July 4th Cookout? Yes Please!

It’s summertime, and that means different things to different people. Depending on your age and your background, summer could mean no school. Pool parties. Baseball. County fair. Lightning bugs. The smell of freshly cut grass. Lemonade. Ice cream. The list literally could go on for a few pages.

One thing that would probably be high on most lists would have to be the cookout. Whether you call it grilling, barbequing, or something else, having people over for good food and fellowship is as much a part of summer as anything else I can think of.

Seeing that in America we are celebrating a long 4th of July weekend, there are lists all over the Internet advising you of the things you should and should not be eating. Advice like “stay away from the potato salad” or “go easy on the fried chicken” are all over the place. On twitter, I’ve seen lists from multiple health sites claiming which cookout pitfalls should be avoided for this holiday weekend.

Want to know what I think about all of these lists?

Don’t read them. Enjoy the holiday and the food that comes with it.

Disclaimer time. Please don’t completely disregard you calorie common sense every time you’re invited to a summer gathering. But when the gathering celebrates a national holiday, by all means go crazy. And if that holiday celebrates your nation’s independence, then you can feel free to gorge for a night independent of calorie counts and grams of fat.

Too often in the health world, my peers portray the importance of maintaining a certain level of daily caloric consumption. Whether it’s 1800/day, or a Michael Phelps-like 4000/day, we get caught up in the per day total. Dietitians need to take a step back and try to see the bigger picture. Weight gain, or loss, doesn’t happen over night. It is the result of weeks and weeks of accumulated caloric surpluses and deficits. By focusing so much on the daily allowances, people either buy in to limiting their calories or say screw it and eat whatever they want.

What I’m proposing is a little different. Radical? I don’t think so. Logical? You better believe it. Eat well most of the time. Eat from a variety of food groups most of the time. Indulge on the occasional instance.

So, my fellow Americans, on this 4th of July weekend feel free to not only celebrate our national independence, but a day or two of caloric independence as well. And to my international friends, when your country’s holidays are being celebrated, please enjoy the freedom to indulge as well.

Then, when the party is over, go back to eating well most of the time.

And if anybody questions you taking a second helping of strawberry pie with ice cream AND whipped cream, you can tell them I said it was ok.

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