For most people, Labor Day signals the end of the summer season. We find ourselves getting outside as much as we can knowing the days are getting shorter and winter is moving in soon. This includes cleaning off the grill or barbeque pit for one last hurrah. Traditional barbeque and picnic foods are a labor of love and many find the selections delicious. The upcoming holiday weekend has certainly already enlisted some eager souls to prepare menus for the celebration. In many cases, the foods most associated with summer eating range is caloric value, and even though a grilled chicken and corn on the cob may be on the menu, so are many high fat, high sugar selections. Many people are surprised to find out basic picnic food can present a large number of hidden calories. A single portion of macaroni salad may have up to 50 g of fat and a single serving of barbecued ribs (2 ribs) equals 320 calories, 16 g sugar and 20 g of fat. The addition of other foods to round out an ideal barbeque will contribute to a high calorie event.
Food item Single serving reference values
Hamburger 10 g fat, 254 calories, 378 mg sodium
Cheeseburger w/condiments 26 g fat, 482 calories, 640 mg
Hotdogs 16 g fat, 180 calories, 620 mg sodium
Ribs 21 g fat, 320 calories, 790 mg sodium
Coleslaw 16 g fat, 206 calories
Potato salad 21 g fat, 1323 mg sodium
Macaroni salad 26g fat, 760 g sodium, 349 calories
Barbeque sauce 10 g sugar, 50 calories, 330 mg sodium
Baked beans 19 g sugar, 570 g sodium, 190 calories
Apple pie 20 g fat, 33 g sugar, 390 calories
Pecan pie 22 g fat, 30 g sugar 541 calories
Corn bread 6 g, 13 g, 200 calories
Soda 30-40 g sugar, 12 calories per ounce
Domestic Beer 200 calories each
Consider a basic meal of a cheeseburger, side of potato salad and baked beans and a slice of apple pie and a conservative net would equal 1,312 calories, over 3000 mg of salt and 67 g of fat. If you side with two hot dogs (who eats one?), a side of macaroni salad, some chips and slice of pecan pie you’ve reached 1,450 calories and 2,650 mg of sodium. Consider these numbers as conservative; most people each multiple servings and also consume additional calories from sodas, alcohols and other side dishes.
It is not surprising to see a single picnic meal reach over two thousand calories. So what is a person to do – skip barbeques? Rather than go extreme, make a couple of conservative changes and the day and waist line can be saved. For instance, using Fat-free hot dogs at 50 calories, 0 g fat, 490 mg sodium cuts the calories to a third and reduces the sodium. Swapping out hamburgers for chicken, soy burgers or buying extra lean meats like Buffalo, will save calories and reduce saturated fat. Using a spice mixture like “Suddenly Pasta” and some olive oil cuts the fat and calories in half on the pasta salad. Condiments hide a lot of calories, fat and sugar. Use reduced calorie mayonnaise and low sugar barbeque sauce instead. Slice avocado for hamburgers or grill onions as healthier toppings. For beverages, brew up unsweetened ice tea and offer calorie free options like Crystal Light. Rather than serving calorie-rich desserts serve fruits like watermelon and cut strawberries; even topping it with lite Cool Whip only adds 25 calories.
In addition to making some smart food choices, be sure to center your Labor Day around activities. Touch football, playing catch or horse shoes or Bacchi all expend calories and remove people from the temptation of boredom and proximity eating. Lastly, do not forget about sunscreen. Be sure the SPF is adequate for the environment; even though many people have been cooped up for months and the temptation for a quick tan beckons, excess sun exposure raises risks for skin cancer.