Eating Healthy at BBQ’s, Tailgate Parties, and All Your Outdoor Gatherings

Interview with Rita Larsen, Elite Sports Clubs Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Counselor

Summer and fall are great times to enjoy eating outdoors with friends and family. Who doesn’t love the smell at a barbecue, or the fun of a tailgate party or picnic? However there are definite ways to make these outdoor feasts healthier for everyone.

Rita Larsen, RD, CD, dietitian for Elite Sports Clubs, who has hosted many outdoor picnics and barbecues, has some tips for these outdoor festivities.

Grilling BBQ Tailgate

Since there have been some questions on how safe barbecuing actually is, Larsen suggested a safe way of barbecuing is to slow cook the meat until it is very well done. Larsen gives this great shortcut, “prepare what you are going to barbecue indoors in an oven, slow cooking it at 250 to 275 degrees and finish on the grill, then there is no burning fat on the meat. If you are going to serve it somewhere else then you can still cook it for several hours at home. In both instances you can then brown it with the sauce on the outdoor grill itself. Keep it cool on the way to the site of the outdoor feast. Always cover with aluminum foil.”

Larsen gave added tips for safety. “Keep meat about to be barbecued in a safe condition. Place it as high as possible on your racks. Use as little fat as possible to grill with and don’t char it, which could be carcinogenic. Research shows that with charring comes HCA, which are carcinogens. Charred meat is no longer chic.” She added, “Cook on grayer briquettes and hold a nice heat.”

For healthier grilling she suggested using fish, rather than beef and poultry. “Lightly oil grill with canola oil, as it lasts longer than olive oil, and keep temperatures low.” A clean grill is also paramount. “Scrape off black residue with a brush after each use.”

Larsen said that just about anything could be grilled. She suggested that vegetables should be moistened and soft. Marinade food just before you cook. However barbecue sauce can be put on afterwards. Put corn on the top shelves of the grill.”

Grilled Pineapple Peaches

A surprisingly wonderful treat, Larsen suggested, was grilling pineapple and peaches. “They taste sweet like candy. They are absolutely delicious.”

So many people today are vegetarians, so it’s a good idea to inquire ahead of time if any of your guests are in that category. If you’ll have vegetarian or vegan guests there are a number of such products you can buy or you can even make your own veggie patties.

Larsen added a couple more safety tips. “Try not to use gasoline as a fire starter, for health reasons. Also always try to keep any perishable food you are transporting cooler than forty degrees.”

Larsen strongly suggested discarding any perishables instead of bringing them home. “If they are out in the heat or in bright sunlight beyond a couple of hours, you’re taking a big chance bringing them home. It would be a heck of a risk, especially with all those spoons in and out. The food starts to break down.”

If you can keep it from melting, Larsen said that “the best desert is ice cream, for health and nutritional value as well as taste.”

Larsen also cautioned people about overeating at outdoor feasts. “Eat what you think your system can handle. A client of mine actually felt ill after overeating at a rich Texas barbecue.”

Serious Barbecue Book Adam Perry Lang

She also explained that though “tailgate food, picnic food, and certainly our favorite BBQ is the highlight of summer cuisine, it does not need to be high in calories, fats, sugars, or salts. Many families today want to cut the calories of outdoor foods, simply by searching cookbooks for the best taste with the least caloric output. In his book, “Serious Barbecue,” author Adam Perry Lang, encourages cooks to use, among other things, wine, seasonings, and herbs to enhance the taste of good pieces of meat. I recently tried a flatiron steak marinated in red wine. It had a wonderful flavor, it was lean but chewable, and the combination of flavors was memorable.”

Adding, “Too often, we resort to quick combinations of flavors, such as bottled BBQ sauces and prepared salads, or store-bought desserts, which really drive up those calories. However, if you are a seasoned cook, you can often taste the preservatives and extra fat that have been added to picnic deli foods that keep them on the grocer’s shelf for weeks. Consider making these substitutions for your next events. Switch to oven baked-off meats with basic seasonings, adding a little BBQ sauce of your own rather than to use a heavy, sweetened sauce bought off the shelf.”

“Make your own coleslaw with fresh lime juice,” Larsen suggested. She felt that it would be much healthier than deli coleslaw and potato salad, both which have added preservatives. “Making your own will have fewer calories, and be fresher in taste. You can even add the light mayo at the outdoor event. Make homemade potato or pasta salad, using light mayonnaise and fresh garden vegetables and herbs; rather than prepared salads from deli counter, which may contain a lot of preservatives. Oven-baked potatoes are also a good substitute; using just a little olive oil and fresh herbs to taste.”

