Friday, July 1, 2011

Nutrition Integrity

Ahh…July 4th is just around the corner. Family, friends, bbq, fireworks and….what?!...too much junk food on the menu?!
Just because chips, soda, low quality meat and buns, and sugar-laden desserts are a traditional feast at July 4th picnics and gatherings, doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t buck that unhealthy tradition and start a healthy tradition of your own - keep your nutrition integrity intact this year - just do it!  We can still enjoy the celebration without sacrificing our health and hard work we put in at the gym or the great outdoors.    
Here are some easy tips to help you keep your nutrition/health goals and still enjoy the celebration:
1. Prepare a healthy dish to take with you to your bbq/picnic
This is where you could save yourself some serious setbacks. If you arrive to a bbq and there is nothing but mystery meat hot dogs, bags of oily chips, gobs of sugary desserts; you will at least have a healthy dish you can load on your plate. An easy dish to make would be a green salad with some added protein (dump a bunch of rotisserie chicken meat into any green salad – easy!). If you’re hosting a bbq, make a commitment to find healthy, no-sugar, no-grain versions of the foods you are preparing (this blog is loaded with awesome recipes and there are many, many other sites you can find online!).
2. Fill your plate with the healthiest foods first
Salads are a great place to start.  I’m speaking of the greens-variety of salad, not the high-calorie potato or whip-cream-filled jello salads (which should be avoided like Roseanne Barr singing the National Anthem!). If you choose salads with good oils and some protein, you will feel satiated and less likely to indulge in the other empty-calorie, low-nutrient foods.   Hopefully, there will be some source of protein (hamburger patty, ribs, chicken, salmon). Fresh fruit and raw veggies are also a great accompaniment.
3. Pass on the chips, crackers and bread
These are at just about EVERY bbq and picnic during July 4th – unfortunately – but you would be wise to skip these entirely. Refined carbs have no real nutrients, but contain plenty of empty calories and give deranged insulin signaling that contributes to our nation’s obesity rates and metabolic disorders.
Hamburger patties are more flavorful without the low-quality bun because it is not hidden under a mouthful of refined flour. If you layer it in between lettuce, tomatoes and avocados, you will be giving your body an incredible boost of nutrients without the health issues associated with the refined carbs.
4. Be smart about dessert
 If fresh, seasonal fruit is not something you want for dessert (really??), maybe concentrating on eating enough in your meal and skipping dessert might be something to consider.  No? I know two incredibly insightful people that have amazing nutrition integrity and they say it like it is - this article may make you see things differently.
Here’s another idea: remember the suggestion to take a healthy side dish? Why not take a dessert as well!
This one is simple and surprisingly delicious as a dip for fruit!
2 very ripe avocados (1/2 a fruit per person, minimum)
1/2 cup unsweetened cacao powder
1t or more cinnamon powder
Optional -  dates (sweetener)a pinch of cayenne, a splash of lemon or lime, a touch of vanilla, chopped berries, a mashed banana... The possibilities are endless!
Scoop out the flesh of the avocados, and combine with the cacao (and dates) with a blender or food processor.  Done!
Serve immediately, or chill in the refrigerator before needed. A wonderful, rich accompaniment for a fruit dessert, or almond/coconut flour crepes! Dip strawberries in this and....mmmm!!
5. Drink to your health
Have a water bottle with you wherever you go and you will likely hydrate your muscle tissues properly without adding needless calories and the insulin load that comes from sipping on the abundance of soda at bbq’s and picnics (don't even give me the lame "but it's a diet soda" excuse - we both know sugar is evil in that form as well)
Alcoholic beverages can be a part of a healthy lifestyle if handled responsibly. If you are smart about your choices, you can save yourself an entire days’ worth of calories (not to mention constraint!). But just in case you forgot, read this.
6. Don’t forget fun!
Rather than sitting for the entire day’s celebration, bring along a Frisbee or a football/volleyball and gather your friends for a friendly game of ultimate Frisbee, tag football or a simple game of volleyball.  Kids aren’t the only ones who should be having fun. Get up and move!

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