Fill Up On Fun, Not Food Guilt At Your Summer BBQ

Fun Over Food Guilt

Summer is the season of picnics, BBQs, and outdoor gatherings. These events can be such rich times to enjoy with friends and family! But, they can also be loaded with rich, greasy meats, heavy sides, and an expanse of decadent sweet treats!

Special occasions are meant to be enjoyed, but if you have ever left a ‘special occasion’ with a little food guilt, you can change this.  You were born with the ability to choose.  And, if you have the Spirit of God living in you, then you also have the fruit of the Spirit, self-control.  Learning how to exhibit that fruit requires some boundaries and practice!

Wise ol’ Solomon says it plain and simple:

The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage,
But everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty.
Proverbs 21:5 (NASB)

Determining your behaviors before you arrive, before the food is staring you in the face is to your advantage.  The dictionary describes advantage as “especially favorable to success, interest or any desired end.”  When we decide to “play it by ear” or “see what looks good,” hasty decisions can overwhelm good intentions.

As you begin to plan for your fun, food-filled events, here are some ideas to help you navigate the food scene:

Eat One Regular Size Plate of Food

At gatherings and special events, it is common to see the “platter-sized” plates available for filling, and even more common to go back for a second spoonful of the dishes that delighted our taste buds.  But, just like you would do at home, set a boundary about how much you will eat.  

You don’t need to feel guilty about enjoying a spoonful of a satisfying but rich casserole, but you certainly will feel it if you go back for a second helping.  Choose a regular 9” plate.  Fill it once.  And enjoy!

Decline the “Doggy Bag” and Aluminum Foil

There is no guilt enjoying some dishes that you wouldn’t make on a regular basis, but choose to enjoy them at the gathering – and leave it there.  That is what makes it a “treat,” right?!  If these foods do not fit into your regularly scheduled healthy meals at home, then kindly decline the leftovers.  By doing this, you avoid the decision to “indulge” or throw away – just make the decision now. Don’t bring them home.

Choose One Dessert

At many BBQs and outdoor gatherings I have attended, it is not uncommon to see an entire table filled with desserts!  Pies, cookies, cakes, puddings…  Why that many sweet-treats is necessary, I have no idea!  But, I digress.  When having dessert at a restaurant, how many would you order?  When eating a homemade dessert at home, how many would you taste?  One!  Follow the plan you would use in any other scenario, view your “menu”, and choose one.  Cut a moderate portion and enjoy every bite you choose to eat!

Don’t Be Deceived by Beverage Choices

Many common beverages at parties are loaded with calories and sugar!  

  • 16oz sweet tea = ~140 calories
  • 16oz fruit punch = ~240 calories
  • 16oz soda (ie. coke) = 186 calories
  • 16oz 100% juice = ~250 calories
  • 12oz dark beer = 180-200 calories

Decide how much of your preferred option is acceptable to you and then what you will do when you need a refill.  

A few light and refreshing choices to consider:

  • Sparkling water (lemon, lime, tangerine, etc) – These are great when poured over ice and there are dozens of flavor choices in grocery stores!
  • Unsweet iced tea with a splash of juice
  • Sparkling water or water with a splash of juice and orange wedge
  • Infused water – Mint or herbs; orange/lemon/lime wedge; muddled berries.  Create your own flavor combo!

Bring A Healthy Dish

When attending events thrown by other individuals, you can never be certain of all that will be provided.  Wisely and strategically offer to bring a healthy recipe that you know is delicious and satisfying.  Don’t be conned, persuaded or ‘voluntold’ to bring an item you don’t want to bring.  Kindly decline and offer your healthy recipe – make sure to highlight its amazing flavor!

For some Healthy Inspiration in the kitchen, bring this Citrus Asian Coleslaw to your next event!

Citrus Asian Coleslaw Citrus Asian Coleslaw





Citrus Asian Coleslaw

16oz bag coleslaw mix
6 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 tbsp 100% pure maple syrup
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped cilantro, + more for garnish
2 tbsp chopped green onion
1/4 cup sunflower seeds, raw
1/4 cup slivered almonds, raw
2 oranges, sliced into small wedges


In a medium non-stick pan, toast sunflower seeds and almonds on medium heat until lightly brown and fragrant. In a large mixing bowl with lid, add in vinegar, oil, maple syrup, salt, and pepper. Whisk dressing well or shake up with lid. Then, add in coleslaw mix, cilantro, green onion, and sliced orange. Top with lid and shake up until combined. Store in refrigerator for at least 4 hours to allow flavors to combine. Before serving, stir in seeds and almonds. Garnish with additional chopped cilantro.

Servings: 8, about ¾ cup

Nutrition per ¾ cup Serving
Calories 127
Total Fat 7.4g
Saturated Fat 0.8g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 139mg
Carbohydrate 11g
Dietary Fiber 4g
Sugar 9g
Protein 4g

So, What’s the Play Call?

Creating a plan for your next BBQ or outdoor picnic will keep you in the driver’s seat and guilt nowhere to be found.  Before you drive up or even smell the smoke wafting from the grill, determine your game plan and personal boundaries.  Have a loving, but firm response ready if someone insists you aren’t eating enough or implies you will insult them by not trying their dish.  

As you think through previous scenarios and your own expectations for upcoming gatherings, ask the Lord to give you insight and wisdom so that you can respect your boundaries and speak in love to those who might infringe upon them.  

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