We all know that winter and holidays can test our well-intended, “healthy eating goals”. Summer can just as easily offer the same sabotage with beer, wine, cocktails, BBQ dates, carnivals, fairs, and on the go fun. Fortunately, we can stay on track with some planning and being in the know. There is usually a healthy option for the foods we crave and how we prepare our foods plays a big role in our staying energized.
Lemonade, ice-tea, cocktails. Commercially sweetened iced tea has 80 calories per glass, lemonade has 100 calories, and most fruit juices are about 80 calories per 8 ounces, roughly the same number of calories as a regular soda. Instead, when you crave a sweet drink, I suggest diluting fruit juice with an equal portion of water, or even a 25% ratio will help. Cocktails? Be mindful to not drink your calories and wreck the work you did for the day.
Keep fresh fruit cut and ready to grab. Fruit may seem like a good choice, but not if your fruit salad is filled with canned fruit soaked in syrup, loaded with whipped cream, and garnished with mini marshmallows, as it often is at summer picnics. Make it healthier by using fresh fruit rather than canned and opt for light whipped cream or plain yogurt (which provides extra protein). Replace the marshmallows with banana or melon slices to add more sweetness.
Fair and carnival fun food choices. Hot dogs/sausages are high in saturated fat, calories, preservatives and loaded with sodium. If you desire a savory meal, go for the chicken or turkey gyro or chicken kebab options, sans the teriyaki-sugary sauces. Chicken on a stick is also a healthier option. To satisfy a sweet tooth, ditch the fried, sugar-topped funnel cakes and snack on kettle corn samples.
Go easy on the toppings. Ending the day with a dish of ice cream can put your daily calorie/fat intake over the top, especially if you choose a variety with added mix-ins. Instead of a giant sundae with lots of toppings, get a cone, the lowest-calorie option, or frozen yogurt. Moderation is key. No need to deprive.
Mind your chips and dip. It is so easy to lose track of how many chips you have eaten, and the fat and calories add up quickly. An ounce of potato chips contains 150 calories, and it is easy to mindlessly eat two to three times this amount. For a healthier option, chow down on sliced veggies with hummus or a yogurt-based dip, instead.
Keep summer salads light. Salads can be a great, low-calorie food choice — or a major calorie bomb. To keep things light, top summer salads with low-fat dressing, or make your own and substitute Greek yogurt for mayo. My favorite recipe is below.
“Cheat meals”. This phrase already demonizes food and exemplifies “naughty” behavior. I do not do cheat meals. I do not deprive myself of food I want. It makes us want it more. But we do need to be mindful that we cannot out exercise a bad diet. Read that again. We cannot out exercise a bad diet. No matter what, abs are made in the kitchen. Maintaining a healthy balance of movement and healthy food choices will set us up in the right way. Do not cut out foods you love. Simply decide you only need one cookie, not three. And if you have the one cookie, maybe eliminate the ice cream later or only have a few spoonfuls, not the whole cup.
Let’s choose US this summer. We have all had such a challenging year and we definitely deserve some indulgences. By choosing to prioritize our health and making better choices this summer, we are deciding on “self-care” and deciding that WE matter. Seize the day!