When the weather is fab and the days are long, the thing to do is this: fire up the grill, round up your family and friends, and feast. Everybody loves a barbecue. But if you’re trying to watch your weight, big food spreads may actually induce stress—and that’s a problem. Fortunately, we’ve got fixes.
Fix #1: Pay attention to portions. Use these 3 memorable points of reference:
• A tennis ball or baseball = about 1 cup (or use your clenched fist as a rough estimate). This measure is useful for scoopable sides (think: potato, pasta and bean salads). If you’re trying to keep a cap on calories, aim for 1 cup total of these side dishes.
• Your cell phone (provided you’ve upgraded since 1999) = about 3 ounces meat. (The other oft-cited reference for 3 ounces of meat is a deck of cards.) This measure is useful for steak, chicken and fish.
• Your thumb = about 1 tablespoon. This measure comes in handy when you’re trying to estimate dressing or a spread. Most full-fat salad dressings have 50 to 100 calories per tablespoon (creamy ones fall toward the higher end); mayo (at 100 calories per tablespoon) is another one to watch. Choose reduced-fat varieties, which usually have half the calories, whenever you can.
Fix #2: Fill up on vegetables first.
• Eat loads of green salad—with a couple of tablespoons of dressing, preferably one that’s lower in fat.
• Crunch on the crudités—go easy on dips—instead of chips.
Fix #3: “Prioritize” your favorite food—like this.
• If you’re dying for a big cheeseburger, get in line at the grill. Stick with a green salad or grilled vegetables and fruit as sides.
• Not so big on buns? Go for grilled chicken, fish or tofu on top of greens and spend that starch serving on a scoop of the creamy potato salad you truly love.
• Have a piece of lean protein (chicken, fish), grilled vegetables and a healthy side (1/2 cup or so of baked beans or a bean salad) so you can indulge on dessert.
Fix #4: When you’re finished, go play.
• Start tossing a ball with the kids.
• Rally the adults to play badminton or some other outdoor game. The point is to have fun and enjoy some physical activity to pull yourself away from the table.