Summer is the perfect time to start eating healthier. The days are longer, allowing more time to enjoy outdoor activities, many fruits and vegetables are at their peak for flavor and price, and everyone wants to look their best after shedding the winter clothing layers.
Summer is the perfect time to start eating healthier. The days are longer, allowing more time to enjoy outdoor activities, many fruits and vegetables are at their peak for flavor and price, and everyone wants to look their best after shedding the winter clothing layers. Here are some easy tips to help you stay healthy this summer.
1. Break out the grill. Grilling is a healthy, low-fat way to cook. Start by giving the grill grates a good scrubbing to get rid of any leftover char. Choose lean meats, like sirloin, chicken, pork loin and fish. Marinate the meat to add flavor, tenderize and help reduce carcinogens that can form when meats are charred. Cook meats to the recommended temperatures for food safety. Don’t forget that you can grill most vegetables, even lettuce, and that grilled fruit makes a delicious summertime dessert. Experiment with unconventional grilled foods, like pizza or slices of angel food cake.
2. Stay hydrated. Be sure you are getting enough fluids to avoid dehydration, especially as the temperature and the humidity increase. Rev up your metabolism for the day by drinking 8 ounces of water first thing in the morning. You don’t have to drink plain water — try fresh squeezed juices, iced teas or coffees, cut up some fruit in your water to flavor it, and eat lots of fluid-filled foods, like fresh fruits and vegetables. Green tea is especially healthful and can help decrease inflammation and reduce sunburn damage. Be careful of too much alcohol, though. Alcohol comes with a lot of empty calories and can trigger you to eat more.
3. Keep the heat out of the kitchen. Challenge yourself to make entire meals without turning on the oven or stove. You can cook everything outside on the grill or you can take advantage of some healthy prepared foods to make quick, no-cook meals. Rotisserie chicken, frozen cooked shrimp, canned crab meat, canned tuna or canned beans all can be used to make hearty main dish salads, wraps or sandwiches. Rethink your usual mayonnaise-based salads and try some with mustard, oil or low-fat yogurt dressings.
4. Stock up on in-season fruits and vegetables. Hit the local farmers markets for the freshest selections. Make it a family affair and have the kids pick out something new to try each week. Buy extra and freeze for a taste of summer next winter. June is the season for beets, broccoli, cherries, strawberries and rhubarb. In July, look for blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and peaches. August is prime time for corn, melons, tomatoes and summer squash.
5. Cool off with frozen treats. Instead of ice cream, think sorbet, fruit ices, popscicles or nonfat frozen yogurt. Freeze bananas or grapes, or make a frozen fruit salad for a cool treat. Experiment with making your own healthier ice creams.
6. Eat some fat. That’s right, fat. A daily intake of healthy fats, like olive oil, nuts and avocados, can help your skin resist UV damage and helps hold moisture in your hair and skin. Make guacamole, add nuts to your morning cereal and use olive oil in your salad dressings.
7. Picnic safely. Headed to the family reunion? Take a few precautions to prevent food poisoning. Prep your dish no more than one day ahead. Transport cold dishes on ice. Bake hot dishes so they are done just before you leave the house. Don’t let food set out longer than 2 hours and no longer than 1 hour if the temperature is greater than 90 degrees. Store the dishes in the coolers after everyone has been served. Consider tossing leftovers due to the likely possibility of many people handling the food or questionable storage.
8. Get outside. Take a hike, go for a swim, plant a garden or start a new hobby, like playing golf or tennis. Take advantage of the extra daylight hours and spend more time being active.
Anita Marlay, R.D., L.D., is a dietitian in the cardiac rehab department at Lake Regional Health System in Osage Beach, Mo.