Summer is filled with picnics, barbecues, sporting events, boating, and beaches, which presents many opportunities to fire up the grill and throw back some cold ones with friends. But with this increase in grilling comes a whole bunch of pitfalls and traps that can add a spare tire to your waistline.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Take action and create a thinner waist with these simple ways to beat the barbecue belly.

Use whole wheat buns

Eating a ton of high glycemic foods, such as potato chips, ice cream, sodas, and full-flavored beers, turn on insulin and open up the floodgates to storing everything you are eating. Most guys don’t realize that insulin, not testosterone, is the key hormone in the body. It determines your rate of aging, level of inflammation and whether your body is in a fat storage or burning mode. White bread causes a spike in your insulin and makes your body store fat. Switching white bread for whole wheat, rye, or sourdough buns can keep the fat at bay and help control insulin. Another tip is to avoid high-fructose corn syrup sodas and energy drinks.

Grill lean meat

Lowering fat content can dramatically decrease your calorie intake. Fewer calories equals less barbecue belly.

Eating grilled meats, like the ones your buddies serve at cookouts, is OK as long as you remove excess fat and watch how and what they’re grilled with. Remember: Naked is best. You can easily remove the skin from a piece of chicken without anyone noticing. Most cookouts offer a variety of meats, so choose the leanest cuts of beef, chicken and pork.

SLIDESHOW: Healthy BBQ Options

Portion control

Portion control is essential in beating the barbecue belly and the battle of the bulge in general. Here are a variety of ways to cut down at the grill:

— Eat 1/4 pound burgers (made with extra-lean ground sirloin) instead of 1/3 or 1/2 pound patties.

— Split a steak with your date instead of chowing down on an entire 10 or 16 ouncer.

— Load up on grilled veggies. They’re healthy, filling and still have that great “grill” taste.

If larger cuts of meat are served (such as whole pork tenderloin, roasts, etc), cut your portions into thinner slices to eat less. Stay away from processed meats, like sausages and hot dogs.


More from AskMen.com:

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Cool Grilling Tools


Don’t grill on an empty stomach

If you’re watching your waistline, then it’s never wise to arrive at a barbecue on an empty stomach. Eat a healthy snack before you leave home. If you arrive at a party starving, you’ll be more likely to overindulge. Also, don’t hang out near the buffet table. Find a comfortable spot across the yard or deck and focus on your friends and family instead of eating.

Eat your calories — don't drink them

Stick to low-calorie or calorie-free drinks. If you’re going for the soda, grab the diet. And if you want a few cold beers with your buddies, go for the light beer and of course drink plenty of water (which is always a good idea when outside in the hot summer sun).

When reaching for that beer, try these lower-calorie brews:

— Anheuser Busch Natural Light

— Budweiser Select or Select 55

— Busch Light

— Michelob Ultra

— Miller Genuine Draft "64"

— Miller Light

— Yuengling Light

Bike to the barbecue

If the location of a barbecue is close enough, walk or ride your bike to the party instead of driving. If that’s not possible, then gather up your friends for a nice summer walk to burn off the barbecue. Chances are, if you’re cooking out, then the weather is perfect for an early evening stroll. If that still doesn't suit your style, set up a game of Frisbee, touch football, horseshoes, or some activity that requires you to move.

Make these tips a habit

Research has shown it takes 21 days to develop a new habit and around 300 days to make that habit a conditioned, new automatic behavior. Make this summer the time for healthy choices to become your new way of life — and by next spring, your challenge with the barbecue belly will be a thing of the past.