8 Tips to Help You Enjoy your Labor Day BBQ

Holidays are all about taking a break, relaxing and enjoying friends, family and food. But you can still have fun without sacrificing your healthy habits or the hard work you’ve put in to get in shape.

It’s not easy when you’re surrounded by great snacks and deserts. But making healthy choices will affect more than just your waistline.

High sugar drinks, including alcohol, fire up inflammation, which leads to increased aches and pains and contributes to that stiff neck, sore shoulder or low back that goes out after a long weekend of indulging.

Processed foods are loaded with added sugar, sodium, fat and artificial ingredients that contribute to high blood pressure and obesity, and are scientifically designed to make you overeat.

Transfat (found in cakes, cookies, and chips) and other Omega 6 fats (like corn and cottonseed oil)increase inflammation and contribute to lifestyle related diseases like cancer, diabetes and heart issues.

But have no fear… Health experts Dr. Wayne Andersen, medical director of Take Shape for Life; Cristina Rivera, a registered dietitian and president of Nutrition In Motion PC; and writer Alexandra Sifferlin have shared some tips below for enjoying Labor Day without triggering a BBQ hangover on Tuesday.

Five tips for surviving the BBQ: 

  1. Stay away from white bread and buns: Filling upon high glycemic index foods like potato chips, ice cream, sodas and full-calorie beers spikes insulin and opens the floodgates for fat storage, according to Dr. Andersen.“Most guys don’t realize that insulin, not testosterone, is the key hormone in the body. It determines your rate of aging, level of inflammation and whether your body is in a fat storage or burning mode,” says Andersen. “White bread causes a spike in your insulin and makes your body store fat. Switching white bread for whole wheat or Gluten-free buns can keep the fat at bay and help control insulin.”
  2. Grill lean meats: Lowering your fat content can decrease your overall calorie intake. “Fewer calories equals less barbecue belly,” says Andersen. “Eating grilled meats like the ones your buddies serve at cookouts is okay as long as you remove excess fat and watch how and what they’re grilled with.” Most cookouts offer a variety of meats, so choose the leanest cuts of beef, chicken and pork whenever possible.
  3. Practice portion control: There are a variety of strategies for cutting back at the grill. For example, eat 1/4-lb. burgers (made with extra-lean ground sirloin) instead of 1/3- or 1/2-lb. patties, or split a steak with your friend.
  4. Load up on grilled veggies:“Fill half your plate with veggies so as to avoid overdoing it on the higher-calorie options,” Rivera advises. “The fiber will help to fill you and if you want seconds, be sure to fill your plate the same way.”
  5. Don’t skip meals to try to “save” calories for later:According to Rivera, this will lead to overeating and lead you to make poor choices due to hunger and low blood sugar.

Three tips for getting some exercise while still enjoying the cookout:

It’s a holiday, but that doesn’t mean you get a pass on working out.

“Get physical activity so that you can balance calories consumed with calories used,” says Rivera.

You can make it fun by organizing a relay race in a local park or at a backyard BBQ, going swimming if you’re at the beach or a pool, or taking a walk or bike ride instead of driving to see nearby friends.

Of course, you’ll want to be wary of the heat. Be sure to stay hydrated and avoid exercising outside at peak temperatures.

“There are several ways to burn calories without having to do strenuous activity in the heat,” says Andersen. He recommends engaging in what he calls non-exercise activity thermogenesis, or NEAT, which consists of movements we make throughout our day. Here are some easy ways to burn calories without overheating:

  1. Dancing:Or, specifically, samba. Andersen says performing samba dance-like movements that are extensions of your body’s natural movements is a fun way to burn calories. You can burn as much as 100 calories a day. Why not get down to some patriotic tunes?
  2. Standing: The potential to burn 120 additional calories a day is possible by simply standing, says Andersen. Standing instead of sitting on the sofa with friends can easily increase caloric burn. (NOTE: While you’re stranding, be aware of your posture. A good tip is to stand with your hands interlaced behind your back, which allows you to recondition better posture, while opening up the muscles in the front of your shoulders that tend to pull you forward and contribute to slouching. This can also count as an exercise, as it’s not easy to stand up straight, but it’s very important to your overall health and appearance.)
  3. Strolling:This refers to walking any time you’re not expressly walking for exercise. For example, you can walk around the house while you’re on the phone instead of sitting and talking. Same goes at work: get up and go talk to a co-worker rather than using e-mail, walk around the office every so often, make a habit of using the farthest restroom. You could burn as many as 10 to 300 extra calories a day.

That’s it. Now go enjoy the parties and your time with family and friends.But make small choices that won’t leave you regretting all that fun for the next few weeks.

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