Dog Days of Summer

The Fourth of July marks not only America’s Independence Day but also – as crazy as it sounds – the Nathan’s Hot Dog-Eating Contest. 2016 marks the 100th year of the contest.  Last year’s winner scarfed down 62 hot dogs in 10 minutes.

If you are impressed by this record, read this: in a mere 10 minutes, this contestant took in almost 18,000 calories, more than 1,116 grams of fat, 372 grams of saturated fat, and 48,360 milligrams of sodium – and those numbers don’t include the bun!

Do I even need to tell you what is wrong with this picture?

True, this is an extreme example of a very bad judgment call and most us will, hopefully, never consume such a whooping amount of calories, saturated fat, and sodium in on sitting.  But if you do happen to over-indulge on the typical barbecue fare this summer, you should be exercising to burn off all those weight-piling calories and artery-clogging fat.

This might not be the kind of news you want to hear so close to the 4th of July weekend but the traditional barbecue foods are not exactly weight and health-friendly.  Greasy hot dogs and brats, hamburgers on a bun, and mayo-based coleslaw and potato salad add up to a lot of calories and fat.  Add a six-pack of beer and sugary sodas and you have a nutritional disaster on your hands - without even mentioning desserts like ice cream or s'mores.

Not only does this kind of food, if consumed regularly over the summer months,  pile on the pounds, but it can put you at a higher risk for some serious medical conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.  And consuming large quantities of processed meats such as hot dogs and brats has been shown to increase the risk of colon and pancreatic cancer.

You can still enjoy summer cookouts; you just have to make smart nutritional choices.  And exercise regularly so you can burn off calories and fat before they do serious damage.

Some suggestions -- 

Be a pit master:  For a healthier cookout, opt of a skinless chicken breast, lean fish, or shrimp and grill some vegetables.

Crunch the numbers:  keep tabs on calories, as well as fat, sugar, and sodium.  

Move it:  This part is very important. Even if you eat a reduced calorie, low-fat diet, you need regular exercise (and more so, if you eat a lot of above-mentioned unhealthy food).

Be warned that even a great workout may not totally offset poor eating habits, so you really should be careful what you consume this summer. Because you can’t exercise away poor nutrition.