depending on the regulations where you live, these small, at-home gatherings are going to be more important than ever—reconnecting, in person, with loved ones for Memorial Day or weekends beyond. With the right recipes and meal idea ideas, it can also be a satisfying, delicious way to boost your immunity and keep pushing towards your weight loss goals. We put together these 10 tips for making your at-home cookout a healthy reunion.
Here are 10 easy tips for a healthy backyard barbecue:
1. Don’t starve yourself before the cookout.
We’ve all done it—skipping meals before a big event to “save up” calories for the party spread. But when you’re trying to lose weight, this can backfire. You can get so hungry that you wind up eating even more than your planned “splurge.”
Keep yourself from going so far overboard—and from showing up hangry—by keeping your blood sugar stable. Eat your prescribed Nutrisystem foods and snacks before the party and save any SmartCarbs or PowerFuels to go with your cookout meal. The fiber, protein and healthy fats in your normal meals will keep you from being too hungry, so you can measure portions of your cookout favorites and stay on track.
2. Start by filling half of your plate with veggies.
Less than 10 percent of Americans get their recommended daily servings of vegetables, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). They explain that eating two to three cups per day can reduce your risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and yes, obesity.
By eating an abundance of vegetables, you’re getting a lot of water with your food. Eating water-rich foods means that you can have more volume for less calories. This can ultimately help you lose weight. According to Science Daily, Penn State research discovered that “women who added water-rich foods to their diets lost more weight during the first six months of the study than those who only reduced fat in their diets.”
So, start with the veggies and use the grill to make them even more delicious! Get some Leaf-approved tips for grilling tomatoes, mushrooms and greens for even more flavor by clicking here! >
3. Find tasty, low-calorie side dish recipes on the Leaf.
A “healthy” cookout doesn’t mean the food is boring—it should be just the opposite! The Leaf Weight Loss Blog is your source for keeping things deliciously diet-friendly. Spice up your coleslaw game with sweet options like this Broccoli Slaw with Cranberries and Lime or a fiery, crunchy bowl of this Spicy Peanut Slaw. Or go cucumber crazy: Whip up some of this five-star rated Cucumber Dill Dip or a bowl of this Zesty Cucumber and Dill Salad.
Find more recipes like these healthy cookout sides right here! >
4. Tackle your cravings head-on.
Now that your plate features some veggies, get down to business. Identify the cookout food you’re craving most and dish out a healthy, measured portion. That’s advice straight from our Nutrisystem registered dietitians: If you’re really craving a food, you should eat it. Denying yourself a small piece of a favorite pie or a slice of cheese on your burger won’t make the craving go away—it will more likely lead you to graze on other fare, unsatisfied. It’s better to have a portion you can measure and enjoy, so you can calm your cravings and stay on track.
5. Keep the calories on your plate, not in your glass.
Sugary beverages are thought to be a big part of the obesity epidemic in America: From 1977 to the year 2001, Americans increased their daily consumption of sweetened beverages “from 50 to 144 calories per day, says The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Over the course of a year, that could add up to over 50,000 extra calories!
Keep your calories down and the flavor up with something summery and fun that features fruit: Try one of these refreshing summer mocktails! > If you’re a beer drinker, choose one that satisfies for fewer calories—like one of these 10 low-calorie beers that actually taste good. >
6. No grill? No problem! Pan sear your meat for a crisp crust worthy of the grill.
If your go-to grill move typically involves heading to a local park, you may not have a grill in your backyard. However, you can get the same flavors you love inside by pan searing your meat to perfection.
Brush a cast iron skillet with oil and turn the burner on high. Make sure to turn on the exhaust fan so your smoke alarm doesn’t go off! Brush a small amount of olive oil on each side of the steak and season liberally with salt and pepper. Once the pan is hot, cook the steak for 90 seconds to two minutes on each side. Then transfer the steak—in the pan—to the oven to bake at 325 degrees for five to seven minutes until medium-rare.
7. Marinate meat to fight cancer.
When you grill meat, compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) are created, according to Natural Medicine Journal. HCAs are considered carcinogens and are said to increase the risk of a cancer. However, marinating your meat in herb-infused mixtures, especially ones including rosemary, can decrease the formation of HCAs on your grill by up to 70 percent.
Try this simple, rosemary marinade for beef: Mix a half-cup of red wine vinegar, two tablespoons olive oil, a quarter-cup of chopped rosemary, two crushed garlic cloves and salt and pepper to taste. Marinate the meat for at least an hour, then drain and cook.
8. Grill some fruit for a sweet, surprising dessert.
Grilled watermelon, pineapple, peaches and plums are bursting with flavor: The grilling caramelizes their natural sugar, so the foods taste even sweeter. These delicious and refreshing fruits are packed with fiber and immunity-boosting vitamins. Plus, they are much lower in calories than the sad, melting fare you’ll usually find at a cookout’s dessert table.
Get grilling tips for a variety of different fruits right here on The Leaf! Check out this guide for 10 fruits that taste even better grilled. >
9. Don’t focus just on the food!
Sure, it’s a “cookout,” and burgers and dogs are delicious. However, it’s not the reason everyone’s together. We’re finally able to get together. So, have a plate and make sure it satisfies. Sit down, take your time and concentrate on the flavors and textures of these delicious cookout foods. In a recent study, published in the International Journal of Obesity, researchers looked at the eating habits of 60,000 people. They found that eating slowly can decrease the risk of obesity.
When you’re finished eating your healthy barbecue meal, put your focus on those around you. We’ve all been apart so long that this could be easier than ever. But make a point of remembering: This event is about food, yes, but it’s really about being together. So be present and be together (even if it’s six feet apart)!
10. Have a plan for the food and the leftovers.
In most places, the number of people who can gather will be limited in the coming months. Keep this in mind as you shop and cook: You only need enough food for 10 or less people, not for the normal 20 or 30!
But if spreading out a smorgasbord is in your cultural DNA, have a plan in place for the aftermath. Before guests arrive, figure out how many portions of each type of dish you can plan to add to your eating schedule in the following days. If there’s a favorite dessert, salad or entree you’re making, think about when it can fit into your plan. Keep the correct number of pre-measured portions for yourself and your family when guests leave. Then have containers ready for others to take the rest of the leftovers home with them. You’ll have pre-measured treats that fit your lifestyle, and less temptation to pull you off your plan in the days following the fete.