Picnic Panic: Tips for a Guilt-Free Celebration

For many, Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer filled with celebrations of all sorts.  Whether a hearty southern barbeque, Chesapeake-style seafood fest, or a traditional burger and dog affair, all of these feasts have the same things in common: sugar, salt, fat … and lots of it. These three seemingly innocuous ingredients can lead to serious health problems, from obesity to diabetes and even stroke.

Occasional indulgences are fine for most, but what if you worked hard all year to reach your fitness goals and don’t want to blow it?  Can you politely decline when Uncle Bob slaps a rack of his famous ribs on your plate and says, “Eat up kid!”?

Summer is certainly a time when many healthy habits are broken.  As wellness providers, we not only want to see you achieve your health goals, but also help you maintain them.  We’re here for you!  Whether you’re hosting the picnic or attending as a guest, here are some tips for celebrating without guilt.

Hosting?  Help out your health conscious guests.

  • Make sauces and dressings the sidekicks.  Allow your guests the choice.  Keep dressings off the salad, condiments off the meat, and sauces off the side dishes.  They can add the amount they want and not feel guilty about declining the dishes entirely.
  • Offer portion control.  Fruit cups or fruit kabobs are great for a taste of something sweet, and help eliminate the tendency to fill a whole bowl. Grilled kabobs with lightly marinated lean meats and veggies or veggies alone are other options for filling up without a bun.
  • Hydrate your guests.  Even if you have lots of fun beverages planned, offer plenty of water too.  Add some fruit to liven it up.  Your health-minded guests will thank you, and if it’s hot, this also offers protection against someone passing out in your yard…which is never a good thing.
  • Help the dippers.  Dips are favorites, but many are super high in fat and salt.  Offer some light options right next to traditional favorites.  Fresh salsa  or yogurt-based dips are yummy possibilities.

A guest?  Advice so you’re not tipping the scale on Tuesday.

  • Pick your indulgence.  It doesn’t usually work well to deprive yourself completely of your absolute faves.  Pick one “cheat” you are going to reward yourself with.  If you only get a chance to partake in Grandma Sally’s potato salad once a year, then by all means, go for it…in moderation, of course.
  • Eat like a bird.  Birds are smart.  They pick and choose.  They eat frequently, but in little bits, and they are pretty good at not stuffing their faces.  If you don’t want to miss out, have a little taste of everything, but spread it out.  You’ll find you are satisfied long before you would have been had you piled your plate up high and ate it all at once.
  • Don’t drink your calories.  It is AMAZING how many empty calories can be packed in some drinks.  Choose water or a spritzer over soda and heavy beverages.  If your favorite thing about summer is a frozen strawberry daiquiri with whipped cream, just peek at the caloric content of one of those and then perhaps bring supplies to make your own fresh light version.
  • Be truthful.  It’s ok to say “no thanks.”  “No thanks, I’m feeling full and skipping dessert today.”  Or, “No thanks, Uncle Bob.  The salad Mary made is awesome!  I’m going to have another helping of that.”  Enjoy the company.  Enjoy the weather.  But don’t be a whiner.  No one likes to be around the person complaining about what they can’t eat.  How you want to feel the next day is your choice!

For more advice and help achieving your health and wellness goals, be sure to visit Magee’s Health & Wellness Center at our Riverfront Outpatient Facility. It’s open to everyone in the community, and we’re here to help all who wish to pursue mind and body wellness in an individualized way. For more information, call (215) 218-3900.

We want to hear from you! Do you have any tips for making smart health decisions at summer celebrations?

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