Summer is officially here. For at least three solid months, weekends will be jam packed with parties, barbeques, weddings and gatherings of all types with one common denominator – food. If eating healthy is a priority for you, it does not mean that fun and enjoyment of good food have to go out the window. After all, a healthy lifestyle is all about balance. That being said, how does one go about finding balance between healthy choices and not giving up good-tasting foods? The following might be of help to you.
Choose your ingredients wisely
If you are hosting a party, then you have almost full control of the menu, so take full advantage! To lessen the work for yourself, make it pot-luck format. Make a list of ingredients and either have your guests choose a category that they prefer to bring, or assign them. Either way, the point is to have a wide variety. The list should include: vegetables (salads, grilled veggies, or just veggie platters), protein (be sure to include chicken, fish and shrimp), carbs (corn, sweet potatoes count as carbs, not vegetables), fruits (fruit platter, salads, or even grilled fruits on skewers), and desserts to satisfy those with a sweet tooth. Make sure to leave dessert until the end. This way, you will already have filled up with healthy foods, leaving less room for sweets. Also, eating a little dessert after a healthy meal helps to take the guilt out of the pleasure.
If, however, you are ambitious enough to take on the responsibility of providing for all the dishes, you would have even more control. In addition to what to cook the method of cooking also makes a significant difference. For example, steaming, baking and grilling, are preferred over deep-frying. When it comes to preparing desserts, you can choose to make fruit salads. However for those weekend dessert-chefs out there, it doesn’t mean you can’t make “real” desserts. You can just make a few changes such as the following:
- replace butter with coconut oil
- use whole wheat flour instead of white flour
- add brown sugar where white sugar is called for
- use less of sugar all together
- replace sugar with stevia, guava syrup, maple syrup or fruits (banana, mango, pineapples etc.)
- use dark chocolate chips instead of milk chocolate ones
These are just a few ideas, those of you who are experienced with healthy baking, you would likely have even better tricks up your sleeves.
Proportions is key
When choosing what goes on your plate, feel free to sample a bit of everything to keep things interesting. However, how much of each food item is what’s important. As a rule of thumb, ALWAYS ensure that ½ of you plate is filled with veggies, and no more than ¼ is carbs, (that is right, corn and potatoes, even sweet potatoes belong to this category, along with rice and pastas of course). When selecting your meats, cut off any visible chunks/strips of fat, and do try to resist the temptation of eating the chicken skin (this is why chicken wings should be avoided, or at least minimized).
Control what you can
All the above being said, it is not always possible to have all the choices available. It is possible that parties only have chips, hotdogs, burgers, pies, cakes and alcohol. Also, what would you do if the menu is set for you, along with the portion sizes? In situations like these, two things you can do are as follows:
First, don’t feel badly about leaving some food on the plate. Usually meals that have already been portioned out for you, contain mostly carbs (rice/ pasta etc.). Simply eat the vegetables, and the lean part of the proteins. And eat only half of the rice, pasta, or mashed potatoes.
Second, if you know you will have very little control over what’s being served at an event, then make sure you don’t go there hungry. Eat something in advance, maybe a salad, with chicken strips or fish on the side. When ravenously hungry, you are much more likely to eat food higher in sugar and fat content, and less likely to be choosey. In other words, hunger will push you to eat whatever that is available, especially if they are NOT so healthy. Also, it will be so much easier to say “no” to foods on a full stomach. See, it is possible to have both a healthy and enjoyable summer!
Blog brought to you by: Lei Gui, BSc ND, Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine, Active Natural Health 905.425.2888