This Fourth of July, enjoy the explosion of fireworks, but don’t let all the treats blow up your diet, says a Kansas State University dietitian.
Amber Howells, director of the coordinated program in dietetics offered by the hospitality management and dietetics department in the university’s College of Human Ecology, says moderation is key. “As a registered dietitian, my philosophy really is that all foods fit. The trick is you just have to eat everything in moderation and control your portion sizes,” Howells said.
Hamburgers and hot dogs are popular foods on the Fourth. Howells says there are healthy options for both.
“For hamburgers, you can use the more lean cuts of beef. If you are using ground beef, try to get that 96 percent lean meat,” she said. “With hot dogs, you really want to find that version that is less than 150 calories per serving size and less than 14 grams of fat. Hotdogs are probably also higher in sodium content because they are more processed, so look at the sodium content and try to find something with less than 450 milligrams of sodium.” When it comes to hot dogs, Howells said there are healthier and not-so-healthy options available, so checking the label is key. For a meatless option try black bean or garden veggie burgers from Gardein.
What’s a hot dog or hamburger without some potato chips alongside? Howells said healthier versions of chips are available today, such as baked or high fiber—but portion size is a factor.
“Usually about 12 to 13 chips is a portion size, but when we think about how much we eat, we typically eat more than that portion size,” she said. Take some time browsing the snack aisle and read labels. There are many brands of snacks and chips that are a healthier option then traditional chips.
Fresh veggies are a healthier option to chips, but Howells said to watch the dips. She recommends low-fat or fat-free dressings. Also watch the sodium content of dips and condiments. Hummus can be a great option and can be flavored with many seasonings.
One popular summer food that won’t blow your diet if you have an extra serving is watermelon.
“Watermelon is a fantastic choice because it is a fruit and naturally low in fat,” Howells said. “About a cup of watermelon is a portion size, but since it is a fruit, it is low in calories and consuming more than cup won’t do too much damage.”
Ice cream is a crowd favorite and Howells is all for it—in moderation.
“I am big fan of ice cream, especially homemade ice cream,” she said. “It’s higher in fat than watermelon, but you can still eat ice cream. It’s healthy, it has calcium, and it’s a good dairy product. You don’t have to cut it out, just limit the portion size to half a cup.”
The Fourth of July is known for being hot, so staying hydrated is important. Water is always a good choice, but Howells says there are other options.
“The trick is to find things without caffeine. Caffeine will dehydrate you quicker,” she said. “Lemonade is a good choice. There are lemonades available that are lower in calories, or you can freshly squeeze lemonade and use artificial sweeteners instead of sugar.”
Another great beverage option is an infused water; try cucumber or melon to add a splash of flavor to your water. Try to avoid soda—the empty calories, too much sugar, and added ingredients will not quench your thirst.
While eating everything in moderation is the key to a healthy diet, Howells said splurging every now and then is OK. “If there is a day that you indulge, as we tend to do on holidays, then just tone it back a little the next day, and then get back to your normal eating habits,” she said.
By Dick Benson
This article was adapted from a piece written by Beth Bohn at Kansas State University.