Ab-friendly foods to bring to or look for at the BBQ or picnic.
Men's Fitness Editors and Brittany Smith 1 / 16
You've been eating well and working out—and you're finally starting to see all of your hard work pay off. But now, a Labor Day picnic is coming up and you know you're going to be tempted to dig in to all the fattening crap on display. But don't worry: Sprinkled amongst the junk food, you can usually find some picnic food staples that won't threaten to wreck your hard-earned results. To be extra safe, bring your own healthy grub to share with everyone else. Read on for the best diet-friendly picnic options.
At just 46 calories per cup, watermelon isn't just way better for you than “fattening crap,” it can also help with all that exercise you’ve been doing.
First, the basics: “Watermelon is rich in vitamins C and A, potassium, and magnesium,” says Nutrition Stripped founder McKel Hill, M.S., R.D. “And, as a simple sugar”—a cup has 8g—“it provides quick energy.” Also, says Sagan Schultz, CEO of the WellWell organic juice company, “watermelon is loaded with electrolytes, lycopene, and L-citrulline, which fights muscle soreness, so it’s a killer option for recovery.”
And GI-wise? “It does rank near doughnuts on the Glycemic Index [a measure of how fast food raises blood glucose],” Schultz says, “but it’s about 92% water, so the glycemic ‘load’ is less than a carrot’s. So for most people, its benefits far outweigh any downsides.”
Wipe down the grill and toss on peaches and pineapples. You can skewer them on bamboo sticks (to make sure they don't fall through the grates) or cut them in long, large chunks. Loaded with juice and flavor, the heat from the flame will make these beauties burst and bring out their natural sweetness.
More than just a Thanksgiving staple, turkey breast is the leanest meat you can get, coming in at 114 calories, 24g protein, and about 2g total fat. Opt for white skinless meat; dark meat and skin contain more fat and calories. You can easily make a picnic-friendly sandwich with sliced turkey from the deli. Craving some more robust flavors? Try spicy mustard.
Skip the burgers and hotdogs and opt for grilling up this better-for-you protein. It's loaded with healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals (including 50 percent of your daily vitamin B6 and 90 percent of your daily vitamin B12 needs).
Coleslaw, macaroni salad, and potato salad are familiar fare at a picnic. All the mayo takes a toll, though. Seek out a vinegar-based slaw instead; aside from a tangier-tasting slaw, you'll get the benefits of cabbage (great source of vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin B6, as well as fiber, potassium, folate, and calcium) without all the fat.
Unless you're hosting the BBQ or picnic, you won't really have control over the cut of steak being served. But if you can control it, opt for meat taken from the sirloin tip or the top of the round. That's super lean, but still holds flavor.
Full of natural sugar (fructose) that will give your sweet tooth exactly what it's craving without undoing your diet, fruit is the perfect summer dessert. Berries are lowest in calories and loaded with antioxidants; they're also able to turn white fat into calorie-burning beige fat (along with apples).
Believe it or not, those little kernels pack more healthy antioxidants than many fruits and vegetables, according to research from the University of Scranton. Popcorn contains large quantities of polyphenols, to be exact; the antioxidants can reverse damage from free radicals. Popcorn is also naturally high in fiber and whole grains. Skip the butter and add spices if you want a kick.
While goat, feta, and ricotta are all incredible options, they're may not be headlining your Labor Day picnic. Gouda cheese is one of the highest natural sources of the nutrient Vitamin K2 and a 1oz serving comes in a little over 100 calories; Swiss is also lower in fat than most other varieties. Reach for these if there's a cheese spread. Even better, see if there's fresh mozzarella and tomato: 1 ½ ounces of mozzarella cheese contains about 33 percent of your RDA of calcium.
Obviously water is the optimal choice when it comes to staying lean. But sometimes you want more. Luckily you have some options. Toss in some berries from a fruit salad; or, take cucumbers from a veggie salad and add them to your H20 for a naturally hydrating, flavor-infused beverage.
Kebabs are great because they contain, for the most part, mostly protein, vegetables, and in some cases, fruit. Chunks of lean pork or beef skewered with fresh fruit like mango, peaches, or nectarines, and greens like asparagus will make for a super satisfying end-of-summer meal. Have fun with the protein and veg/fruit combinations.
While white potatoes provide your body with fiber and potassium, complex carbs that let you digest slowly, feel fuller longer, and maintain sustained energy, they're not quite up to par with their colorful counterpart: sweet potatoes. A four-ounce sweet potato holds more than 100 percent of your daily supply of beta carotene (which is converted into vitamin A and promotes healthy skin, eyes, and immune function), a hefty dose of iron, as well as vitamins C and E. What's more, sweet potatoes are a powerhouse recovery food. Its carotenoids help repair your cells, the starchy carbs restock energy stores, and the fiber keeps you full so you’re not digging for junk later on.
In a study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers found drinking green tea helped people burn more calories throughout the day and increased fat oxidation. It'll keep you hydrated; and the flavor makes you more inclined to keep sipping. You can also try put black tea over ice; just skip the added sugar.
Jell-O isn't just low in calories; it can also help your muscles. (Yes, really!) It’s composed of gelatin, which is made from the connective tissue of animals. Tendons, ligaments, and sometimes bones of cows and pigs are slow boiled. Gross as that sounds, eating it will boost your own tendons and ligaments. Check out eight other eating rules for strong, powerful muscles.