“Also limit the number of chips, and salty snacks that you have available for guests. The best choices would be homemade Chex mix, baked chips, and bagel or tortilla chips that you have prepared yourself. Even make your own salsa. Plan a good time, and a healthy one that is conscious of the overall experience for your guests!”


“Best Ever Tomato-Based BBQ Sauce”

Rita's Best Ever Tomato Based BBQ Sauce 1 large sweet white onion; diced
3 large cloves of garlic
1 green pepper; sliced or diced into small pieces
2 Tbsp. canola oil

Cut up ingredients into 2-3 inch-sided sauce pan. Cook briefly to a softened state; and then add 1 cup tomato sauce and 1 cup water to mixture. Let the mixture blend; then add ¼ cup of white wine vinegar to taste. Add ¼ cup of fresh herbs, perhaps from your garden, such as sage, Italian parsley, fresh parsley, and tarragon.

Next, add the final touches to your self-styled sauce, to your taste:
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp. dark brown sugar
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Keep in the refrigerator in an air-tight container for up to two weeks.


What are your favorite (healthy) BBQ & tailgate foods? TRUTH: Would you rather attend an outdoor party empty handed, than with a store-bought side dish? Tell us in the comments!

If you have more questions about healthy outdoor eating you can contact dietitian Rita Larsen at
Elite Sports Club-Brookfield at 262-786-0880. You can also contact us online for more health & fitness advice.

 

9 Everyday Tips for Healthy Bag Lunches & Snacks

By Rita Larsen, Elite Sports Clubs Registered Dietitian & Nutrition Counselor

Guidelines for Healthy Eating and Snacking on a Daily Basis

Whether the kids are headed off to school or you are brown bagging it to work, many of us prepare and pack our own snacks and lunches every day. Use the tips below to help you be mindful of your food choices not just during lunch, but all day long!

  1. Not all foods are created equal! Pick out foods that are best for your normal day, every day.
  2. Plan to emphasize what is most important in your diet. For example, high quality protein, fiber, and fulfilling daily fruit/vegetable requirements.
  3. Make a schedule for yourself and include times, places, and content of what you will be eating for the day to hold yourself accountable.
    • 10:00am Snack: Fruit
    • Noon Lunch: Entree, salad, milk (school lunch)
    • 3:00pm Snack: Popcorn
    • Also have an idea of what your night time dinner will be like and what time you plan to eat (so the whole family can attend & you can give yourself enough time to prepare)
  4. Drink plenty of fluids, including water throughout the day.
  5. Be aware of the salt content of most snack foods.
  6. Make comparisons of packaged food items–making sure you have selected the best in terms of calories, salt, and fats.
  7. Remember, too many calories and fats can lead to feeling sluggish and tired in the afternoon.
  8. Keep your eye on the caffeine in beverages–too much soda or caffeinated beverages cause you to feel jittery later in the day and actually take away from your energy base.
  9. Choose foods that provide the most energy throughout the day.
    • Whole Wheat Toast vs. Sweet Roll
    • Baked Potato vs. French Fries
    • Fruited Yogurt vs. Chocolate Cake

Try including the following recipe in your next bag lunch as a snack with tortilla chips or compliment to your entree (such as a chicken breast or fish).

Quick Easy Black Bean Salsa

Quick & Easy Black Bean Salsa

1-15oz. can Black Beans
1-11oz. can Shoepeg Corn
1-16oz. jar Salsa with Cilantro
1 medium Red Pepper, chopped
1 bunch Green Scallions, chopped
Lemon juice, cumin, and minced garlic to taste.

Mix all ingredients. Best if prepared the day before.

1/3 cup = 75 calories

Looking for more nutrition advice or other snack and lunch recipe ideas? We offer plenty of ongoing group & private programs with Elite’s own Registered Dietitian. Just let us know a little about yourself and your goals to get started!

Member Stories: Eric Ensminger “110 Pounds Later-Racing with Friends, Inspiring Others”

We’re extremely proud of our members. Over the years their work out agendas and sporting endeavors serve as healthy examples of how it feels to be Elite, and how exercise not only adds years to your life, but life to your years! Today we’d like to highlight another member’s accomplishments:

No secret way to lose the weight and get fit – Diet and Exercise

I was 36 and not satisfied with a lot of things in my life. I was overweight with high blood pressure and high cholesterol. My family has a history of stroke and heart attack. To compound the issue, I was carrying a lot of stress due to work/life in-balance issues.

Elite Member Eric Ensminger

2006 – Time for a Change
I vowed that summer to lose 10 pounds by eating better and walking when I played golf. By September, I met that goal and set my mind on losing an additional 10 lbs. I continued to play more golf and ate healthy and limited alcohol. By November, I had lost another 10. The golf season was over and holidays were coming soon. I joined a gym and met with a personal trainer once. My workouts included walking and bike riding and by the end of 2006, I was 25 pounds down.

