The sunshine and warm temperatures are back and that means that the season of BBQ’s, carnivals, weddings and graduation parties is upon us! While most of us look forward to the summer and all of its wonderful festivities, it can sometimes be challenging to keep eating healthy with sweet treats and picnic-y foods all around. Here are some tips to enjoy the most of what summer foods have to offer, but keep inflammation and waistlines down! All recipes are notated at the bottom.
Buy seasonal produce
Summer brings an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables that are in season and much cheaper to purchase. Making use of CSAs and farmers markets can help you get more bang for your buck too. This is a great time to buy strawberries and cherries earlier in the season, with blueberries and peaches later in the season. Going to a local farm and picking fruit is a fun outing for the whole family and a great way to teach kids about healthy eating. Check out the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen” lists can also help you decide which produce is better to buy organic and which is safer to buy conventionally.
With so much produce available, it’s easier to replace pasta and rice with veggies. Spaghetti can be substituted with spaghetti squash and spiralized yellow squash or zucchini (1). Sweet potato fries are a great alternative to processed french fries and did you know the cauliflower works great instead of rice (2)?! Quinoa and lentils are wonderful sources of fiber and protein and work well in cold summer salads instead of traditional pasta salad (3).
Omit the mayo
Replacing heavy, mayonnaise-based salads with lighter salads dressed in vinaigrette is a healthy way to cut the calories and processed foods. Coleslaw can be made without mayo and bean salads are another way to get loads of healthy plant-based protein and veggies into the diet (4) (5). Buying dried beans and soaking them overnight before cooking is an even healthier alternative to canned beans (if you have the time) and can help reduce gas that is sometimes experienced with this food group.
Use fruit as a sweet treat
“I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream” … and sometimes our bodies scream afterwards! If dairy is an issue for you, fruit sorbet can stand in for dairy-based ice cream without the belly problems or migraines. Reward kids with sweets from fresh fruit instead of cookies or processed sugar. It’s easy to make banana “ice cream” at home too, in lots of flavors, where you can control what goes inside and have fun in the process (6) (7). Dip fruit in 70% dark chocolate for an extra delicious treat packed with healthy antioxidants.
Flavor your water
When the heat rises, so should your water intake! Can’t stand the taste of plain water? You can infuse it with lemon, lime, orange, mint, cucumber, etc. Be sure not to add flavor packets filled with sugar or artificial sweeteners, though. These products add to our inflammatory load and negate the healthy move of drinking extra water. Brew your own iced coffee and iced teas and some something bubbly, sparking water is a better alternative to soda. A drop or two of liquid stevia can give you a hint of sweetness without the added sugar.
Make your marinades
My favorite part of summer eating is grilling but lots of extra sugar, preservatives and other chemicals can be hidden in bottles of BBQ sauce and meat marinades. You can make your own spice rubs (herbs and spices are wonderful for health) and marinades to infuse tons of flavor into your meats before grilling (8). The longer you marinate, the better, so try it overnight! If you do buy prepared products, check the ingredient labels to avoid products with sugar (or sugar alternatives like high fructose corn syrup) at the top of the list.
Here’s to a happy, healthy summertime filled with lots of good food and sunshine!