Everyone loves summer! Many of us have been firing up the grill and having friends and family over to share some food and cocktails. The standard burgers, hotdogs, chips, and potato salad can be very heavy on the digestive system and leave you feeling bloated and sluggish. Sipping on an ice-cold soda, beer, or popular hard seltzer drink may sound refreshing, but can add to digestive discomfort later. While one meal may not make or break your health status, including some gut-friendly foods and beverages may make a big difference in how you feel that evening and even the next day.
Consider adding the following 10 gut-friendly options at your next cookout:
1. Veggie tray or roasted vegetables
Include a variety of colorful vegetables to give your table a visual pop and deliver different types of fiber and phytonutrients to make the body’s microbiome happy. Carrots, celery, and cucumber are popular among all ages for your veggie tray. Try adding cherry tomatoes and a cruciferous vegetable, such as broccoli for its fiber content and its glucosinolates, compounds consumed by health promoting microbes in the gut. Bell peppers, onions, yellow squash, zucchini, cremini mushrooms, asparagus, and tomatoes are great for grilling.
2. Hummus to go with the veggies
Hummus contains a whopping three gut-friendly ingredients – chickpeas, garlic, and olive oil. Chickpeas and garlic are sources of prebiotics, which feed the good microbes in the gut to allow them to multiply and thrive. Olive oil has an anti-inflammatory effect and promotes greater gut microbe diversity, both of which benefit overall gut health.
3. Mixed berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries)
Layer a variety of berries in a large clear glass bowl for a natural sweet treat and more color for your table. Your guests will gravitate towards refreshing strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries in the hot weather, particularly when beautifully displayed and ready to serve. Little do they know that the berries are delivering their microbiome a healthy dose of polyphenols, plant compounds which the healthy microbes love.
4. Fresh guacamole with low sodium organic corn chips
The avocados in guacamole are a good source of prebiotic fiber and healthy monounsaturated fat to soothe the gut by reducing inflammation and supporting the microbiome. This dual health benefit may support digestive issues like chronic constipation or bloating. Incorporating a variety of anti-inflammatory foods into your diet will give your health a boost as the majority of health problems involve some level of inflammation.
Low sodium organic corn chips provide fiber, which adds to the variety of fiber sources to fuel healthy microbes. Although corn chips are not significantly high in fiber, a healthy version can add to the total fiber bank. Look for a brand that has less than 1 gram of saturated fat and no trans fat, both of which should be limited due to their inflammatory effect.
5. Grilled chicken breast and veggie burgers
Chicken and veggie burgers are more gut-friendly than traditional hamburgers as red meat promotes inflammation. Veggie burgers typically contain legumes and other plant-based ingredients to help build a stronger microbiome. Chicken is a relatively easy to digest protein and a healthier alternative to beef or processed meats, such as hot dogs or brats, which can be loaded with saturated fat and additives.
6. Root vegetable fries
Root vegetables are prebiotic foods that allow the healthy microbes in the gut to thrive, and they are more nutrient dense compared to old fashioned potato fries. Root vegetables that work well in creating this healthier version of “fries” include sweet potatoes, beets, parsnips, and turnips. You can boost their anti-inflammatory quality by lightly coating with avocado oil and add an extra prebiotic benefit by sprinkling minced fresh garlic on top. Roast them in the oven instead of frying in excessive oil to preserve the nutritional value of this dish.
7. Lemon ginger water
Drinking plenty of water, particularly in hot weather, is important to prevent dehydration which can lead to constipation, bloating, and headaches. Fill a large glass pitcher with filtered water and add one lemon (cut in slices) plus one tablespoon of fresh grated ginger for the ideal anti-bloat beverage. Lemons contain compounds called flavonones, which are known to have anti-inflammatory benefits. Ginger is soothing to the GI tract in addition to having anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Lemon ginger water not only tastes great and is thirst quenching, it works to hydrate the body and benefit gut health.
8. Non-carbonated drinks
The carbonation in soda, sparkling water, beer, or hard seltzer drinks can quickly cause bloating and gastrointestinal discomfort. The source of bubbles is carbon dioxide gas, so sipping on these drinks is putting gas and bloat right into your digestive system. Beverage alternatives include iced tea (contains gut-loving polyphenols), lemonade, or water infused with lemon, orange, cucumber, ginger, or combination of these infusion options. Not only is infused water a healthier choice than carbonated drinks, but it provides an attractive display in a clear glass pitcher or glass beverage dispenser on your backyard table.
9. Non-alcoholic drinks
While many enjoy a cocktail when socializing with friends and family, you may want to choose a non-alcoholic alternative to avoid bloating, digestive irritation, dehydration, and headache. Alcohol promotes intestinal inflammation and has a negative impact on gut microbial balance and function. While 1-2 cocktails can be tolerated well by most, if you are prone to chronic bloating, constipation, or other digestive problem, then steering clear of alcohol may be a good plan until your digestive health is under control. The non-carbonated beverage options listed above would be great choices, and potentially provide gut friendly ingredients if choosing lemon ginger water or iced tea with its good dose of polyphenols.
10. Wine (preferably red) if alcoholic options are being served.
Wine is a better choice than beer or an alcoholic seltzer drink due to its polyphenol content. Wine polyphenols have been linked to increased diversity in the gut microbiome, when consumed in moderation. Although both red and white wine contain polyphenols, red wine has significantly more than white (approximately 210 mg polyphenols in 8 ounces of red wine versus 60 mg polyphenols in white wine). If a person has an inflammatory bowel condition (such as Crohn’s disease or colitis) or is highly prone to bloating and digestive upset, then avoiding alcohol altogether is recommended. But for others who are looking to enjoy a drink among friends, then an occasional glass of red wine can fit into an overall healthy diet without negative side effects.
Incorporating a few or more of the above recommendations at your next outdoor gathering will not just reduce bloating and support digestive health for the day, it may inspire your guests to jump on the healthy cookout bandwagon after they realize how much better they feel. Socializing, spending time outdoors, and fueling your body with a variety of healthy foods will give your overall health and energy a boost!
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