summer temptations

Calorie Culprit: Summer BBQ’s

How many of you guys have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of summer? The arrival of longer days, sunshine, camping with friends, running races and of course BBQ’s. BBQ’s are a staple of the summertime.

I used to be stressed about potlucks and BBQ’s. It was a “bad” place for me to go while I was trying to lose my weight, and even after I lost the weight. It was a minefield of temptations. The urge to binge eat was very strong because I wanted to eat everything there. Maybe not in huge quantities, but I wanted to try everything.

And once I was there, it was hard to resist. I am most definitely a grazer, the type to mindlessly eat simply because I was standing next to the table of goodies. I also had certain trigger foods that I had a hard time resisting: chips and dip are a big one. Cookies, brownies, cake is another one.

With the arrival of summer (well, for most people in the country–not so consistently in Oregon yet), I started thinking about potlucks and BBQ’s. I wondered what the average calorie count was for a BBQ excursion?

Calorie Culprit: Summer BBQ’s

Baked Beans

1 serving of baked beans is about 150 calories. That is, if we only have one serving. Considering that portions are often skewed in social settings, I’d say the typical serving would be more like 200 calories.

Potato Salad

I’ve never been a huge fan of potato salad, or really any salads that are mayo-based. But I know that potato salad is a favorite for a lot of people. 1 cup of potato salad is around 350 calories.

Pasta Salad

Mmmm pasta salad! Now you’re talking. Maybe I’m a carb-junkie but pasta is definitely something I enjoy. How many calories are in a serving? 360.

Corn on the Cob

Of course it’s with butter, too. I’d calculate one ear of corn on the cob with butter about 100 calories. That’s a generous number (it’s probably closer to 75) but I like a lot of butter on my corn.


The calorie count for this one is a total guess because there are a lot of variables. Is it a lower calorie bun or one that’s 250 calories? Is the patty 4 ounces or more? What are your toppings? Is there a lot of cheese on it? My estimate for the point of this post is 600 calories.

Hot Dogs

Hot dog with a bun and toppings (shredded cheese, relish, ketchup, mustard, onions, etc) is around 300 calories.

Chips and Dip

This doesn’t have to be a calorie-bomb. Chips and salsa are an okay choice because salsa is only around 5-10 calories. The danger zone is when the dips are creamy. If it’s a sour cream, cottage cheese or cream cheese base the calories are going to skyrocket. Let’s say one serving of chips and a high calorie dip (15 chips or so) is around 300 calories.

Tasty Beverages

Those liquid calories really add up fast. Juice, punch, soda, wine and beer…lots of options at a potluck. And in a social setting it’s easy to over-indulge. Let’s say an average beer is around 150 calories (or more if you like those IPA’s like me) and you have three at the party, you’re looking at 450 calories.

Sweet Desserts

The things I see the most at BBQ’s are chocolate chip cookies or brownies. Depending on the size, a chocolate chip cookie could run between 100-200 calories each. Brownies are higher at 250 calories.

What’s the math? If I ate all of the above items, I’m looking at 2910 calories for one meal. That’s a lot! Even if I chose a cheeseburger over the hot dog, that’s still 2600 calories.

Should I Just Stay Home?

Heck no! Go to the BBQ! Enjoy yourself, have fun with your friends–just make better choices. Never fear, I have tips! This is what *I* do when I go to a BBQ.

It’s usually a potluck so I try and bring something healthy. At the very least, I know I’ll have MY dish to eat. I’ll bring fresh fruit, or a veggie tray, or a really big salad with a ton of veggies. Having my own vegetable garden makes a salad an easy choice. Another idea: bring some fresh veggies to grill. I like grilling up zucchini or asparagus. Add a little salt, pepper and fresh parmesan and you have a delicious side dish.

So what happens if it’s not a potluck and your choices are whatever your host prepares? That’s okay too. This is where my motto of “everything in moderation” kicks in. What I usually do is I have a little bit of everything I want. I’ll choose EITHER a hot dog or hamburger, but not both. I’ll serve up one spoonful of the potato salad, pasta salad, baked beans have one dessert. Having a taste of everything satisfies my craving and I don’t feel like I’m depriving myself of things, but I don’t totally blow my calories for the day.

And the alcohol? I pace myself. I start with a zero calorie drink (water, maybe a diet soda) and then limit my beers to 2. Maybe 3. It depends. But I can’t remember the last time I drank more than 3 beers. Who needs those extra calories?

What’s the math? If I just have a taste of most of the above things, and choose EITHER a cheeseburger or a hot dog, I’m looking at a calorie count of around 800 calories. That’s a huge difference from 2700!

QUESTION: What is your biggest struggle with BBQ’s and potlucks? What are your tips for saving calories at one?

August Goals

I can’t believe it’s already August. It seems like summer has just started here in Portland. The weather is finally consistently nice enough to enjoy outdoor activities and I love it!

I set the bar pretty low for July because I knew that I’d be really busy with a few vacations. How did I do for July?

July Goals

1. Commute to work by bike whenever I can. YES!

2. Practice getting in long rides on weekends. Yes, most weekends did include bike rides.

3. Incorporate more free weights in my workouts. Yes, that’s part of my normal routine now.

4. Enjoy the summer! Most definitely.

5. Read more books (I already read like 3 a week but I’m hungry for more!).  I’ve read some really great ones lately.

July was a challenge for a lot of reasons. The biggest challenge was the food. Between birthdays, parties, out of town guests, festivals, camping, road trips and family reunions it was like everything revolved around food. Potlucks. BBQs. Brewfest. I believe I made good choices, splurging on things that I really wanted– but within moderation. I don’t think I really went overboard on any of the food or drink choices I made other than the frequency of the indulgences.

Summer is a challenge time because of all these temptations. The weather is nice. I want to hang out with friends and family and food is always going to be the focus of those events. The biggest gift I can give myself each summer is the permission to enjoy it. That does NOT mean bingeing on everything in sight. That does not mean avoiding all the “fun food” and only eating the “diet” food. Fun food can be healthy too.

So I balance the indulgences with the exercise choices I make. I go for long bike rides and strenuous hikes that challenge my body. I challenge myself by swimming and lifting weights. And after I indulge (like at weekend trips and BBQs) I get right back on track when I get home. Back to “normal” eating. Like grilled chicken thighs and corn on the cob with butter and chili pepper:

Or how about my absolute favorite steak dinner with fresh zucchini from our garden:

All good meals! And they taste good without being high in calories.

August Goals

1. Continue the Scale-Free Summer. There have been a few times where I was tempted to weigh myself. Going scale-free was a struggle at first but sometime in July I seemed to find a comfortable oblivion to the scale. I stopped thinking about it all the time and stopped feeling anxious about whether or not I gained weight.

2. Go on long bike rides training for the Portland Century.

3. Relax more. I tend to go-go-go and never really have any downtime. I want to enjoy my summer!

I think that’s doable.

QUESTION: What is your biggest challenge in the summertime? What are your August Goals?