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Summer Celebrations: Building Healthy Menus With Enjoyment!

Right around the corner is Father's Day, followed closely by 4th of July. It's not uncommon to see even more celebrations during the summer including family reunions, birthday parties, and much more! While most of us use the summer to "get back into shape" we often find ourselves over-indulging on treats, tasty alcoholic drinks, or calorie dense BBQ foods that may defeat our summer health goals. Keep in mind that building a healthy menu for your get together can help you achieve your health goals AND still have fun.

Here is a 5-step process on how to build a healthy menu:

1. Pick a protein.

Chicken, fish, lean red meat, and even beans or legumes can be great protein sources. Protein adds satiety to meals and keeps us from snacking mindlessly.

Try this Three Bean Salad recipe to add some protein to your meal:

2. ALWAYS add 1-2 servings of vegetables.

Featured either as the main dish or a side, they are high in fiber (which keeps us full, and also prevents mindless snacking) and low in calorie which can help keep our intake balanced.

Try this Cucumber Watermelon Salad recipe to add some veggies to your menu.

3. Choose a whole grain side.

Brown rice, quinoa, bulgur, oats, couscous, whole wheat rolls, you name it. Add some whole grains to your meal. This also provides fiber (to fill you up).

4. Use fruit for dessert.

Who says you can't have dessert at your gathering? Do it the healthy way by adding fruit as the dessert. Packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber, this also helps keep you full and satisfies that sweet tooth. Grill some peaches and add them on top of low-fat vanilla ice cream or yogurt, make a blueberry cobbler, or simply serve fruit with a low-fat yogurt dip.

Try these Grilled Fruit Kabobs for your dessert menu.

Another fun way to use fruit is by adding it to your main dish!

Try this delicious Blueberry BBQ Sauce on grilled chicken or vegetables.

5. Avoid "drinking your calories".

First, limit alcohol to 1-2 servings per day (for women, it is 1, for men it is 2).

Second, try serving fruit-infused water instead of soda, lemonade, or sweetened tea. Chop up your favorite fruits, vegetables, or fresh herbs, and add them to a pitcher of water with ice. Good combinations include cucumber & mint, orange & basil, and lemon & thyme.

Also, remember to keep your gatherings active by providing lawn games or simply getting up to talk to every person who is there. Avoid sitting for long periods of time.


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