For many Americans, Labor Day Weekend is the final hurrah before kids head back to school. It’s time to celebrate friends, family, food and some of the last warm days of summer. Whether you’re soaking up the last strong rays of summer sunshine or gearing up the grill, there are ways to enjoy the weekend without sacrificing your health.
Health experts Cristina Rivera, a registered dietitian and president of Nutrition In Motion PC, and Dr. Shawn Allen, spokesperson for The Skin Cancer Foundation share their tips for surviving the Labor Day Weekend sun and BBQs.
Choose your foods wisely:
- Veggies such as asparagus, zucchini, corn, peppers, onions, and portobello mushrooms are great grilling choices to have on their own, as a side dish, or part of a kebab, instead of red meats, which are high in fat.
- If you want meat-based protein, chose leaner ones like chicken breast, bison burgers, salmon, tuna, or shrimp as alternatives to meats with higher saturated fat content.
- Fruits cooked on the grill add sweetness to any meal and complement most proteins. Try cutting up pineapple, mango, or peaches and grilling them for a few minutes on each side .
Pass on the chips and dip. High calorie snacks like chips and dip can add 300 calories or more to your daily total. Instead, bring your own low calorie summer snack foods, including:
- Frozen Greek yogurt with berries: Mix 6 oz plain fat free Greek yogurt with ¼ tsp vanilla extract and place in freezer for about 2 hours. Serve with 1 cup berries or fresh fruit (150 calories).
- Shrimp cocktail: Serve 7 medium shrimp with 1 Tbsp cocktail sauce (120 calories).
- Diet root beer float: Add ½ cup no sugar added low fat ice cream to 1 cup diet root beer (70 calories).
- Strawberries and cream: 1 cup sliced strawberries (8 medium berries) with 2 Tbsp low fat whipped topping (100 calories).
- Cucumber pita pocket: Slice ½ medium cucumber into thin circles, combine with 2 Tbsp tzatziki sauce and add to a DVD-sized whole wheat pita (120 calories).
- Baked peaches: Cut a medium size peach in half and scoop a small circle in the middle. Sprinkle ¼ teaspoon cinnamon and bake at 350 for 10 minutes. When cooled, fill middle with ¼ cup low fat cottage cheese (120 calories).
- Berry smoothie: mix ½ cup skim milk or fat free plain yogurt with 1 cup berries and ½ cup ice in a blender (120 calories).
- Caprese salad: Slice low fat mozzarella into thin slices (should look like a domino) and place them in between a tomato slice and a fresh basil leaf. Serving size is three pieces (130 calories).
Eat every three hours:
- Not skipping meals and sneaking in snacks throughout the day will keep your blood sugar steady, which means more energy for holiday festivities.
- Eating every three hours will keep you satisfied throughout the day so you won’t get hungry and make poor food choices later.
- Stay hydrated. Drinking enough water will curb cravings and keep you hydrated even when you’re out in the sun.
Keep Your Food Safe from Contamination:
- Keep raw meat away from fruits, vegetables, or any other dishes that may be served cold to prevent cross contamination with microbes that can grow in raw meats.
- Keep a meat thermometer handy to ensure all proteins are cooked thoroughly (aim for 145-160 degrees Fahrenheit depending on the type of protein and how well done you prefer it).
- Perishable foods should not be left out for more than 2 hours. If it is above 90 degrees outside, no more than 1 hour.
- If you plan on indulging, be sure to plan more physical activities so you can balance the amount of calories you eat with number of calories you burn off.
- Go swimming or organize water games at a local pool.
- Try riding your bike or walking to your labor day destination.
- Look into local races such as a 5K. Many towns and organizations host runs on Holidays.
Seek the shade:
According to Allen, forgetting to cover up during the outdoor family party can significantly increase your risk for sun burns. “A person’s risk for skin cancer doubles if he or she had had five or more sunburns at any point in life,” he says. Here are some ways to stay sun-burn free:
- Find shade between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun is strongest.
- Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses. “Clothing can be your most effective form of sun protection, so make the most of it with tightly woven or knit, dark or bright colored fabrics, which offer the best defense,” says Allen.
Use sunscreen for outdoor activities:
- The sunscreen label should say water-resistant, broad spectrum (meaning it protects against UVA and UVB rays) and have an SPF of 30 or higher. Look for sunscreens with The Skin Cancer Foundation’s Active Seal of Recommendation, which means it has been proven to protect the wearer from extended sun exposure.
- Apply one ounce (about the size of a golf ball) to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside so the sunscreen has time to absorb into the skin. Be sure to reapply every two hours or immediately after swimming or sweating.
- “A tan, whether you get it on the beach or in a tanning bed, is bad news,” says Allen. “If you have one, you’ve sustained skin cell damage, just as you would if you had burned.” Up to 90 percent of the visible changes commonly attributed to aging are caused by the sun, including wrinkles, leathery skin and brown spots.