By Ali Kucich Brady, MSc, FNLP, FNTP, BCHHC, CHSC, Owner of Eighty Nutrition, Functional Medicine Nutritionist
Summer is rapidly approaching, and with our favorite season comes a host of social events that we look forward to all year. No one wants to sacrifice summer fun for strict eating protocols. On the flip side, a no-holds-barred, overindulgent summer is your ticket to weight gain. Over the next few newsletters, we’ll share tips and guidance from Ali Kucich of Eighty Nutrition on how to stay on track this summer while still enjoying all those upcoming outings on the calendar!
In this installment, Eighty presents a general guide to help you prevent putting on extra pounds this season and how to navigate the sea of unhealthy food and beverage choices that tend to dominate summer events such as barbecues, weddings and cocktail parties. Also included are suggestions and recipes for drinks and dishes to make and serve or bring to the event, that all the guests will appreciate and enjoy!
Summer can go off the rails for anyone, because:
Our meal and snack times often change
Our habits often get thrown off schedule
There are more social occasions with alcohol and snacks
Summer vacations = eating in restaurants and on the road
Follow these general principles for doing, eating, and drinking all the things without overdoing anything:
STRUCTURE: Just about everyone benefits from having some structure. Without a plan, you can find yourself snacking mindlessly all day – or not eating enough in the daytime and bingeing later. Take a little bit of time each Sunday to plan your week. When will you be home? When are you going out? What fun events do you have on your calendar?
PLAN THE INDULGENCES: No foods or drinks are off-limits, but we recommend building your indulgences into the week. Indulgences are foods and drinks chosen for fun, rather than nutrition. Look at your social schedule and decide when you’re likely to indulge. Regard your weekly consumption like a bank account, and only indulge when it is worth it. Choose healthier options at all other times.
EVADE THE SUMMER SLIDE: Don’t give yourself permission to overeat or overdrink until September. Indulgences happen, and they should. But don’t let a weekend of frozen cocktails at the beach and cotton candy on the boardwalk turn into a month-long affair. Return to healthy patterns the very next day. Saying “I’m not going to worry about it until summer is over” is a recipe for disaster.
CELEBRATE, THEN REIGN IT IN: Celebrate holidays like the Fourth of July. Remember it is a holiDAY, not a holiWEEK, or a HoliMONTH. Only allow yourself the actual holiday to splurge if you want, but keep to your plan for the rest of the days.
THE FOUR-DAY RESET: Consider taking an “Alcoholiday” Monday through Thursday, or even on one day of the weekend from time to time. Sadly, alcohol is chemically similar to sugar, so drinking it will set off the same insulin resistance that can promote weight gain.
COCKTAIL WINS: If you want to drink? Add ice and seltzer to your wine for a homemade spritzer, choose water for every second drink, and stick to clear liquors with zero or low-calorie mixers, like club soda with a citrus garnish.
Surviving the BBQ
It is tempting to skip meals early in the day when you know you have a BBQ feast ahead, however, approaching the buffet with a rumbling stomach makes it all too easy to over-indulge. Make sure you eat normally throughout the day. It is okay to eat smaller meals in anticipation as long as you eat. Eating will help you make choices that are more aligned with your actual desires than you would if you’re too hungry!
Contribute to the BBQ by bringing something healthy, like a lean meat, chopped veggies with hummus, fresh watermelon, or a green, leafy summer salad. If you bring guilt-free food, that’s one less item on the table with a big caloric question mark over it.
When you first get to a BBQ/event, take time to engage people in conversation instead of heading directly to the buffet line. Always eat everything off of a plate. This helps you see exactly how much you are eating vs. forgetfully snacking or sampling. This is called food amnesia.
Check out the various food options before you start putting food on your plate. Decide that you will have one plate of food, as you would have one plate of a meal at home. You do not have to feast like cattle at a trough.
Prioritize any favorite foods that you must have. All of those foods that you really look forward to around this time of year are the ones you should put on your plate first. These are your “high value” items. Decide which foods aren’t worth it. Put a small portion of your high value food on the plate first, then fill the rest of the plate with lean protein and available vegetables.
Avoid choosing fatty meats like sausages or hot dogs. Double up on lean proteins like grilled chicken, turkey burgers, pork loin, or fish. If you’re having ribs, opt for dry-rubbed with the BBQ sauce on the side. Create a healthier burger by only having half of a bun, or skipping it all together. Load your bunless burger with veggie toppings and pickles, or wrap it in lettuce.
A lot of BBQ sides are loaded with mayo and sugar. Choose green salads rather than mayonnaise-rich pasta or potato salads. If you want these items, put one small spoonful (like a teaspoon-size portion) on your plate for taste and flavor. Choose fresh lemon or vinaigrette rather than creamy dressings for your salads. Use limited mayonnaise, opting for mustard instead.
Avoid potato chips and opt for cut veggies for crunch. Opt for fresh fruit as dessert. Be particularly aware of mini-sized desserts, such as mini cupcakes and two-bite brownies, because these are easy to pop in your mouth without thinking. If you want an indulgent dessert, remember that it only takes three bites to satisfy a craving.
What to bring to the Barbeque
Whether you’re attending or hosting a summer BBQ or other event, here’s a list of recipes to help keep you (and your guests) on track without sacrificing flavor or fun!
Additional thoughts for surviving summer soirees, cocktail parties and weddings.
If the party is only serving appetizers and drinks, make sure to eat a small meal beforehand. Have a small amount of protein – it doesn’t have to be a huge meal since you know you’ll want something at the party. Many people tend to overeat when there are passed hors d’oeuvres. Before you leave home, have a legit pow wow with yourself to determine how much you feel comfortable eating.
What if it’s a dinner party that you’re going to? We still recommend not going starving. Have a small, balanced snack with some protein a few hours before you go, and you’ll actually be able to enjoy what you choose to eat.
Keep hydrating so you don’t end up overheated, dehydrated – or too drunk. A good rule of thumb is making every other drink a glass of water or club soda, and refer to the list of recipes below for lower alcohol and alcohol-free beverages as a great alternative to the traditional glass of wine or mixed drink.
Light Summer Cocktails and Mocktails
The following recipes for light cocktails and mocktails will help to keep you on track and enjoying your summer without sacrificing flavor and fun.
Ali is a board-certified functional medicine nutritionist and health coach, who helps clients optimize their hormonal health, restore their gut microbiome, and reduce inflammation with nutrition and lifestyle interventions. Her private practice, Eighty Nutrition, has helped hundreds of people achieve their peak state of awesome… mind, body, and soul.
Ali’s journey into the world of functional nutrition began twenty years ago when she was battling chronic health challenges that left her fatigued, sick, and in pain. In recovering her health, Ali came to understand that food and lifestyle interventions were at the core of optimal health and were the key to enhanced energy, healthy body composition, and overall wellness.
Ali holds degrees from Franklin & Marshall College, The London School of Economics, and Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. She has certifications from The Functional Nutrition Alliance, The Nutritional Therapy Institute, The Institute for Functional Medicine, and The Natural Gourmet Institute of Health and Culinary Arts. Ali has specialized training in functional hormonal health, autoimmune protocols, therapeutic nutritional supplementation, and functional blood chemistry analysis.
Ali supports clients across the country with science-based, 1:1 concierge-style nutrition protocols, as well as her seasonal group programs, the Real Food Reset and the 6-week bootcamp to break through bad habits and fad diets.