Ed Levine's Caloric Journey, Week 177: Fourth of July Picnic/Barbecue/Party Eating Strategies, Serious Eaters?

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[Photograph: Robyn Lee]

Like a lot of other folks I am facing a weekend full of picnics, barbecues, and parties of every stripe imaginable that invariably involve copious amounts of food. If I'm not careful, these kinds of weekends can kill me, caloric journey-wise. We all know the drill: You get to party/picnic/cookout. The host offers a drink. There are lovely and luscious-looking spreads and cheeses offered to accompany the drink. Sometimes there are crudites to save the day, sometimes not.

Last night was a perfect example. We went to a friend's for dinner an hour after we arrived on the island. Our hosts offered us a glass of prosecco and a choice of three dips: guacamole with tortilla chips, smoked tuna, and smoked shrimp and crab. I decided I would taste each one on a small cracker. That was going to work, except the dinner itself was delayed a half-hour and I was starving, so I ended up having two rounds of appetizers. I took a small piece of steak for dinner (there was a lot of steak to go around), a lot of salad, half an ear of corn, and some perfect little new potatoes with pesto and peas.

I did okay, not great, but I now realize that I need a plan for the weekend that features one barbecue, one dinner party, one huge pot luck July 4th party, and a beach picnic.

Here's what I'm thinking, and any and all helpful suggestions would be much appreciated.

  • Look for the crudites and limit my intake of the dips that accompany them. If necessary, I will BMOC, or bring my own crudites.
  • At a backyard barbecue limit myself to one thing with a bun. I might have a hamburger and a hot dog, but I will skip the bun on one of them.
  • If it's a picnic, skip the chips unless someone has bought individual bags of baked chips that are less than 150 calories.
  • So is potato salad, whether it's mayonnaise-based or German-style.
  • Cole slaw can be deceptive if it's swimming in mayo. In fact, it's not deceptive, it's destructive.
  • If it's a dinner, no seconds on anything but salads and vegetables.
  • Dessert should be mostly fruit. If someone serves me a piece of pie I will limit myself to a few bites. Same with brownies or chocolate chip cookies. I will not finish any dessert.

These should do it—these should prevent a July 4th Caloric Journey Meltdown.

Happy July 4th, Serious Eaters. May your holiday be filled with friends, family, and seriously delicious food in small portions.

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