Barbecue Tips: Make small positive choices that have big impacts

We are finally experiencing some great summer weather. That means safe, small groups of barbecues, boating, day-long hikes, camping, and all the various events of summer that get us out of doors for our little window of time when the weather can’t be beaten anywhere in the world than our little corner of the Northeast.  

As a kid, summer meant hot dogs, hamburgers (served on a delicious, squishy white bread bun of course) sweet corn, salt potatoes, macaroni salad, potato salad, and pies and cakes for dessert. Evening trips to the ice cream stand and walks to the corner store for soda and a treat is all memories from my childhood.  

It seemed easier then; portions were smaller, you got more for your pennies (there really was penny candy) and you ran it all off playing hide ‘n seek, red light, green light and catching lightning bugs in jars just as evening spread (yes, really!) until your mother yelled for you to come home.  


Most of us have those wonderful memories of summer no matter where we grew up.  Now, we are the adults trying to create those same memories for our own kids and hang on ourselves to a little piece of our childhood.  But, as adults, it’s not quite as easy to run off that food we ate at the party or wedding.  And also, as an adult, quite a few of us add the extra bit of indulgence in the form of alcohol. Just like the holiday season, it’s not hard to pack on some weight if we stop paying attention to what we are putting in our mouths.


Let’s start with a typical backyard barbecue plate of food; 4 ounces lean grilled hamburger on a bun (white bread), one ear of sweet corn with one teaspoon of butter, salt potatoes (5.3-ounce serving) with one tablespoon of butter, one-half cup each potato and macaroni salad and one small soft serve ice cream on a sugar cone(one-half cup) with two beers(12 oz) to wash it all down.

Summer Nights Freeman Formula

TOTAL CALORIES = 1,749

My, my, my! That’s the bulk of my calorie intake for the day!  The problem with meals like this is not just the calories.  It’s the quality of the calories.  In this meal, there is a whopping 364.36 grams of carbohydrates! 

My diet has only 101 grams of carbohydrates per day on it split between complex and fibrous.  There are some complex and some fibrous in this meal but there is also a lot of sugar in those carbs.  Any carbs that are converted into sugar that your body can’t use right away as an energy source will be stored as fat.  There’s also a notable lack of nutrition in this meal.  The beef, corn, and potatoes have some vitamins and minerals but the majority of the meal has lots of fat, carbs and sodium, and sugar.

So what’s a person to do?  Not enjoy summer at all?  Go to the backyard barbeque or other celebration and watch everyone eat while you break out your grilled chicken and steamed broccoli.  Well, sometimes you might have to if you’re trying hard to reach a goal.  But if you’re where you want to be in regards to your fitness goals there is a lot you can do to enjoy this meal without all the calories and carbohydrates.

First, know you can’t have one of everything on the buffet table.  Healthy and fit people always make trade-offs in these situations.  The lean hamburger is good.  There’s plenty of protein, vitamins, and minerals your body can use.  Lose the bun! 

In the absence of 100% whole wheat that moves more slowly through your system, unlike good fiber and vitamins and minerals, a white bun adds nothing but carbs and calories to the meal. Take the hamburger and put it over a green salad.  Most parties are going to have a green salad as people have become more health and diet conscious since I was a kid.  If you really want macaroni salad, bring a nice pasta salad to pass made with gluten-free pasta, a little olive oil, and lemon juice and lots of fresh chopped vegetables and herbs.  Get rid of anything mixed with mayonnaise.  Choose one carb or another, not one of every kind offered.  If you want pasta, then don’t have corn or potatoes. Time to grow up! You can’t have everything.  It doesn’t work that way for most of us when it comes to food. Cut the butter by half or two thirds.  No one needs a meal that has over a tablespoon of butter added to it. Try a light beer if you are really feeling like you would like a drink or two.  But if craft beer or liquor is your preference, cut down on the quantity.  Alcohol dehydrates your body and is devoid of nutrition.  

Your body stops doing certain body processes so that it can process alcohol instead.  When is it a good idea to tie up your body’s resources?  I would think not very often.  At least not so it can process alcohol.  Here is a big trade off-If you want to indulge in alcohol give up dessert or vice versa.  

Hey, no one said it was easy.  But making choices like these get easier and easier the more you practice doing it.  Someone at a party once asked me as they watched me fill my plate “What if you die tomorrow?  Have a piece of cake!  Live a little!” I told them I’ve had plenty of cake in my life but if I eat a piece at every party I go to I’ll have a better chance of dying tomorrow.  Don’t let people guilt you into eating food you don’t need.  

When I was a teenage girl, the adults always sat and talked at the family parties, while the children played.  It always seemed so boring to me.  I still like to get up and play when I go to parties.  Get up and dance at that wedding, walk around and talk to everyone, or bring something fun that adults can play too to help burn off that meal.  Hey, even a game of red light green light with the kids is still fun, even at 52 years old.