Keep Summer Healthy: Spruce Up Your Eating Habits
Want to spruce up your eating habits over the summer? With an abundance of fruits and vegetables, there is no time like the present.
By Susan Warner, Contributing Writer
Summertime is also food time. Barbeques, picnics, beach parties and camping trips bring challenges to keeping healthy eating habits. Common summer foods like burgers, hot dogs, brats, fried chicken, fried snack chips and high-fat frozen desserts may tempt you. There are many ways to balance a few treats with an overall healthy diet. Summer also brings with it many fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs. Outdoor exercise options expand as well to include more bike rides, swimming and hiking.
When choosing what to eat and drink this summer, it’s important to get the right mix of nutrients and calories. To eat healthier this summer, here are some tips that may help:
- Focus on making good food choices within the five food groups: fruits, vegetables, grains, meat and proteins, and dairy.
- Replace food and drinks high in sugar and empty calories with nutrient-rich and lower-calorie choices.
- Watch your portion sizes.
- Limit high-calorie ingredients when you cook at home.
- Increase your physical activity.
Take advantage of the season to make a big impact on your weight and overall health. Try these tips:
- Visit local farmers’ markets as a weekly family event. Or try growing a garden yourself. This gives you a double bonus: homegrown food and the exercise you’ll get from gardening. And, even finicky eaters often are more willing to try something new if they grow it themselves. According to Kids Eat Right, children who are involved in the process of growing their own food are more likely to eat healthy foods.
- Remember portion sizes. Fill your plate half full with fruit and vegetables. Then add smaller portions of proteins, grains and low-fat dairy. If you can’t resist that piece of fried chicken, choose a smaller piece and pair it with grilled vegetables or a fresh fruit salad. Or choose low-fat cheese and a whole grain bun with your burger. Add vegetable strips and a healthy fat-free yogurt or bean dip.
- Experiment with healthy recipes. Try grilling a variety of vegetables and fruit on skewers. Onions, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, pineapple, zucchini and bell peppers are great choices. The grain quinoa makes a great side salad base. Cook the grain according to package directions. Let it cool and add diced cucumbers, bell peppers, green onions, cherry tomatoes, dried blueberries, slivered almonds and a light olive oil vinegar dressing.
- Try fresh herbs instead of salt to bring out the flavor in food. Some ideas include using fresh mint in ice tea, cilantro in a pasta salad, basil and a dash of olive oil on tomato slices and tarragon in a chicken salad.
- Instead of traditional fried chips loaded with salt and empty calories, substitute baked snack chips and crackers, a veggie tray with a spicy bean dip or fruit kabobs for your next picnic or barbeque.
- Instead of a traditional mayonnaise-based potato salad, mix together steamed new potatoes, olive oil and chopped chives.
- In any recipe, exchange high-calorie cream sauces, dressings and marinades with healthier choices like plain low-fat yogurt, olive or canola oil, lemon and lime juice, or red wine or balsamic vinegar.
- On your next hike, pack unsweetened dried fruit. Or make your own trail mix using a variety of dried fruit like cranberries, apricots, raisins or blueberries. Add whole-wheat cereal flakes, almonds, walnuts, pistachios or sunflower seeds for a great snack on your next hike. Indulge yourself and add a handful of dark chocolate chips for an extra treat. Small foods like dried fruit and nuts can be a choking hazard for children. Have young children avoid these foods.
- Did you have a successful fishing trip? Try making fish tacos with grilled fish, whole-grain tortillas and fresh grilled veggies. Add your own fresh salsa for some extra zing.
- On a hot summer day, there’s nothing as refreshing as homemade gazpacho, a chilled soup made of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, onions and cilantro. If you don’t like cilantro, you can substitute fresh flat leaf parsley.
- Drink enough fluids for the weather and your activity. Choose plain water, seltzer with a lime wedge, low-calorie drinks or diet drinks.
- Stop eating when you’re full, not when your plate is empty. Take a smaller serving to start and wait 20 minutes. Then, go back for seconds only if you’re still hungry.
- Craving sweets? What could be better on a hot summer night than fresh, cold watermelon? Or cut a peach, plum or nectarine in half, take out the pit, dust it lightly with sugar and grill it flesh side down for a few minutes. Add a small scoop of fruit sorbet or frozen yogurt for a decadent, but healthy treat.