5 Tips for a Healthy Summer BBQ

Can you believe it is almost July?!? I sure can’t.

I hope your grill is hot and your tummy is grumbling for some barbecue because the 4th of July is right around the corner.

In lieu of this festive holiday typically filled with hotdogs and s’mores, I thought I would share some of my favorite tips and tricks for a healthy 4th of July (or any summer night) BBQ.

  1. Load up on veggies – If your cooking, grill a bunch of kebabs full colorful peppers, tomatoes, and broccoli. If you aren’t the one cooking, bring a big veggie tray with hummus or guac and fill your plate! Vegetables provide so many vital vitamins and minerals, plus they help fill you up without breaking the calorie bank.
  2. Cut the carbs in half – Yep, I’m talking about the (whole grain!) bun. This one is tricky if you are having a hot dog, but if you go for a hamburger, go open face so you only get half the bun’s carbs and calories. Or, if you are feeling super healthy, try two big pieces of lettuce for your bun.
  3. Water, water, water! – I know pop, lemonade, and iced tea are BBQ classics, but you can easily save 200+ calories by only drinking water. And an extra bonus – water will help keep you hydrated with all the extra salt you might be getting from that hot dog and side of potato chips.
  4. Choose fruit for dessert – ‘Tis the season of nice, juicy watermelons and delicious fruit salads. Take advantage of natures candy and munch on some nutrient filled grapes and berries instead of reaching for the bag of marshmallows.
  5. Get moving – Go for a walk and enjoy the weather after dinner, or play with the kids in the back yard. Planning an activity for after the meal can help prevent overeating (since nobody wants to run around on an overly full stomach). Exercise also helps your food digest better – not to mention you burn a few extra calories in the process.

Happy Grilling, Happy Summer, and Happy (early) 4th!

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Drink Your H2O

Over the summer, a friend and I made a bucket list of a bunch of things we wanted to do during our senior year of college. Four weeks into school, we are slowly checking things off the list. One check mark I got to add Tuesday was donating blood. I’ve wanted to do it for a while but for some reason, it just never happened. When “Blood Drive” was listed as an upcoming event in last week’s university email, I knew I had to go for it. I registered with the Red Cross and signed up for a time slot. I was feeling pretty good about it until I was walking to the donation site. I started to get a little freaked out, praying that I wouldn’t pass out. Once I got there, I calmed down a bit. I had to read a big information packet, get a brief physical done to test my blood pressure and iron levels and then answer a bunch of questions. The nurse wasn’t too happy with me since she had to type in all the countries I had traveled to in the past year (it ended up being 13!) and the amount of time I spent in each one. After that long process it was finally time to stick the needle in me. Shockingly, it didn’t hurt, nor did I even get the slightest bit light headed. I got a banana, some apple juice, and was sent along my marry way. Hopefully you don’t mind the graphic pictures!

How does this story relate to food and nutrition?
Well, if you have ever given blood before, you know that you have to drink lots of extra water both before and after you donate to increase your blood volume and keep you hydrated. But even if you aren’t donating blood, water can do tons of amazing things for the body. Here are some of the top reasons why you should always have a water bottle by your side (if you didn’t guess, mine usually has lemon it in 😉 )

  1. Water is crucial for our survival. The body is made of 60%-70% water and every system in our body requires water to function properly.
  2. It can improve your mood. Being thirsty is never a pleasant feeling. Dehydration can also affect your mood and make you grumpy and confused. Drink more water to be happy and think clearer.
  3. It regulates your appetite. Sometimes when we feel hungry, we actually just need something to drink. Try a glass of water before reaching for the munchies (this can help you lose weight too!).
  4. Water keeps your skin glowing. Skin is the largest organ in our body and water helps it continue to build new cells, which can improve the color and texture of your skin. Staying hydrated also helps your skin maintain your internal body temperature.

How much water should you be drinking?
There are lots of opinions on this one. The old fashion recommendation is 8 glasses of 8 ounces per day (64oz total). Now, new research is saying that more wouldn’t hurt. A good rule of thumb is to take your body weight in pounds and divide it in half. That should give you the number of ounces you should aim for per day.

Drink up!

Airport Snacking

Last Friday I packed my backpack and hopped on a plane to New Jersey to spend the weekend at a family gathering. My parents and brother were flying home 4 hours before my flight back to school so as I had a good chuck of time to wander the Newark airport. As I explored the terminal, I realized that an airport is pretty much one long hallway trying to give you a heart attack. No matter what airport you are at, or which terminal you are in, you probably won’t get to your gate before passing a McDonalds,Cinnabon, Burger King, or Auntie Anne’s Pretzels, (or all of the above!). It can be hard to avoid these cheap, unhealthy restaurants when so many hours are spent at airports just sitting around and waiting.

