The sun's out; the pool's open; vacations are booked! Summer is my very favorite time of year - it's a time where schedules are a little looser, and life slows down. Not having to pack lunches everyday feels like a vacation in and of itself! Plus, everyone is just happier. Going on new adventures, being outside, and lighting July 4th sparklers - what's NOT to like? I also love summer, because we get to see our friends and family more often; these gatherings allow us to reconnect to what's important.
Of course, with those gatherings come food...lots and lots of food! Those endless barbecues and lunches on the beach are what help define summer. And there is nothing better than enjoying ice cream on a hot summer day. Am I right? Actually, there IS one thing that's better: enjoying that ice cream without guilt. And while it's not impossible to make "healthy" choices all summer long, it may not be realistic (or desirable!) for many of us. And that's okay! In fact, it's better than okay. Studies have shown time and time again that food restriction does not make for healthy relationships with food. All this to say...enjoy that ice cream. :)
Of course, enjoying that ice cream doesn't mean throwing all of your healthy eating habits out the window! Going heavy on the fruits, vegetables and lean meats is still a thing. Here are a few tips that may help you avoid some of summer's eating pitfalls:
Look before you pick. Summertime barbecues are typically buffet style. So, take a quick minute to look at all of the options before loading up your plate. Aim to fill at least half your plate with fruits and vegetables before filling it with anything else. They will help fill your belly with all that built-in fiber and also help hydrate you on those hot summer days.
Go for real food. It's okay to have a hot dog once in a while. But, it is not news to anyone that processed food is linked to obesity/overweight, higher fasting glucose, metabolic syndrome, and higher LDL cholesterol. So, opt for vegetarian proteins, chicken, fish, steak, or even homemade burgers instead.
Rethink your drink. Did you know there's almost 40 grams of sugar in a 12-ounce can of cola? For those who don't know what a gram looks like, that's equal to over three tablespoons of sugar. And chances are, you'll likely consume more than just that one can during a summer gathering. So, rethink your beverage choices whenever possible. If bubbles is what you're after, add a splash of juice or a squeeze of lemon to seltzer. Or, go for my favorite - good old plain water. :)
Try smart substitutions. Making tuna or salmon salad? Or how about a pasta salad? If so, try to substitute low-fat Greek yogurt or avocado for mayo. If you haven't done this yet, your mind might just be blown. Or, sub out the creaminess altogether for an olive oil-based salad instead. Here are some easy ideas!
Take time to plan. We've all been there. You're at the beach...with no food...and no plan...until everyone is hungry (and then cranky). If you take just a little bit of time before you go to the beach (or whatever lengthy outing) to plan, you'll have control over what goes into your body. My rules when I pack for the beach: it has to be easy, and it has to be real food. So, throw in some lean meat sandwiches, some veggies/hummus and loads of thirst-quenching watermelon. There are so many wins to planning: everyone can eat when they want; it's so much less expensive; there is zero fighting over where to eat; everyone gets more beach time!
Enjoy the outdoors! With this amazing weather comes the ability to be outside more often. Swim in the ocean, explore a new park, and walk (instead of drive) to the library or grocery store. In other words, move your body! After all, it's SUMMER...enjoy it!