Summer is officially here! Time to lay out the beach towels, apply the sunblock, and spend the long weekends lounging by the lakeside or hitting the nearest hiking trails.
Many of us adore summer for its vast array of outdoor adventures—not to mention all those amazing backyard barbecues, 4th of July celebrations, graduation parties, bonfires, camping trips—did we miss anything?
Of course, with so many activities centered around food, it's hard to pay attention to the different goodies you're piling onto a plate. Let's also not forget that many of these gatherings tend to serve more alcoholic beverages, which only adds on more empty calories and less nutrients.
So, what's a person to do?
You might think you're limited to only two options: (1) enjoy basking in the sun with friends while indulging in your favorite summer foods, or (2) reluctantly sit on the sidelines watching everyone have a great time.
Good news for you! Despite popular belief, you don't need to choose. Instead, try following a few tricks to stay on track.
5 Nutrition Tips for the Summer
1) Go easy on the sauces
We get it. Grilled chicken or a rack of ribs smothered in honey bbq sauce sounds too good to pass up. But many condiments, like bbq sauce, ketchup, and honey mustard, can contain more than 4 grams of sugar per serving. And because most of us don't carry around a tablespoon for measuring out condiments, it's hard to tell just how much we're actually eating.
Plus, if you're not the one cooking, it feels kind of odd to ask the grill master how much sauce is on each piece of food. Awkward!
Instead, consider other sources of flavor without the sugar impact, such as lemons, limes, olive oil, vinegar, herbs, and spices. By marinating your meats in these alternatives, you can instantly remove unwanted sugars while still enjoying great taste!
Read our recent article on understanding the sugar in condiments for more tips!
2) Shake hands with your local Farmers Market
Summer isn't just a time for outdoor adventures. It's also the perfect environment for a weekly trip to your local's farmers market. If you're already an avid attendee, hats off to you! But if you've been meaning to visit your local vendors, why not make it a family event?
While there, you'll be surrounded by fresh produce to add to each meal's menu. Fresh summer squash and zucchini, heirloom tomatoes, and strawberries are just a few summer classics to consider. The best part is you can grill many of these veggies along with your favorite meats in kabobs to help fill your plate with more nutrients.
3) Choose the right veggies
Speaking of veggies. One in particular that gets a lot of attention this time of year is corn on the cob. This classic summer veggie is delicious, but it's not as nutrient-dense as you might think.
Corn traditionally contains 17 grams of carbohydrates and 3 grams of sugar. Though it does contain some fiber and protein, it's lower in vitamins and minerals, compared to zucchini, which contains 6 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, and Vitamin C. Let's also not forget that zucchini is WAY more versatile when it comes to recipes. You can make zucchini noodles, zucchini boats, zucchini bites—you name it!
4) Spruce up your water pitcher
This advice is two-fold: (1) try adding natural favors to your water, using diced strawberries, fresh lemon and lime, cucumber slices, or blackberries; and (2) prepare a large pitcher of water with the ingredients and keep in the fridge for easy refills.
Staying hydrated during the summer never goes out of style. But why not give your water a little boost of fresh flavors? Also, by preparing a pitcher ahead of time, especially if you're having friends over, you'll find it much easier to stick with water, as it's easier to refill your glass than make a new drink.
5) Decide and Conquer
If your friends are sitting around a toasty campfire, toasting marshmallows, you might feel left out if you're trying to stick to a nutrient-dense lifestyle.
But consider this: If you know there will be s'mores in the evening, decide ahead of time how you can fit one of these savory treats into your day without going overboard. It could mean choosing a salad for dinner, skipping alcohol at the party completely, or splitting a s'more with a close friend.
Completely omitting your favorite foods like dessert might result in you eventually giving into temptation and over indulging—especially when you feel the social pressure of fitting in.
"The key, experts say, is finding the sweet spot between saying no to every piece of pie or other dessert you crave – which is usually a clear path to crashing and burning anyway…" (U.S. News).
By planning ahead and taking a proactive role in your food choices, you can avoid binge eating and the guilty feeling that often comes afterward.
"By giving yourself a little bit of what you love everyday, you are ahead of the craving game by preventing them before they even start—and if you do have them, satisfying them does not feel like a cheat or guilt-ridden choice," (Self).
Aside from all the tasty treats on the grill, dessert is often one of the hardest summer foods to conquer, especially when ice cream is all anyone wants to talk about.
To help you with your dessert menu, we wanted to provide a few tasty summer treats that contain less than 10 grams of sugar per serving.
- Fresh Strawberry Cheesecake Bites
- Dessert Pizza with Banana Ice Cream
- Blueberry Chia Ice Pops
- Chocolate Mousse Filled Strawberries
Next, if you're looking for fun cocktail ideas to bring to the party, consider these tasty options that contain 2 grams of sugar or less.
For tips on keeping your pantry stocked with nutritional snack ideas this summer, check out this blog article.