Darin St. George: Think before you chow down

Darin St. George

I love the summer. The mood is lighter, the days seem brighter, and fun waits at every turn.

If only it were that simple.

There's the eternal gripe, "Do we really need the air conditioner yet?" that plagues many, planning family vacations and the dreaded barbecue dilemma that always pops up. What's that, you've never heard of the barbecue dilemma? It's that event you know you're going to go to and pig out at and are "definitely, definitely" starting your diet the day after it's over.

Rather than go on and on about strategies (eat before you go, pack your own food, etc.), I want to offer you a few options for what ends up on your plate. How you choose to cook can make a big difference.

Fire up the barbie. Kentucky fried may be traditional, but grilled is better by more than a few beaks. I did a little Trainer X research and found out that the Colonel is serving up a 360-calorie fried breast (37 grams protein, 7grams carbohydrate, 21 grams fat and 1,000 milligrams sodium) while a grilled breast off your own grill is 120 calories (24 grams protein, 0 grams carbohydrate, 1.5 grams fat, 0 milligrams sodium). That, folks, is a complete and total no-brainer. Sorry, Colonel, you're being demoted.

Look to your sides to shrink your love handles. It's no secret that side dishes can really take the calorie and bad nutrient levels into the stratosphere. No matter what the main part of your plate consists of, heaps of mashed potatoes covered in gravy can put you into the next dress size, fast. A cup of rice (who stops at a cup?) is more than 200 calories, while a cup of mixed vegetables clocks in at 70. You can fill up on three cups of veggies and still have room for dessert, but it's unlikely you'll want any with all that broccoli stuck in your teeth.

Try some frozen fruit to cool off. Here's a great recommendation from my good buddy Kristine Leone: freeze a few bananas and have one as a treat after a long summer's day filled with swimming, biking and running. They're only a wee bit more than 100 calories and offer vitamins C and B6 and also loads of potassium. Or, you could blow 138 calories on a chocolate chip cookie and really look like a monkey at the beach; the choice is yours.

Success lies in the margins, now doesn't it? Make a few small rights instead of lefts and you'll see that many small changes add up to make big ones where they count -- in you!

Darin St. George is a personal fitness coach at Gold's Gym in Natick, Mass. Visit his website at