Social Eating: Tips To Stay On Track

It’s finally time for another 3-day holiday! Who couldn’t use a break from the normal Monday routine? Though, the holiday is no excuse to completely throw your health goals off track. Adopt these simple rules and you will not have anything to regret (at least not about your health goals)!

With summer and 4th of July upon us, what better excuse (weather permitting) to dust off the barbeque and enjoy some time outside in the fresh air with family and friends. Creamy macaroni salad¸ buttered corn, burgers, and an 8 layer United States flag cake. Sounds delicious, but not good for any health and fitness goals! Following these simple survival tips will save you hundreds of calories and guilt, without you feeling deprived¸ and keep your health and fitness goals on track.

1. Have Healthy Options Available

Bring or make healthy alternatives to processed meats, dips and macaroni salads. This way you can fill up on the healthiest foods first, without worrying about bad calories and unhealthy fats.  Chicken, fish, vegetables and even fruit are delicious cooked on the barbeque. Chicken Kebobs with tons of veggies grilled are delicious and super simple to make. Other alternatives include fresh salads (made with greens, fruits/vegetables, nuts, and a light dressing) and summer fruits (peaches, plums, berries¸ melons).  This could also be a way for you to introduce your family and friends to tasty¸ healthy foods. Other great recipes can be found here¸ here, and here.

2. Small Plates, Big Health Benefits.

If you keep portion sizes reasonable, it’s easier to eat the foods you want and stay healthy. By using smaller dishes, you can easily avoid “accidentally” eating too many calories. Use a dessert plate or grab one from the children’s table.

3. Mix and Mingle

Choose three or four items you really want to eat, and then step away from the food table so you’re not tempted to graze. You will be less likely to keep mindlessly refilling your plate if you are in the middle of an interesting conversation and standing on the other side of the room from the food. Being with friends and family and having a great time at a BBQ also contributes to overall good health.

4. Go for the Greens

 Skip the chips, bread and crackers. Refined carbohydrates spike your insulin levels, leaving you hungry and craving for more.  Unless it’s amazing, it’s not worth the calories. Make sure to complement any meal with lots of vegetables – especially green leafy veggies like kale or spinach.

5. Make Room for Dessert

Instead of saying “There’s always room for dessert,” actually leave room for it. Eat a little less of everything else so you can have a piece of that cake, cookie or ice-cream. Also, remember portion control!

6. Think before you drink

A drink that is not a glass of water has calories and sugar. Drink at least eight ounces of water or so that your thirst is quenched and stomach already feels a little full.  You will be less likely to chug the alcoholic drink to quench your thirst. Make your choices worthwhile and sip on a glass of wine or beer.

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Easy Chicken “Kebabs”

Cooking meat isn’t my favorite, but after writing the post about Healthier Social Eating, I was inclined to make chicken kebabs. The problem is that I live in an apartment in San Francisco, and I do not have a backyard¸ much less a balcony.  So grilling is not an option. (I tried the George Foreman indoor grill, but I did not like the results). Anyway, I decided to put the vegetables and chicken on wooden skewers, wrap them in foil, and roast them in the oven. After, marinating the vegetables and heating up the oven, I discovered we didn’t have the skewers. That is the worst thing that can happen to a cook on limited time.  I thought about ditching the whole project and settling for leftovers. Then it dawned on me that I could use my pizza stone (a fancy wedding gift). The results were d-e­-l-i-c-i-o-u-s. What impressed me was how little time I spent on the whole process and everything tasted as if it came out of a wood-fire grill. This is definitely going to be something I whip up when I have hungry friends over.

Ingredients
¼  cup olive oil
1/3 cup chopped fresh mint
2 lemons juiced
1 tablespoon thyme
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
3 cups assorted summer vegetables, cut into 1½ inch pieces (zucchini, squash, bell peppers, onions, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms)
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast or thigh meat, cut into 1-inch chunks
12 (10- to 12-inch) wooden skewers (optional)

Directions

  1. Whisk together olive oil¸ mint¸ lemon juice, thyme, garlic, cumin, cinnamon, salt, and pepper until well blended to make a marinade.
  2. Put vegetables into a glass bowl. Put chicken into another glass bowl.
  3. Divide marinade equally among the bowls and mix each well to coat all of the ingredients.
  4. Cover each bowl and refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight. Stir occasionally.
  5. Soak wooden skewers in water for at least one hour.
  6. Skewer vegetables and chicken separately on skewers. For example, thread only bell peppers on one skewer, only squash on another and only chicken on the next. Since protein and vegetables cook at varying times, this will allow you to cook individual skewers until the items are sufficiently done (and eliminate burning one ingredient while trying to cook another). If you don’t have skewers, you can roast them in the oven.
  7. Preheat grill to 375°F (a medium-hot fire). Grill chicken until just cooked through and slightly charred, turning often, about 8 minutes. Grill vegetables until just tender. OR Alternately, preheat the oven to 425°F. Spread out the vegetables on a nonstick baking sheet. Pour remaining marinade over the vegetables. At the same time, you can spread out the chicken on another baking tray and pour its marinade over the chicken. Cook vegetables until tender and the chicken for about 10 minutes. OR If using a pizza stone¸ cook vegetables until tender and starts looking charred, about 6 minutes, turning once. Transfer to a plate. Add chicken to the pizza stone and cook for about 10 minutes, turning once.
  8. Transfer skewers to a platter and serve.

Serve with a side of Greek yogurt, salad, and/or couscous for a complete meal.

The marinade

I marinated the chicken for 3 hours but I recommend a longer time.

Veggies only took 5 minutes in the oven!

My Greek Salad, takes 5 minutes to assemble

Side of Greek Yogurt

Side of Couscous with Green Heirloom Tomatoes

I devoted 45 minutes to preparing, cooking, AND cleaning up. Worth it!