Photo: People Grilling at the Beach

by Tandis Bishop

Grilling and BBQs are synonymous with summer.  Enjoy this quick and easy guide to fun summer picnics with your health in mind:

AS THE GUEST - Here are some tips to help you make healthy choices when attending summer parties.

Fill up on the healthiest food first. Begin by eating the fresh salads and other vegetable and fruit dishes. Raw fruits and vegetables will have enzymes which aid digestion and the fiber will help curb your hunger so you end up eating less of the richer, high calorie foods.

Use the smaller plates. Parties will usually have smaller dessert or salad plates available. Use them to help you eat less, as it will make your plate appear full with less food.

Bring a healthy dish. Healthy dishes can be scarce at some BBQ picnics. So bring a healthy dish that everyone can enjoy. It assures that you will have at least one healthy item on your plate!

Eat mindfully. Chatting with friends and enjoying the day’s events may distract you from proper eating habits and cause senseless or excessive eating. Eat slowly, take time to chew, put your fork down with each bite. Know and identify what is on your plate. Be aware of when your hunger is satisfied to prevent over-eating.

AS THE HOST - Center your menu on more plant foods with fresh vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains.

Fresh fruits and vegetables: Dress your picnic up with lots of healthy summer fruits and vegetables including veggie kebobs, fruit kebobs, fruit salads, and fresh green salads. Take advantage of the summer harvest with fresh watermelon, lychee, mangos, papayas, and berries!

Legumes and high protein plant meats: Make your entrée lower in calories by using high protein legumes, veggie meats, and grains for a tasty, heart healthy dish. In place of a standard burger, meatless patties are great for easy grilling.  Try veggie, soy, or taro burgers, meatless hot dogs and sausages.  Zest up your grill with new options like marinated tempeh, smoked tofu, or portabella mushrooms.

Try this recipe for yummy Grill Ready Veggie Burgers.

The whole grains and nothing but the grains: We all know the benefits of whole grains. Keep the healthy momentum by choosing whole grain or sprouted burger and hot dog buns and whole grain pasta noodles for summer pasta salads. Whole-grain gluten-free grains, breads, and wraps are also available at Down to Earth for those choosing gluten-free.

Visit our website for more tasty, healthy recipes.