Brews and Burgers… on a Salad Budget

By: Staci Rudnitsky, BLOC

It’s summer time, and for many that means parties filled with burgers, brats, BBQ, and beer. Not to mention the chips, cookies, and ice cream to top it all off. It’s important to give yourself space to enjoy these things, but how do you indulge without going off the rails with your macros? Staci has a framework you can deploy for your next summer cookout.

“Mmmm… burger.” -Homer J. Simpson


Ask Yourself What Your Goals Are

Before you can formulate a game plan, it’s important to very clearly decide how you want to feel when the BBQ/Summer season has come and gone. There’s no right or wrong answer, everyone is different. But BE HONEST with yourself – it does you no good at all to answer the way you “think” you should answer, if in fact, it’s not really how you feel at all.  So really take the time to think about the following question, and how you’d answer it –


At the end of the BBQ/Summer Season I want to:

  • have lost/continued to lose weight
  • have maintained my current weight
  • have enjoyed spending time with friends and family, and am OK with gaining some weight


Why This Works

Going into any situation with a realistic approach gives you the very best shot at sticking to your plans consistently.


Where You’ll Get Stuck

It’s human nature to want to be the very best version of ourselves, and to set the bar high.  Often, we’re apt to SAY we want what we perceive to be the correct or socially acceptable answer, when it it’s not what WE really want or know we’re capable of.


Decide What is Really Worth It

Let’s face it – sometimes food is just shitty.  We ALL have that one relative or friend who means well, but can’t cook a tasty meal or host a party if their lives depended on it.  So why waste an indulgence on food you don’t actually enjoy? Before this summer season gets into full swing, sit down and develop your own set of criteria to determine whether or not a particular food or event is worth the indulgence for you.  Again, be honest and realistic – if there is a food you KNOW you can’t pass up – give it a green light!  For example:


  • This food is worth it for me if:
    • It’s homemade and I only get it once or twice per year
    • It’s from an amazing caterer/bakery and we only get it once or twice per year
    • It has significant emotional significance


Why This Works

Making a set of rules takes the “on the spot” decision making out of the occasion.  Instead of having to have an internal debate with yourself as you sit at the picnic table, it’s an easy yes or no answer that you’ve already decided upon.


Where You’ll Get Stuck

Not sticking to your guns and making that first exception to the rule – after that it’s a slippery slope.   Ask yourself if you really want it, or if you just want something.  There’s a difference!


Understand That You Can’t Have it ALL

For every food you’ve green lighted, remember that there should be another two or three that you either red or yellow light. Meaning, that there are foods you should ALSO rule out as being things you will either avoid entirely (red light), or eat sparingly (yellow light). Examples – if I know I’m going to enjoy dessert, then I don’t hang out around the chips and dip. If I’m going to have wine, then I steer clear of any fried or extra fatty foods. It’s one or the other, not necessarily both.


Why This Works

Playing a game of “If…Then…” helps to balance out your choices so that you’re less likely to go off the rails entirely at any given occasion.


Where You’ll Get Stuck

Booze. Adding booze into the equation usually means you’re more likely to indulge in other areas once you’re feeling a bit loosey-goosey. Know this in advance, and use a little self-reflection and self-talk to keep on track, if that’s what you’ve decided to do.


Watch Your Portion Sizes and NO SECONDS

The EASIEST way to do this is to completely rule out any possibility of seconds.   Any of those foods you’ve green lighted as OK to indulge in – you’re going to add the caveat that you can only have ONE serving.


Since you’re not going to pull out a kitchen scale and a set of measuring cups or spoons, how can you control your portion size?  Luckily, you’ve got a few options:

  1. Use a salad sized plate for your entrees – smaller plate = smaller serving
  2. Make use of the “Plate Method” – fill ½ of your plate with vegetables, ¼ with a protein source and the other ¼ should be a starch (bread, rice, potato, etc.)


If you want to be REALLY savvy, you can approximate portions using your very own hand:

  • about 3 ounces of lean protein = palm of your hand
  • 1 cup of grain/starch = size of your fist
  • 1 tbsp of fat (nut butter, oil) = size of your thumb
  • 1 tsp of fat (nut butter, oil) = tip of your finger
  • 5 oz of wine = five fingers held horizontally across your glass from the base of the stem up


Why This Works

Although it’s not entirely accurate, the mere fact that you’re THINKING about portions and being mindful can keep you from subconsciously serving yourself too much.


Where You’ll Get Stuck

Eat too quickly, and those appropriate portion sizes will seem too small – leading to a second serving. Take the time to enjoy the people you’re with, and slow your eating down to ensure that your body gets the signal that you’ve eaten enough.



Be Mindful of What You’re Eating

Not all foods are created equally. At any given gathering, there are bound to be options presented that are going to be either beneficial to your physique goals, or detrimental. Learn to identify them, and you’ll be able to make a more educated decision when you fill your plate.


So, what should you look for? Take a look at how a food has been cooked. Unless it’s a green lighted treat, avoid foods that are:

  • Fried – even if they’re not breaded or coated
  • Pan-Seared
  • Blackened
  • Creamy or covered in sauce

In fact, the closer a food is to looking the way it did UN-cooked, the more likely it is to be more healthful.  For example:

  • Broiled or baked lean proteins (white meat chicken or fish)
  • Steamed, roasted or lightly sautéed vegetables
  • Baked potatoes

With foods that have already been combined into a casserole or dish, you can either ask your host how it’s been prepared, or err on the side of caution and just take a small scoop.  If it tastes too good to be true, it probably is.  But that’s OK – because you’ve got a plan! And if that plan includes your neighbor’s amazing baby back ribs, then by all means enjoy!


Why This Works

Healthier, more wholesome foods give you far more bang for the buck and will allow you to feel more satiated.


Where You’ll Get Stuck

It’s entirely possible that there will be NOTHING that “fits the bill” at your meal.  In this case, making sure you stick to some form of portion control will enable you to enjoy what’s been presented without going overboard.


But What if Everything Is AMAZING??

If it’s really that fantastic – enjoy yourself! Just keep in mind that it’s one party.  It’s a Day. Not a week. Not a month. Enjoy the occasion and when it’s over, it’s OVER. Don’t use the entire summer as an excuse to overeat and go nuts – keep non special occasion meals simple and light, to balance out your caloric intake over time.

Social gatherings are about the people we celebrate them with.  Keep that in perspective and you’ll be prepared for anything!


Some Useful Tools


Is there a recipe you love and would like to “renovate” it to fit your goals?  Email me at and we’ll include it in an upcoming newsletter!




twitter2 twitter2 instagram2 facebook2


©2024 Barbell Logic | All rights reserved. | Privacy Policy | Terms & Conditions | Powered by Tension Group

Log in with your credentials

Forgot your details?