The Fourth of July congers up a variety of sensations: the smell of the grill, the sounds of family members laughing, the taste of a good hot dog and the vision of fireworks overhead. The Fourth is a day to spend time with those we care about, honoring those who gave us the freedom to do so. Unfortunately, all too often we confuse the enjoyment we find in spending time with our family and friends with the necessity to let go of our fitness and health goals, not realizing we can absolutely enjoy the holiday without feeling sick the next day!
A typical Fourth of July cookout is going to have a variety of food options available. Of course, there will be the traditional grilled hamburgers, brats and hot dogs (we are in Wisconsin after all). In addition to the grilled meat options, other staples include potato salad, pasta salad, chips and dip, and it is all usually topped off with ice cream or s’mores. With all of these delicious choices, it may seem like a losing proposition, but you can enjoy yourself without over-indulging!
Let’s start with the basics…
If you can, volunteer to bring meat to grill. If you are in the mood for red meat, try to choose 93% lean and/or grass-fed if possible. If you are eating conventionally-raised meat, the best bet is the leanest you can find. When eating grass-fed, a higher content of fat isn’t such a bad thing it actually contains a fairly good amount of Omega 3 fatty acids which are essential fats that we all need more of.
If you are feeling the need for a sausage, look for chicken or turkey brats as these will contain less inflammatory fats. The taste is pretty similar to a pork brat, but be careful, they don’t need to be cooked as long! Hot dogs can also be of higher quality, especially if you choose grass-fed beef hot dogs, which are available at most grocers.
Now, don’t let your meat be lonely! Feel free to pile on the sauerkraut and pickles, as fermented veggies such as these are great for your digestion. Also, adding fresh tomato and lettuce are always a good choice. If you are worried about maximizing nutrition while minimizing calories, eat your burger, brat or dog without a bun.
What about side dishes?
For side dishes, small servings of potato salad or pasta salad (the amount you could fit in the palm of your cupped hand) aren’t going to break the calorie bank, but ideally the majority of your side dishes will be raw or cooked vegetables, green salad or fresh fruit. If a green salad isn’t offered, you can always use extra lettuce and tomato to accompany your meat choice. Keep an eye on grazing as well. It is often very easy to over-eat “snack” items and never realize how much you have actually eaten. Try to eat a meal and avoid mindless munching throughout the day.
Everyone deserves a treat…
When it comes to dessert, the options are endless, but there are a few that will have less negative impact than others. Specifically, fresh berries and cream is a wonderful option that will give you a high amount of nutrition with a lower calorie count. If you need something a little sweeter, a small serving of sorbet can also be a good choice. If you really feel the need for some chocolate, a s’more using four squares of chocolate, one half graham cracker and one jumbo marshmallow can be the best way to end your meal.
At Vita we hope you all enjoy your Fourth of July celebrations and take time to appreciate those who sacrificed themselves to allow us our freedom. During the celebration, feel free to enjoy the foods you love, but make the best choices you can to stay on track with your fitness goals. We look forward to helping you continue to maximize your health and fitness, and if you haven’t yet started on a fitness program, we would love to be your partner in the journey.
Written by Colleen Baughn, OTR, CES