Labor of love handles

Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach, is a longtime fitness instructor at the Jewish Community Center. She is also a member of the St. Louis Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

By Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach

Labor Day barbecues have become symbolic of the final days of summer.  School is in full swing, vacations are over, and the days really are getting shorter.  If you have had a delightfully fit and fun season, whether it was to look like a knockout in that new swimsuit or because you finally decided to join a gym and found out you love it, why eradicate all that effort and dedication in a single weekend?

Rather than avoid such gatherings altogether, this year offer to host the party.  Regardless of the extra work involved, you will have ultimate control over what is being served. Plan to offer a colorful variety of fresh fruits and veggies – may as well enjoy them while they are still bountiful in the garden and the grocery aisles! 

If you are wondering how it is possible to throw a barbecue or buffet for fitness-minded, clean-eating friends and family, I am here to help!  Rather than choosing to grill hot dogs, brats, ribs or burgers, think lean! Salmon grills up tender and flavorful, with a minimum of marinade required due to its higher healthy fat content. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are also a nice choice. If you feel creative, preparing kebabs is labor-intensive but always impressive.  A favorite in our house is alternating chunks of chicken breast with red peppers, onions, tomatoes and mushrooms.  In addition to being delicious, healthy and visibly appealing, a kebab requires dismantling onto a guest’s plate, slowing down the eating process. “Speed-eating” and grazing are common pitfalls at gatherings, so do your part to help!

As for side dishes, think unconventionally! Oil-and-vinegar coleslaw can replace mayonnaise-laden potato salad.  Homemade pita chips, with much less salt than the store-bought varieties, lends itself wonderfully to a chunky fruit salsa in place of traditional creamy dips. On particularly warm days, party-goers will appreciate lighter fare.

Here some dessert, and it truly does not have to be s’mores. Grilled fruit is very popular, and so very easy to prepare.  Sliced and pitted peaches and nectarines burst with sweetness when lightly grilled. Pineapple slices are also a great choice.  Serve with frozen yogurt or angel food cake.

How about the morning after?  If you do feel as if you over-indulged, and some of your guests express the same concern, plan to schedule a family fun run the next day.  There you have it: a guilt-free holiday celebration!