Seven Ways to Eat Smarter this Summer

By Katherine Brooking, MS, RD

With summer just around the corner, you may find yourself struggling to eat right in the face of all the temptations of BBQs, picnics and other summer feasts. If you’re not sure where to begin, here are a few simple tips for how to be healthier this summer.

1. Snack smarter
Start by changing the “snack ratio” in the house. Slowly and gradually have more fruits, veggies, and healthier snack choices around, rather than the typical, higher-calorie junk food. Fresh produce is abundant in the summer season. So make watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries, peaches, blueberries and other fruits your “go-to” sweet snack items in place of cookies, ice cream or candy bars.

I love to combine fresh fruit with nonfat Greek yogurt as a way to keep me satisfied between meals, while maximizing taste and good nutrition. (For great snack ideas, check out Julie’s list of “Skinny 100-Calorie Snacks.”)

2. Get a handle on portion sizes
Regularly consuming super-sized portions is one of the quickest ways to derail your diet. Develop a healthy habit of selecting sensible-sized food portions. If your plate has a serving of rice that can’t fit into the cupped palm of your hand, you’ve probably taken too much. Using this “cup of your hand” technique is a good way to mentally measure the amounts of foods that go onto your plate.

3. Slash your soda intake
Can you commit to going soda-free this summer? Why not! Try slowly weaning yourself off calorie-containing soft drinks. Delicious, thirst-quenching alternatives include unsweetened iced tea, or water with slices of orange or lemon. If you want to keep your ‘fizz’, try a beverage of ¼ cup 100 percent fruit juice mixed with seltzer.

4. Choose low-calorie sauces and dips
Take advantage of great summer salads for main courses and appetizers, but have sauces and dressings served on the side. This alone can save you hundreds of calories. Instead of dousing salads with rich dressings, dip your fork into a small dish of dressing and then pick up your food. This will impart the flavor of your dressing with every bite but without adding too many extra calories. If you find yourself at a party with lots of chips and dips, either avoid them altogether or portion out a handful of chips and pair them with a few tablespoons of healthier dips like hummus, salsa or bean dip.

5. Eat breakfast
Really. I mean it. Eating your breakfast can make a big difference in how many calories you’ll consume throughout the day. A healthy breakfast choice may establish your hormonal appetite regulation system. A scone or muffin with coffee may sound good but won’t tame your cravings or temper your appetite as well as a protein-rich breakfast with eggs (6 grams protein per 70-calorie med egg); egg whites (the protein is split between the yolk and white but the white is lower in calories); oatmeal with peanut butter or yogurt (especially Greek yogurt); yogurt or cottage cheese with fruit; or nut butters with a protein-rich whole-grain bread. If you eat cold cereal, look for brands that provide at least six grams protein per serving, and have it with a cup of skim or 1 percent milk for an additional 10 grams protein.

(For good ideas on what to eat for breakfast, check out our post on “10 Healthy Breakfasts in Less than 10 Minutes.”)

6. Make Mondays meatless
You may have heard of the “Meatless Mondays” slogan, which started as a way to help the war effort during WWI. Now it’s a nationwide movement (meatlessmonday.com). Why take the pledge? Going meatless just one day a week can decrease your risk for cancer and other major health issues.

7. Expand your “grain universe”
You’re into quinoa? Great! Now venture a little deeper into the world of whole grains. Not only do they taste terrific, there are many health benefits to be gained by expanding your “grain universe.” Studies show that eating whole grains instead of refined grains lowers the risk of many chronic diseases. While benefits are most pronounced for those consuming at least three servings per day, some studies show reduced risks from as little as one serving daily. The message here is: every whole grain in your diet helps!

(If you don’t know how to cook more exotic whole grains, check out this great guide from Cooking Light.

Katherine Brooking, MS, RD is a Registered Dietitian, writer and expert contributor to numerous television programs. She has appeared on The TODAY Show, Live with Regis & Kelly, The Early Show on CBS, Good Morning America Health, and many others. She covers health and wellness topics in SELF Magazine, The Washington Post, The New York Times and New York Daily News. For more information go to AppForHealth.com

The articles written by guest contributors are the sole responsibility of the individual writers in terms of factual accuracy and opinion and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher of this blog.

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