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"Diana, just a quick heads up to let you know we are still using your cookbook and the guys will often be heard saying what would Diana say about this or that....really good feed back... I made your potato salad and the oriental coleslaw on Sat. for a family luncheon and had rave reviews so thanks again."
I love the summer and, summer entertaining. Games of Bocce ball on the lawn, drinking cocktails in the sun and eating alfresco on the patio is heaven to me. I’ve learned over the years that one of the most important ways to stay fit through all the summer entertaining is to keep up my workout routine and find fun alternatives when away at the cottage. However, that isn’t always enough, especially as I get older. Being strategic in both what I serve to guests at the cottage and backyard barbeques and what I choose to eat when socializing on restaurant patios plays a big part in managing the calories going in. Here are a few strategies I use to cut calories while maximizing taste and nutrition through the summer.
Go Lean with the Protein
Ribeye steak and spareribs can deliver up to 600 calories for 6 oz before the BBQ sauce and toppings. Instead I like to grill salmon fillets with lemon and fresh dill or chicken breasts marinated in lemon, Dijon, garlic and chopped fresh herbs like parsley and cilantro. Before serving, cut the salmon and chicken into 2.5oz portions. You and your guests can always go back for seconds. Veggie burgers are a healthy low-calorie option as well and the flavour has come along way. Choosing more plant-based proteins cuts saturated fat and cholesterol and is a sustainable choice.
Cut calories in your cocktails
I prefer a lovely rose or pinot gris with my food so to cut calories I need to cut servings. My best strategy is to alternate with water, so I always keep a refreshing jug of ice water on the table. However, if you prefer mixed beverages be mindful of your mix. Pop, juice and ready-made margarita mixes add loads of sugar and calories to your beverages. At restaurants order drinks with sugar free mixes such as sparkling water and lime to mix with your Vodka or gin. At home, keep it simple with beverages such as SoCIALlite which are ready to serve unsweetened, naturally flavoured vodka sodas in a can. They come in flavours like Blood orange, Field strawberry and Peach Iced tea with only 80-100 calories and are gluten free. Not only that they are made in Canada!
Make Vegetables the Star
Summer salads and vegetable sides are often the most attractive and delicious items on my table. Garnishes of fresh herbs and edible flowers can take simple to spectacular. I usually set the vegetables and salads first in line on a buffet table and then the protein so people can gauge how much they want to take. I always cover over half my plate with vegetables so that I serve less of the rest. Filling up on vegetables is an easy way to cut the calories on your plate, not to mention they are super good for you.
Be Selective with your Carbs
There’s no need for potatoes if you have a rice or pasta dish, so choose one. If you are having corn on the cob maybe you don’t need a roll too. Avoid piling up the carbs to save calories and if there are options, choose whole grain like the quinoa salad vs the pasta salad.
Make simple swaps
All the extras can really add up but with simple swaps you can save big. Replace potato chips and Nachos with NoochPOP Nutritional Yeast flavoured popcorn. Nooch, slang for Nutritional Yeast is a premium, organic, non GMO, 100% vegan popcorn containing b vitamins, protein and fibre. It’s popped in olive, coconut and avocado oil. Try using Greek yogurt in place of mayo in your potato salad or spinach dip. Serve burgers on thinner buns and skip the cheese. Instead of a massive cheese plate, I like to serve fresh prawns and cocktail sauce, vegetable crudité and tzatziki made with Greek yogurt, bowls of cherries and slices of watermelon. Grilled asparagus spears with lemon and pepper served in a bud vase adds interest to the platter and olives or pickles deliver the salt some crave with a cocktail instead of chips. Use a small plate to keep track of how much food you eat during happy hour.
Savour Summer not Sweets
Sugar sweetened beverages, cakes, cookies and candy are loaded with sugar, calories and not a lot of nutrients. Make water your summer drink of choice, for the kids too. Don’t make summer an excuse to give your kids piles of candy and ice cream. Summer’s bounty makes it easy to serve fresh fruit for dessert. Try a bunch of frosty frozen grapes for adults to nibble on, blended fruit smoothie popsicles for kids or a bowl of fresh strawberries drizzled with balsamic glaze. Grilled peaches with frozen yogurt or a simple fruit salad with fresh mint are delicious and nutritious options. If you do have chocolate ganache or creamy cheesecake, don’t do it every day, take a small piece and enjoy every bite.
This summer enjoy the social not just the food and drink, be mindful and take your time to eat, be active and allow time to do nothing. Happy Healthy Summer!