Memorial Day signals the kick-off to the summer season; a time for backyard barbecues, picnics, bonfires and pool parties. Unfortunately, for the waistline this can mean an array of heavy pasta salads, decadent meats, sugary cocktails and indulgent desserts.
The truth is, warmer weather, birthdays, holidays – regardless of the time of year, there’s always going to be temptation that will lead the most disciplined eater to veer off the healthy path.
Living healthfully means that you have to learn to be able to navigate social situations without throwing healthy eating out the window. The good news is that you don’t have to be deprived of delicious food. You can start this season right by skipping your typical calorie-laden fare and experimenting with new and healthy party foods that everyone will love. Let’s break it down by course.
The appetizer selection sets the mood for any party, but it can also be a minefield of calories. Select light and healthy appetizers that won’t fill you or your guests up before the main meal.
- Shrimp Salsa: At only 26 calories per serving this light and refreshing dip packs a protein punch that would go perfect with homemade tortilla chips.
- Spiced Sweet Red Roasted Pepper Hummus: Hummus is always a satisfying treat and this recipe takes it to a new level with and the addition of roasted red peppers and a kick of spice. Serve this dip with a veggie tray to add a bit of crunch.
- Veggie and/or Fruit tray: It doesn’t get any easier than a veggie/fruit tray, this light and low calorie starter also doubles as dippers for other dishes.
The grill is one of the simplest stages for healthy eating with limitless possibilities for delightful meals. Seriously, grilled food is the best and one of your healthiest avenues of cooking. Tasty and full of flavor, it would be hard for anyone to say “no” to a meal fresh off grill.
- Sugar-Free BBQ Sauce This tangy recipe would go great on grilled chicken breast or pork tenderloin medallions. The sugar is replaced with stevia extract to maintain that traditional sweetness without the extra calories of sugar.
- Grilled Portobello Mushrooms with Balsamic Veggies on the grill are fantastic and this is the perfect option for your veggie lover guests or those with a more adventurous palate. Portobello mushrooms are a hearty, tasty replacement for meat and is significantly lower in fat and calories.
Side dishes are a great way to show off you culinary skills without too much effort. You can get creative or stay traditional and still keep it healthy.
- Spicy Fiesta Slaw The spicy slaw keeps the calories low by using low-fat mayo and replacing the sugar with stevia. Not only that, but adding a good dose of spice to your food is a good way to keep your portion size moderate.
- Summer Salad A refreshing salad filled to the brim with nutrients from tomato, avocado, fresh corn, and greens. Top this salad with homemade sesame dressing using stevia.
Wash it All Down
Beverages. Probably the most silent calorie monster of them all! Calories consumed in beverages easily go unnoticed, but add up very quickly. Here are some options so that you save your calories for the main event.
- Strawberry Lemonade Nothing says summer like freshly squeezed lemonade. This recipe takes it up a notch by adding strawberries and cuts the sugar with stevia. You can make the virgin version or add a splash of vodka for an adult cocktail.
- Mojito What would be a better use of mint from your herb garden than a delightful mojito? Also another low-sugar option for you and your guests.
The Grand Finale-Dessert
Since all the food choices have been light and healthy, there will be plenty of room for dessert.
- Fruit Pizza Fruit Pizza is such a visually stunning dish. Its rainbow of fruits will certainly impress all your guests (and it’s only 120 calories per serving)!
That completes a lavish (and easy) party menu that won’t make you hesitant to step on the scale in the morning. Now enjoy a guilt-free Memorial Day and summer eating season.
Carolyn Reynaud, MS, RD, LD is a licensed registered dietitian and a paid contributor to SteviaBenefits.org. She received her BS in nutrition from Michigan State University and her Masters and Certificate in Public Health from Georgia State University. She has experience working in several avenues of health care including corporate wellness, clinical disease management, research, and health promotion. She has been working as a health coach specialist for close to 6 years, where she counsels patients on preventative healthcare and helps them meet their health goals. Follow her on Twitter @ReynaudCari.