Summer picnic

BYO-BBQ: Navigating a Cookout with Dietary Restrictions

If you have a chronic condition, enjoying summertime social events like backyard BBQs can be challenging. The burgers, pasta salads, and custom cocktails are often tempting, but they can trigger your symptoms and lead to health flair-ups. Good news – your dietary restrictions do not have to end all your fun. With just a little prep, you can easily enjoy yourself and the foods that make you feel your best. Here are some tips for navigating mealtime at your next festive affair!

Plan Ahead and Bring Something Safe

Meal Planning With Dietary RestrictionsWhen you are invited, ask the host what is on the menu and what you can bring. This way, you can make a game plan about which foods you’ll indulge in. It also gives you the opportunity to bring something you know is safe for you and your condition.

If you are looking for some recipe inspiration, PatientsLikeMe members recently shared their favorite snacks and meals that fit within their dietary restrictions. Read through some tried-and-true recipe ideas for eating with Type 2 Diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis, Fibromyalgia, and more!

Stay Hydrated and Look for Extra Electrolytes When Necessary

It is easy to be so focused on your dietary restrictions you forget about safe libations! Drinking water is always essential, especially when living with a chronic condition and you’re out in the heat.

Woman drinking water

  • Dehydration lowers your blood volume, causing your heart to work harder and faster to make sure the rest of your body has oxygen. An overworked heart is prone to heart attacks, strokes, and other heart conditions. Your chances of heart issues decrease tremendously by drinking an ample amount of water per day.
  • Studies show hydration plays a crucial role in how well our brains function. Mild dehydration causes mood swings, headaches, memory loss, fatigue, anxiety, and lower overall brain performance for people of all ages.

Try adding fruit like lemon or limes to your ice water to make them more festive. The additional flavoring can increase the likelihood of you drinking more.

Also, try thinking beyond the glass – fruits like watermelon and cantaloupe are high in water and low in fiber. Therefore, they make great ways to quench your thirst and provide replenishing electrolytes.

As tempting as it is to grab that beer, avoiding alcohol will help your condition and help you stay hydrated. The USDA offers a list of helpful tips on making better beverage choices.

Choose Grilled Instead of Fried

Man grillingFor many people with chronic conditions, it is best to avoid fatty, processed foods like some BBQ classics. When you are at a party, skip the fried chicken, french fries, and potato chips. Instead, look for anything grilled, baked, or broiled. These techniques offer all of the flavor without the dangerous additives.

Additionally, grilling delivers on taste with less fat. Not only is less fat needed to grill meat and vegetables to perfection, but excess fat from within foods also drips away before ever hitting your plate. It also takes less time to grill vegetables than other cooking methods, so they retain more of their natural nutritional value, vitamins, and minerals.

In need of some grilling inspiration? Our PLM members love this gluten-free and heart-healthy, balsamic glazed fish dish.

Whip Up Healthier Sides

Sometimes the sides are better than the main course! They can also be a hidden trap for unhealthy and triggering ingredients. Try swapping traditional store-bought barbecue fare – which can be loaded with saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars – for healthier homemade versions. It is easy to use Greek yogurt as a mayonnaise substitute or whole wheat pasta instead of plain pasta. You can also change it up entirely and bring a colorful bean salad, fruit salad, or leafy green salad. The American Heart Association is an excellent resource for healthy recipes and easy swaps.

Pay Attention to Your Portions – Don’t Over Do It

Plate of fruitIt is easy to accidentally overconsume with all of the delicious options laid out on the picnic table. Beat the temptation to overeat by filling up on the healthy stuff first. Fill your plate with fruit and green salads and choose raw vegetables over chips when you are snacking.

If your plate is filled with colorful, healthy options, you won’t have room to add anything else! Try and stick to one round at the buffet table too. The key is moderation and recognizing when you’re full.

Get Moving If Your Condition Allows

People in pool swimmingOnce you’ve finished eating, it can help to get moving! If your condition allows for light movement, try taking a walk around the party to mingle with other guests, play with the kids, or go for a swim. When you move away from the table, you are less tempted to keep eating.

Even just a little bit of exercise can be helpful in more ways than one! Read more about the link between activity and good vibes from our mental health community.

Talk it Over with Your Doctor or Nutritionist

At the end of the day, your condition is complicated and unique to you. Your doctor or nutritionist can help you identify foods to eat and ones to avoid. If you are looking for more information and dietary advice, check out our interview with Dariush Mozzafarian, cardiologist and researcher, about making healthy diet decisions.

Living with a chronic condition is hard, but it should not keep you from enjoying the friendship and companionship of your loved ones. Going to a BBQ can be daunting, but just remember, small and simple changes and prep can be made to keep you safe and still having fun.

Share the Wealth

Do you have any favorite recipes or tips you use when you go to a summer cookout? Join us at PatientsLikeMe and share your BYO-BBQ advice in one of our forums or start a thread of your own! We are excited to hear what you have to bring to the table!

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