Although 2020 has been different, when we think of a normal summer, it’s no school, family cookouts, beach picnics and maybe a little vacation. Now admittedly these all sound great, but they don’t always lead to us making the most health conscious decisions when it comes to our food. But just as the summer is a great opportunity to take advantage of the sunshine, it also provides a chance to take advantage of fresh in-season produce and lean meats to create an overall healthier diet. Below we will list a few ways to eat a little healthier during these months and how it might not be as difficult as we think.
Primetime for Produce
Warmer temperatures aren’t just a welcomed sight for those of us in cold weather climates, but it’s also a welcomed sight for our summer crops. These temperatures naturally create a warmer soil environment and thus allow crops like melons and berries to thrive. Here are a few in-season produce options that can greatly benefit a healthy summer diet.
- Berries: Although they are available year around, berries are best during their in-season summer months. Of course the nutritional values of specific berries are different, but they are all high in antioxidants, fiber and Vitamin C. Berries pack a very healthy punch and are a great option when you’re looking for a snack.
- Watermelon: A fan favorite among many, and depending on where you live, you might even be able to get a fresh one straight from the field. Watermelons are known for their sweet and juicy flavor, but they also pack the highest concentration of lycopene of any fruit or vegetable, which helps prevent against cell damage.
- Bell Peppers: These stand out because they provide a unique arrangement of color and texture to our salads or meals, but they are definitely more than that. Bell Peppers are known for containing carotenoids, which give them their unique color, but more importantly, diets containing high levels of carotenoids are also linked to reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Avocados: Whether its guacamole, avocado toast, avocado burgers or avocado pizza, this little green vegetable is everywhere and that’s for good reason. Not only does it provide a delicious taste, but it contains a full range of vitamins like B5, B6, C and K. This single vegetable also contains fiber, potassium, folate and other antioxidants that protect our cells.
Choosing your protein
When it comes to the food at the family cookout, the protein choices usually steal the show. Whether it’s burgers and hot dogs or pork chops and chicken, it’s definitely the part we look forward to the most. These food items are a staple of family barbeques and you don’t have to give up everything to eat a little healthier. However, there are some small changes that can help.
- Choose lean meats: As mentioned above, the protein options you can choose from are endless, but health-wise it’s best to choose lean meats if possible. For example, skinless chicken is a great option when deciding what you want to make. Skinless chicken is lower in calories than its alternatives, contains a bevy of vitamins and minerals and is easy to digest. In addition to chicken, other great diet friendly options include salmon, lobster or plenty of other seafood.
- Burgers: For some of us, nothing beats a juicy burger and although some of the other protein options above might be healthier, that’s not something you can give up. Don’t worry, burgers can be healthy too. As stated above, choosing a lean ground beef to make your burgers can make a big difference, and lean meats usually have less than 10 grams of fat per 100 grams. Choosing a lean beef to make your burger, makes for less saturated fat and calories, while allowing more room for our favorite toppings and bun.
Small changes that make a big difference
Eating healthier can be a daunting task for a variety of reasons, from the cost of the food itself to the overwhelming feeling that big changes are needed. Well, that’s not always the case. Like we mentioned above, small changes can make a big difference, whether it’s just choosing a leaner protein option at the cookout or adding a few more bell peppers and berries to your meals. Below are a few more small changes that can make a big impact.
- Lose the bun: Whether it is hot dogs, hamburgers or many other things in between, a bun is commonplace and a natural fit. Of course the calories of a hamburger bun will vary by brand and style, but according to nutritionix.com, an average hamburger bun is 128 calories. Now if you’re like me, one hamburger usually doesn’t suffice, so after two hamburgers you’re looking at over 250 calories just in the bun portion of your meal. So next time you go to eat a burger fresh off the grill, maybe give lettuce wraps a try or find a whole-grain substitute.
- Snacks: Everybody loves snacks and we know they’re not always the healthiest. However, the next time you pack for that beach picnic, there are some better options to choose from then maybe our normal go-to like chips or even pretzels. Common healthy alternatives include nuts and fruit, maybe a homemade trail mix or veggies like celery that travel well. It’s also important to know what healthy snacks are because even some common choices we think are healthy like granola bars and dried fruit, are actually packed with sugar.
- Give and take: Our last tip doesn’t just apply to the summer months, but it applies to our eating habits as a whole. When trying to improve your diet and add some healthier choices, it’s important not to feel overwhelmed and as if you need to eat healthy each and every time. Adopting this method may lead to a quick burnout and be extremely hard for your body to adjust to, so it’s recommended to take things slowly and make those subtle changes that make a difference. An example of a give and take scenario would be eating that hamburger at the pool and indulging in your favorite bun and toppings, but maybe when selecting your side, pass on the potato salad and toss some fresh fruit in there instead.