"I know people don't normally gear up for a barbecue to eat the salads and sides, but those are the most nutrient-dense, fibrous foods," explains Latham Thomas, founder of Tender Shoots Wellness. The New York-based fitness and nutrition consultant adds that we should pile our plates with green beans, corn on the cob and salads, and allot only 10 to 20 percent of our cookout meal for heavier foods like steak and chicken.
Thomas recommends you show up to the barbecue with 1-1.5 liters of water to sip on throughout the gathering. "If you aren't starving," she says, "you will be less likely to make poor choices about what to eat." When we haven't had enough water, she adds, we often confuse thirst for hunger and eat more than necessary. Foods naturally packed with water like cucumbers, celery and watermelon also keep us cool and hydrated while we're hanging outside (wearing protective sunscreen SPF 30 or higher, sunglasses, and a hat of course).
If you have a choice between a large plate or a salad plate, Thomas says pick the small plate. "We tend to super-size at every meal in this country, and in this instance less is certainly more," explains the certified holistic health counselor. Eating a smaller portion will allow you to determine if you really want that second helping of potato salad or if you'd rather leave room for dessert.
Yvonne Quinones Syto, MA, RD, CDE, IBCLC, advises to avoid alcoholic drinks with excessive sugars and syrups. "[For fewer calories] stick with beer or a small glass of wine or liquor mixed with seltzer or tonic and lime wedges," says the registered dietitian.
To guarantee you'll have something healthy to nosh on, says Syto, author of Nutrition Map: Your Guide to Eating Healthy in the Real World, bring a vegetable side dish or fruit salad to share.