As we get to the end of the school year and closer to summer, we are entering cookout and potluck season. So, how do you stay on track without missing out?


Here’s the blueprint for enjoying a potluck while staying on track with your goals: 


Plan ahead: If you know you’ll be attending a potluck, plan your meals for the day accordingly. If you’re going to be consuming more calories than usual, make sure you adjust your intake earlier in the day to balance it out. For example, if you know there will be a potluck for lunch at work, then adjust your breakfast and dinner to be more protein and veggie-focused, so you can save some carbs and fats (or just save some calories) to indulge a bit in the goodies. So, breakfast becomes an egg white scramble with broccoli, dinner becomes a salad with grilled chicken, and lunch is 1 cup (fist-size) of Jen’s mac and cheese, 1 cup of Rob’s tikka masala, and of course, 1 cup of Kaitlyn’s ‘famous’ banana pudding.


Bring a healthy dish: One way to ensure there will be healthy options at the potluck is to bring your own. This way, you can control the ingredients and make something that aligns with your nutrition goals. Choose a dish that’s high in protein and mostly high-quality, whole foods  like a broccoli and cauliflower salad or egg salad with avocado. You can find some of our favorite potluck recipes here.


Veggies first: Load up your plate with vegetables first, since they are the lowest in calories and highest in fiber, which will help you feel full. Choose raw vegetables with dips, vegetable salads, or roasted vegetables.


Mind your portions: Don’t let the buffet line tempt you into overeating. Instead, use a smaller plate and take small portions of each of the dishes you want to try. Be mindful of portion sizes and don’t go for a second plate until you’ve waited 15 minutes after finishing your first


Watch out for hidden calories: Be aware of foods that may seem healthy but are actually high in calories, such as creamy dressings, or salads packed with nuts and cheeses. Try for lighter alternatives, like grilled proteins and raw veggies. 


Don’t skip meals: Skipping meals is a surefire way to make sure you overeat at the potluck.  Don’t go in hungry. A good way to do this is to have a protein shake right before.


Practice moderation: It’s okay to indulge a little at a potluck, but moderation is key. Enjoy a small serving of your favorite treat, and savor it slowly. Don’t feel guilty about enjoying yourself, but remember to keep your nutrition goals in mind.


Use the ‘Oreo Rule’: If you see a sweet treat that is homemade and hard to come by, scoop it up and enjoy it. But if you see something like an Oreo, something you can get any old day, skip it. It’s not special enough!


Drink water: Skip the sugar-sweetened drink options and crush some water instead. Don’t drink your calories! Save those calories for the goodies out on the table. Plus water will fill you up and make you less tempted to go back for seconds.


The key to sustainable progress is balance. You want to give yourself the flexibility to enjoy a potluck, without going overboard.  It takes a little effort – and every attempt might not be perfect – but it will be better than if you went in with no plan at all. 

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