Do’s and Don’ts for Cookout Food

Summer is officially and finally here and, while gatherings will look different this year, we will still be finding opportunities to enjoy our favorite cookout foods. While summer should be a fun time, it can also be a very difficult time for those of us who struggle with our eating habits. We might feel like we need to say “no” to our favorite treats or might push ourselves to “makeup” for eating them or beat ourselves up for “falling off the wagon.” As we head into July 4th weekend and social distancing relaxes just a bit, I thought now would be a good time to share some tips to help you get through this time of year without food guilt.

Don’t – Obsess over your food choices

I know this one can be more easily said than done, but how can you enjoy yourself if you’re worrying about what you should and shouldn’t eat? My advice to you is to eat what you want to, but be mindful about it. Start with a reasonable portion and pay attention to your hunger and satiety cues. You absolutely do not have to finish what’s on your plate if you’re full and you absolutely do not have to go hungry if you don’t feel satisfied by your initial portion. Listen to your body.

Don’t – Deprive yourself of the food you want to eat

It is actually healthier for you to allow yourself that potato salad or that ice cream that you really want than to deprive yourself of it completely. Why? Allowing yourself those treats regularly will help you stay motivated about healthy eating, will help with your metabolism, and will help keep you from falling into the unhealthy diet cycle of deprivation and binging. Plus, you’ll just be happier 🙂 As I said above, agree to allow yourself those favorite treats, serve yourself a portion, and eat it mindfully so you can enjoy it.

Don’t – Try to compensate or overcompensate

Maybe the biggest “don’t” I have for you is don’t skip out on all the rest of your food for the day to compensate for what you will eat at your cookout. Likewise, don’t destroy yourself at the gym to “make room for” or “undo” what you ate. I can promise you these efforts will not have the positive effect you are looking for. Instead, it’s more likely that you will binge, overdo it, and feel awful after or hurt yourself. Plus, these tactics don’t reflect the way the body really works. You can’t “undo” calories consumed.

Do – Give yourself permission to indulge

Obsessing over not eating your favorite foods in majorly going to to dampen your day. Instead, give yourself permission to treat yourself without worrying about it. You might be surprised to know that most of my clients who give themselves permission to indulge actually find that they are less likely to overdo it and are more likely to enjoy their food and be satisfied by a reasonable portion of it.

Do – Stay hydrated

A lot of those foods we like so much at cookouts are really salty and can dehydrate you, as can the alcohol. Ironically, the more alcohol you drink, the more of those salty dehydrating snacks you’re likely to eat and vice versa. Make sure you drink plenty of water during your gathering to keep you feeling better and being safer.

Do – Make sure you have options

If you’re really stressed about not having any healthy options at a cookout for you to find a balance that you like, then bring your own. Bring some cut veggies and dip or a shrimp and avocado salad with serrano honey vinegar. Remember, the goal here isn’t to ONLY eat “healthy” foods, it’s to help relieve that stress and pressure you may feel about your eating habits.

Do – Practice portion control

Balance. Balance. Balance. Balance. Did you get that? Balance. As a nutrition coach, I can’t emphasize enough that the key to healthy living is balance. Does portion control mean that you should keep measuring cups and a food scale in your purse and use them to dish out your food? Um, no… obviously. What it does mean is don’t pile your plate to overflowing with all kinds of goodies. Use your hand portions or start small and get seconds as you feel you want to. The more that you put on your plate at once, the more likely you are to eat, and the more likely you are to get to that uncomfortably full point.

Don’t – Beat yourself up

So after all is said and done, you feel like you really overdid it. All those plans for proportionality went out the window and you’re not feeling great about it. So what? You’re human and it happens to all of us. Does that mean all is lost? No. Does that mean you’re off the wagon? No, because there is no wagon. We are always making progress – it’s a journey, not a road you’re on or off.

The worst thing that you can do in this situation is put yourself down for it. It’s that harshness with yourself afterwards, that will discourage you and put you off your goals. The best thing that you can do for yourself in this situation  is be gentle with yourself – say to yourself “well, that wasn’t my ideal outcome, but I’m not giving up on myself” and get right back at it. I’ve seen too many people defeat themselves by allowing one bad day to become a spiral and it’s not fair to yourself.

Download Your FREE Guide to Writing Your Food Story

Understanding where your eating habits came from is the first step to changing them. Download your free guide to writing your Food Story to dig in and start to understand your habits.


Enter your information below to receive yours!