With all the hype of healthy eating recently, it is getting easier and easier to find healthy foods in the airport, but I personally like to pack my own snacks. Here are some of my flying favorites:

  1. Apples: I am kind of an apple-aholic so I usually have an apple with me wherever I go. Apples are easy to throw in your bag last minute and don’t require any utensils to eat.
  1. Red Peppers: Having sliced red peppers on hand is a great way to pack in some vitamin C while you are traveling. Planes are covered in germs so getting the extra immune boost will help prevent you from getting sick. Why red peppers? They actually have almost 3x the amount of vitamin C you would find in an orange!
  1. Yogurt: Yogurt is a good source of protein, which can keep you energized during those long hours in the air. Watch out though; I once got my yogurt confiscated at security because TSA said it was a liquid! Now I try to bring a small enough cup that it fits in my quart size liquids bag.
  1. Water: High altitudes can lead to dehydration so it is critical to drink lots of water while traveling. I hate using tiny airplane bathrooms so I try to drink lots of water before and after I land. And, of course, my water usually has a wedge of lemon in it for an extra vitamin C boost!

Did your flight get delayed and you need some more substantial food? Burger King has a grilled chicken sandwich, and most fast food places also have grilled chicken salads for a healthier option.

Also, don’t forget to stay active on travel days. Instead of sitting at your gate waiting to board, go for a walk through their airport. You are going to be sitting for the next several hours on the plane so you might as well keep yourself moving while you can!

Eating on the Road

Summer is the perfect time to hit the road with some friends, and it’s not a good road trip without yummy snacks. Keeping your eyes on the road and hands on the wheel while snacking can be tricky. This is where your passengers come in handy; they can get the snacks out and hand them to you so you don’t get distracted.

Riding solo? Snacking only gets harder. Have you ever attempted to peel a banana or open a Ziploc bag while trying to keep your hands on the wheel? It’s not an easy task.

Going to school a 3.5-hour drive from home, I have spent a lot of hours in the car and finally discovered the best snack options. Whether you have a car full of snack helpers or are riding solo, my road trip snack plan is sure to make any road trip safe, healthy, and happy.

Dana’s Road Trip Snack Plan

eating on the road picHere is what my front seat looks like when I’m about to hit the road!

One cup-holder has my beverage. Just like always, my 24oz Starbucks tumbler is refilled with a fresh wedge of lemon squeezed in before I leave. If you want a water alternative, I suggest flavored water, sparkling water, or, decaffeinated tea. Stay away from anything else caffeinated like pop and coffee. Caffeine acts as a diuretic and you will be making too many stops during your drive ;). Also, getting a cup with a lid and a straw is helpful. This way you don’t have to worry about spills or screwing on/off bottle caps.

My other cup-holder has a large cup filled with my munchies. Anything you can eat with your hands is usually a safe option, although it might not be healthy. Chips, candy, and cereal can pack in the sugar and calories and don’t keep you full. Some of my favorite, healthier snacks are grapes, cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumber, and popcorn (I’m having Skinny Pop in the picture). Nuts and dried fruit are also a good option, but watch the portion sizes. Nuts can have a lot of calories because they are higher in fat, and dried fruit is sometimes loaded with sugar (try to find dried fruit with no added sugar). Choose a smaller cup for a snack like this.

If you are on a long trip and need more snacks, an apple is one of my favorites. Apples are high in fiber so they keep you full during your long drive. Keep in mind, if you eat an apple you need to have somewhere to put the core when you are done (your empty snack cup is a good place!).

They key is to plan ahead. Making sure you have healthy and easily accessible choices will keep you from grabbing a bag of chips and a bottle of pop at the gas station.

Grab your snacks, make a music playlist, and have a safe drive!

When Life Hands You Lemons…

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I love water with lemon! Hot water, cold water, room temperature water: it’s always better with lemon. But, there is nothing I hate more than being handed a glass of water with a slice of lemon. Why? Because there is no good way to get the lemon juice into the water. Have you ever tried to squeeze a lemon slice? It is impossible! You end up with a mangled lemon and its juice all over your fingers. Wedges, on the other hand, make life so much easier. You can squeeze all of the juice into the cup, and they leave no sticky fingers.

So when life hands you lemons… hope they are cut into wedges so you can squeeze them!

At this point, I think you understand why my blog is called The Lemon Wedge. My future posts will probably having nothing to do with lemons, so get ready for all things food, travel, and college life. Grab a glass of water with lemon (a lemon wedge, of course) and enjoy!