Summer may bring to mind outdoor picnics with hot dogs and chips, but Registered Dietitian Brooke Douglas says the season also provides the perfect opportunity to plan delicious, healthy meals. It’s almost easier for people to eat healthfully during the warmer months than it is at any other time of year. The abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, combined with the chance to grill foods, offers many tasty alternatives to the high-fat foods we might associate with summer.
Here are some suggestions for making the most of summer with foods that are both appetizing and nutritious:
- Shopping: Take a minute to really think about what is most important to you before you go to the grocery store. Is it healthy? Am I buying economically? Is it easy to clean up? What do your friends, spouse or kids prefer?
- Be meat savvy. Choose lean cuts of beef, including round, sirloin and loin cuts. Tenderize the meat to increase flavor and texture without adding fat. Marinate in salsa, low-calorie salad dressing, wine or citrus juices. Grilled chicken or turkey breast chunks and shrimp are great for kabobs and they also make great alternatives to high-sodium hot dogs and hamburgers.
- Aim for variety. Kick up the health factor of grilling with vegetables and fruits. Cooking vegetables on the grill adds flavor. Make kabobs with fruit and grill on low heat until the fruit is hot and slightly golden. These healthy snacks also make consuming the recommended daily fruit and vegetable intake simple.
- Don’t forget to stay hydrated. Summer heat can cause dehydration. Water is the best option when temperatures soar, but you can add slices of lemons or strawberries for a zesty kick!
- Make eating healthy a priority this summer by focusing on simple snacks that don’t take much prep work. Keep fresh berries in the refrigerator to add to salads, yogurt and ice creams. Wash fresh green beans to dip in yogurt or low-fat cottage cheese. Keep healthy extras, like lettuce and tomatoes, in your produce bin. Cut up raw vegetables to serve with low-fat dips.
- Fruit smoothies are a snap to make. Just toss some fresh fruit, yogurt and nonfat milk in your blender. Your options for healthy summer eating are limited only by your imagination.
- Pack water. Don’t waste your money on soft drinks, juices, or non-nutritive beverages. The only thing you should drink is water. Use juice boxes only as an occasional (rare) treat for kids. Keep in mind that even the most healthful juices contribute excess calories. Teach kids to drink water now, and they will do this forever. Freeze your water bottles (for a full-day outing) or partially freeze them (for a shorter outing chill just 1 hour or so in your freezer); place the bottles in a cooler or bag to help keep foods chilled.
- Fruit is nature’s candy. Pack whole fruit if you can, so you have less to clean up later, or slice it up and put it in plastic containers or baggies. It is virtually impossible to compromise your health by eating too much fruit or too many vegetables; so, pack extra. You will eat them! Bring napkins or wipes for drips.
- Consider foods that don’t spoil as quickly as “main” dishes. Bagels with humus or peanut butter, veggie wraps, vinegar-based pasta salads, and breakfast items, such as waffles or pancakes, travel well with a slightly longer life than traditional fare, such as deli meats, casseroles, and cheeses. You also can try freezing yogurt tubes—they make great snacks or desserts when they are still frozen!
- High-fiber snacks: Portion your own high-fiber snacks. Instead of convenience pouches of crackers, chips, or snack foods, choose high-fiber foods to portion into containers or baggies. This way you can control your snack foods. Look for 3 grams (g) fiber or more/serving for snack food items to make sure you are getting the best nutrition. As soon as you open crackers, nuts, pretzels, cereals, dried fruit, popcorn, and trail mixes, separate them into serving portions and store the item in individual baggies. This way you are less likely to overeat from the larger container.
- Sweets and treats: Come up with a philosophy for dealing with sweets and treats that everyone in the household agrees with. For example, “You can have one treat per day” or “Everyone can have dessert with dinner.” Make sure this philosophy applies to everyone in the house. Having a routine for sweets and treats in your life and your children’s lives eliminates battles and stress in the face of tempting situations, such as ice cream trucks and snack stands.
- Help from your children or grandchildren: Let children help with everything from shopping and putting away groceries to washing, slicing, and putting food in containers. If kids help out in the kitchen, they are more likely to eat the foods parents want them to eat. Remember to make shopping lists that keep in mind the suggestions listed in this article.
- Picnic checklist: Make a summertime picnic checklist. This way, all you will have to do before you head out the door is pull together the items on your checklist, pack the main dish, and grab the freezer bottles. Don’t forget to include the following items on your checklist:
- Change of clothing
- Water shoes and buckets
- Fresh fruit
- Snack baggies
Summer is here and there are plenty of seasonal foods to enjoy! We all need to learn to take advantage of the colors of summer. Vitamin and nutrient dense fruits and vegetables can be prepared in a healthy way during the summer months! Take advantage of the season and eat more color!
If you would like to meet with a Registered Dietitian, contact Brooke at www.NutritionAuthority.com. Brooke now has 3 nutrition offices (Renton, Puyallup and Tacoma).