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Natural Awakenings South Jersey

Summer – Hamburgers, Hot Dogs and Cookouts, Oh My!

Jun 30, 2014 12:16PM ● By Michele Marcinko

Summer can be a challenging time to stay healthy and on track with your weight. Maybe you worked really hard all winter to get in that bathing suit or are possibly still trying to get there? The weekends are packed with special events plus gatherings with your family in the backyard. Many of these celebrations are centered around food that might increase your waistline. Wondering how to avoid the pitfalls of indulging and still be satisfied? There are several ways to stay healthy and have fun at your next outdoor feast.

Ruin your appetite – The temptation to eat any food that is in front of you is amplified when you are already hungry. The best strategy is to eat a healthy snack or salad before leaving the house. This not only helps to avoid mindless eating but also keeps from indulging in that extra burger or helping of potato salad. Also, not eating all day before the barbeque in hopes of saving up all the calories for a big meal may actually work against you. Your metabolism slows down and you will overeat—not a good combination if that beach ready body is your goal.

Fill up on veggies – Summer is the best time of the year to fill your plate up with locally grown veggies. The vegetables eaten during the summer can be some of the most nutritious that you will eat all year long. Locally grown produce is packed with nutrients that are sometimes lost in the transportation process of produce grown elsewhere. Not sure if the host is serving local veggies? That’s OK, bring some along as everyone loves a juicy Jersey tomato. Look at your plate when you’re done loading up; if half of it isn’t veggies, then it’s time to give some of that potato salad to your Aunt Edna and make more room for the good stuff.

It’s all about the meat – Ahhh, the amazing smell and sizzling sounds of the grill. The protein choices at a typical barbeque are usually high in fat and low in nutrition. Conventional hot dogs and other processed meats such as sausage contain sodium nitrates which have been linked to many different ailments and an increased risk of cancer. Steer clear of the dog and grab something leaner like chicken or fish. Organic meats and wild caught fish are recommended but not always feasible if you are a guest. That’s fine. Be sure to always take just one serving of protein. This translates into a portion size equivalent to the palm of your hand. If you can’t resist having that burger, no problem, but set your intentions before you dig in. It’s best to skip the cheese and instead add a nice slice of that Jersey tomato, onion, lettuce or maybe even some of those veggies that are left on your plate.

Curb the calories the easy way – Celebrations can often mean empty calories from fruity drinks or alcoholic beverages. Instead try some water infused with refreshing fruits and herbs. Water with cucumber and mint or strawberries and basil tastes amazing. Mix up your own combination and put it into a reusable water bottle to keep your body hydrated and healthy. If partaking in some libations is an absolute must just make sure they are not loaded with unnecessary fruit juices which is mostly sugar or high fructose corn syrup.

Now that you know the ins and outs of how to keep yourself on track with your health goals, it’s time to host your own guilt-free backyard barbeque for your friends and family. Enjoy!

Michele Marcinko is a Certified Holistic Health Counselor and co-owns Halo Wellness Center, in Marlton, NJ, with her husband, Robert. For more information, call 856-574-4433 or visit

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