With the 4th of July behind us you may be feeling like you’ve had enough hotdogs, hamburgers and beers for the rest of the year! With that being said, the summer parties are likely not even close to over, so we want to help you celebrate and keep you satisfied until the leaves change. There are ample ways to keep your plate and belly full without overeating. Overeating can make you feel groggy and unmotivated. From feeling overstuffed to then craving a nap instead of a walk, we can all understand how the summer pounds pack on.  Instead of breaking out the elastic waist band shorts and full body beach cover up think about lightening up first.

Many summer meals revolve around grilled meats, we get it! But filling your plates and arteries with fatty red meats is a thing of the past. We know too much about the effects of eating too much red meat to turn a blind eye. When it comes to burgers think outside of the cow! From chicken burgers to turkey, salmon to veggie, there are so many other ways to stack a patty on your plate other than the regular ground round. Many grocery stores understand the struggle and will have premade options ready for you in the meat/deli section. A perfectly seasoned turkey burger with the right toppings is often way more delicious than a plain old burger and processed cheese anyway!

Speaking of toppings, you don’t have to settle for that orange square of cheese. Hit up your cheese section at the grocery store and there is always at least one real cheese on sale! Stuff your turkey burgers with fresh mozzarella or mix in spinach and feta for a Greek twist. Other toppings you may be forgetting are salsa with cheddar, grilled onions with a splash of balsamic vinegar and even a fresh ring of pineapple with some BBQ sauce can really add flavor and fun to your meal! Or even try goat cheese and pickled onions, olive tapenade, green apples with Swiss or the classic tower of lettuce and tomato.

Hotdogs have the same rule of thumb. Now you can find chicken, turkey and veggie dogs in just about any store. Read your ingredients to make sure they are a healthier option. They should be lower in fat and sodium and higher in protein and maybe even fiber if you are looking at a veggie option. There are many tasty options premade in the store that will have you satisfied far more than a plain hotdog on a bun with mustard! Look for chicken apple sausages, or turkey and spinach brats. There are so many options that you may even want to offer a variety at your next gathering. Pick up different toppings like pickles, sauerkraut, chopped cilantro, celery salt, relishes and even salsa!

When it comes to burgers and dogs you may feel like you aren’t at a BBQ unless you have some type of meat layered between two giant pieces of bread, but here’s the deal! Do you really even taste the bread? Is it making your meal the best ever? If yes, keep it! If not, save those carbohydrates for your favorite sides like potato or macaroni salad. Burgers are great on top of greens salad style or even just on a plate with a fork and knife. You’ll be saving on napkins and likely about 120-200 calories per burger or hotdog. Open face burgers are an easy way to start ditching the bun too. And if you still want it wrapped and easy to eat with your hands look for quality bread products that have some whole grains and fiber (those are what help you feel full too!) You may even like a high fiber wrap! Other options include lettuce wraps that are a fun way of eating with your hands but feeling a little better about your intake.

All this talk of burgers may have you thirsty, but let’s get real! Downing beers every weekend isn’t healthy or a good habit. Alcohol is filled with tons of empty calories and can lead you down a road of no return. Save your beer for a time you can really enjoy it and if you want a drink with your meal go for water or seltzer so you can enjoy the flavor of your grilled treat. You don’t eat a piece of cake with a milkshake do you? Then don’t drink your calories while you are eating them too. Save that beer for after your meal. Better yet, save your alcohol consumption for special events and/or no more than two times a week. Alcohol isn’t a necessity but water is. If you aren’t willing to drink water then you probably aren’t that thirsty and don’t need a beer either.

Summer is a perfect time to gather with friends in the backyard, at the park or beach and even at live music events. Nothing makes it better than sharing memories and laughs over a meal. Those meals don’t have to be unhealthy. Don’t feel weird or embarrassed to offer healthier options. Chances are others want to do the same too. Trying to offer healthier options is something we can all do to break the mold of just gorging on calorie and fat laden foods whenever we gather. As always don’t forget the fresh cut watermelon that is sure to go faster than a firework on the 4th of July. Let’s all commit to a healthier summer from here on out – let’s finish the summer healthier than we started! 

Mary Hoadley – Director of The Wellness Center