Summer. According to everything that is true in my world, it’s hands-down the best season of the year. I love soaking up the hot weather, enjoying all the fresh food summer has to offer, and spending my days getting salty on the beach. When I think of summer, I think of backyard BBQs, ice cream cones, and hanging out with friends. I’m so obsessed with it that if you don’t like summer, I don’t think we can be friends.
BBQs might be an American summer pastime, but the standard, go-to food (read: hamburgers, hot dogs, ribs, potato chips, and pasta salad) doesn’t exactly help your weight loss goals - or your long-term health. Summer should make us feel vibrant, alive, and glowing. If you’ve ever left a BBQ feeling bloated and overstuffed, it’s time to upgrade.
When it comes to weight loss and social events, the well-worn solution for many women is to say “I can’t.” I can’t eat out. I can’t have that ice cream. I can’t go to that birthday party. We’ve been conditioned to think that when it comes to social events, we have one heartbreaking choice: either go to the party and throw your diet to the wayside or don’t go at all.
If you ask me, that’s no way to live your life.
I want you to live life to the fullest while also staying healthy, warding off chronic disease, and heck, feeling awesome. You deserve that.
How about we upgrade that standard BBQ food to something that keeps you anchored to your healthy lifestyle, makes you feel energized and full of life, AND allows you to enjoy time with family and friends?
Because really, what would summer be without gathering around a grill? Here’s how to create a healthy summer BBQ.
Bring the food you want to eat
BBQs are most often potlucks, with each person bringing a dish to share. When you’re losing weight and living a healthier lifestyle, don’t rely on others to make food for you. Instead, bring a couple healthy options for yourself, with enough to share.
Rethink the Hamburger
Ever made a veggie burger? I’m not talking about Beyond Burgers, which are made with pea protein, a whole bunch of oil, and potato starch. I mean simple homemade, black bean burgers. Before you give me a giant eye roll (this girl wants me to make a what?), hear me out.
If you’ve got a food processor and a stovetop, veggie burgers are simple to make. You know I love making batches of food, so this is a recipe you can make once and have all week. Or freeze what’s left until your next summer BBQ. Yes, please.
Black beans, bell peppers, onion, a whole bunch of spices and 20 minutes later, you’ll have these delish black bean burgers.
If you’re not into the idea of making veggie burgers, how about picking up a filet of wild-caught salmon to throw on the grill instead? Compared to red meat, salmon contains far less saturated fat and cholesterol, which have been shown to increase your risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Plus you get the benefit of Omega 3 fatty acids. Brush some olive oil and throw a little salt + pepper on top, then bring a lemon to squeeze on afterwards. Simple!
If you’re going to a BBQ at someone else’s house, it can feel daunting to hand over your veggie burger to the Grill Master (we all know every good summer party needs a GM). If not done tactfully, it can send a message that you’re turning down the food they graciously made.
My advice? Be casual and quiet about it. Saying, “hey, wouldja mind throwing this salmon/veggie burger on for me? I’m not so into meat these days” is the best approach.
Be creative with the grill
Speaking of GM’s, who says burgers and hot dogs are the only things that go on a grill for a summer BBQ? Here are three super easy sides to throw on:
- Starting with my favorite: pineapple rounds. Grill them for a couple minutes each side. They caramelize a bit on the grill, making it a perfect sweet side.
- Marinate portobello mushrooms in balsamic vinegar + salt and pepper for anywhere between 10 minutes and 4 hours beforehand, then throw them on the grill
- Grill sliced zucchini rubbed in olive oil. Just don’t leave it for too long or they’ll get mushy.
Bring a fresh corn salad
Nothing screams summer like corn on the cob, so why not toss it into a salad? Boil (or grill) a couple cobs of corn, cut it off the cob, then add some halved cherry tomatoes, avocado, red onion, lime, salt and pepper. You’ve just made the most summery salad ever.
Upgrade your summer drink
Lemonade might be a classic summer drink, but if you’ve ever made it from scratch, you’ll probably never forget the feeling of pouring that much sugar into the pitcher. I’m all about the occasional lemonade, but an even better go-to summer drink?
Frozen watermelon mojitos.
These are what I dream about in the wintertime. It’s not an exaggeration to say they’ll make you an instant convert. Here's how you make ‘em.
This makes two full glasses of mojitos.
- Half a watermelon
- ½ cup fresh lime juice
- 10 sprigs of fresh mint
- 3-4 ounces of rum if you want a party. Omit if you want to keep them virgin (which are amazing too)
Cut a watermelon in half. Cut off the rind, then cut it into cubes. Put the cubes in a gallon bag and freeze (I like to squeeze some of the juice out of the bag first so it makes removing them easier once frozen). Freeze.
Remove from freezer once frozen. Add 4 cups of frozen watermelon (let’s not lie, I eyeball it), lime juice, fresh mint, and rum to a high speed blender. Blend until done. Add a fresh mint sprig and a straw to your glass if you’re fancy.
Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen.
It’s party time!
Are you starting to see how your only options when it comes to summer barbecues aren’t “I’ll go, overeat, and feel horrible after” or “I won’t go at all”? I know it’s tempting to have this black-and-white, all-or-nothing thinking, but I want to challenge you to find the balance this summer. Finding the happy medium is what long-term health is all about.
The good news? You don’t have to be perfect. Just start by focusing on these few upgrades that make a big impact.
So go, enjoy your summer BBQs AND stay on track with your weight loss. Yes, you can have both.
Looking for more tips on how to navigate summer while living healthy? I’ll be sending out ideas every other week. JOIN HERE.