Elite Member Eric Ensminger

2007 – Plateau
My goal was a BMI of 23.5, center of the average range. That Spring I joined a Capoeira (Brazilian Kick Boxing) group. By May, I was frustrated. According to the charts my BMI had reached a plateau. For the second time, I met with my trainer. She accurately measured my body fat at 17.5. I had BLOWN past my goal. She was not surprised; I became an athlete. I was 60 lbs lighter than high school graduation.

Elite Member Eric Ensminger

In October, a friend suggested racing. Convinced I could do it, I registered for my first race and haven’t looked back.

2008 – Inspiration
I raced my first duathlon, 5K, triathlon; eight events in total. Late that season, I was in the top 20%.

Elite Member Eric Ensminger

I encouraged those around me to become healthier and more active. Some had never run before, started racing. Friends who were overweight said, “Eric if you could do it, so can I.”

2009 – Firsts
Half Marathon
Olympic distance triathlon
Teaching a beginning running class linked with weight loss
Biking and discussing slow foods with my daughter to show her the importance of a healthy lifestyle

Elite Member Eric Ensminger

2010 – Getting Ready for Ironman
Full marathon – 3 hours, 52 minutes
Half Ironman Triathlon – 5 hours, 39 minutes
Race the Lake – 90 mile bike race 3 hours, 50 minutes

2011 – The Year of a Lifetime
2012 Olympic Triathlon Course in London as a test event
Ironman Wisconsin
NYC Marathon

2012
Ironman Louiseville 96 degrees

Elite Member Eric Ensminger

2013
Planned Ironman Tahoe

Eric is an amazing example of what one can do with a little help and a lot of determination. Not only has he accomplished great things himself, but he has inspired others to do so as well. Congratulations Eric on your weight loss and racing success!

Submit your own “elite” story. Or tweet us @MyEliteStory with not just your major accomplishments, but also those little everyday wins too.

Why the Word Diet is Often Seen in a Negative Way

By Rita Larsen, Elite Sports Clubs Registered Dietitian & Nutrition Counselor Diet Vegetable Word

As early as the 1920’s, the American Academy of Nutrition began to speak about the changes you made in the foods that you ate, as your “diet.” That is; any change that you made to improve health or for the better was a good diet. Today, in a more popular way, we can often be seen discussing new and different diets and how they can help us achieve our personal goals, quickly. Some are healthy, some are not so healthy. It is possible that the only thing that makes the word diet seem negative, is how we treat a normally sound principle, like eating right. So, what are some of the things we do that will make diet a difficult process? After all, we are just trying to eat healthy and lose some weight, right? For example,

  • Many people feel they would like to fast for a day? That cleansing in this way with only liquids is a good plan. I have never worried about this too much because people do end up hungry. And, it may help to reduce body stores of calories, if you do not overeat the day after.
  • Some feel that waiting all day until they eat a meal will help them avoid kicking off some response to overwhelming hunger. As, “the longer I wait, the better it is.” You run a risk of becoming very hungry and overeating by the end of the day. After all, you did not eat ALL day.
  • Yet others feel that perhaps, they can avoid eating entire groups of foods; like carbohydrates or fats, to keep their unwanted pounds away. Science works fine on these concepts until we completely eliminate whole food groups. It does not work well and you may miss important nutrients.
  • Lastly, many feel that if they really bare down during the week, they can have a little extra on the weekend. Sorry to say, but it does not take much added food on the weekends to cause a plateau.

What is wrong here is the manipulation of the schedules, the timing, the food choices or lack thereof, that can make you feel tired and worn out as a result of doing any of these choices.

Your body wants to cooperate with anything you do! It “records” what you did yesterday, and tries to repeat it. But along the way, your metabolic rate is going to need to readjust downward to what you are doing, and what you thought you were trying to do, just became worse. Eat responsibly throughout the day, give your body fuel to work on, don’t store too much for another day, and feel proud that you have eaten what your body needs to go another mile!

Want more advice on dieting in it’s true form? Let us know, by filling out this form and telling us a little more about you and your goals!

What does the word “diet” mean to you? Tell us in the comments!

This Week is National Women’s Health Week!

National Women’s Health Week, which runs May 12th -18th, is a campaign by the Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health to raise awareness about women’s health issues. NWHW promotes 5 steps for women to improve their physical and mental health, including preventive health screening, healthy eating, sleep and stress management, and regular exercise. The health club is a safe, social, and supportive environment providing numerous resources to help women get active and adopt healthier habits.