Summer is here, which means now, more than ever, many of us are focusing in on healthy eating habits. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t still a great deal of temptation out there to derail all of our good work. From summer BBQ’s to vacation travel, there’s a lot out there that can make it hard to stay on track. With all that in mind, we chatted with 9Health Ready Nutrition Expert Dr. Caitlin Dow to find out how we should frame our nutrition focus during these hot and busy summer months.
Key Health Habits to Focus on During Summer
Really, it all comes to down to water, particularly for those of us living in Colorado. Dr. Dow says staying hydrated is key. So, drink more water.
“You can also get more bang for your buck by focusing heavily on fruits and vegetables because they have so much water in them,” says Dr. Dow. Not only will you get the hydration, she says, but also the vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. Just add fruits and herbs (she suggests cucumber, watermelon, berries, mint and basil) to plain water and drink it throughout the day. It’s a great substitute for many of the unhealthy drink options out there when you find yourself craving a sweet beverage, such as soda.
Understanding How Summer Heat Plays a Role in Your Appetite
According to Dr. Dow, the weather does influence our appetites. “When a meal is consumed, body temperature will raise as your body works to digest and absorb the nutrients from food. How much body temperature changes will depend on the person and their body shape, the amount of food and the type of food,” she explains.
So during the summer months we may find ourselves less hungry because our bodies are trying to stay cool. Naturally, those healthy smoothies and salads become more appealing than in winter months. However, even eating those will raise our body temperature slightly, but we still may perceive them to be cooling foods.
Tips for Staying on Track at a Cookout
Because it is summer, it’s not uncommon to find ourselves at a cookout with friends and family. What foods should we try hardest to avoid? Here are some tips from Dr. Dow:
- Try mindful eating when you're at a cookout or picnic. Consider the foods that look the most delicious to you and choose small portions of them.
- Once you've finished eating, wait 15-20 minutes. If you're still hungry, grab some more food, but limit the portion sizes.
- Try to avoid grazing the tables of food, particularly that are full of processed snacks like chips, crackers, and cookies.
- As always, focus on fruits and veggies.
- The best option is to bring healthier foods to share. Everyone will appreciate it.
Tips for Staying on Track During Vacation
This is another area many of us struggle with when it comes to watching what we eat. It’s vacation. Shouldn’t we just let loose? Here are Dr. Dow’s tips for letting loose and enjoying the local food without letting yourself go overboard.
If You’re Road Tripping
Plan to bring an ice chest with snacks that you can have in the car so you don't have to eat fast or convenience store food. Include smoothies made in advance, chopped fruit, chopped veggies and hummus/peanut butter, water, crackers and cheese, or wraps/sandwiches. You can also bring trail mix, made primarily with nuts and dried fruit and maybe a little bit of chocolate to satisfy any sweetness cravings. This will help you from becoming totally famished before you get to a restaurant so you don't blow your calorie budget in one meal.
When Visiting a New Place
Dr. Dow is a huge supporter of trying local fare whenever I travel. She says it tells you the most about the culture of the area. In order to avoid blowing your nutrition goals, she recommends trying a few different things.
- First, split an entree with a friend or family member. Most entrees are enormous and can easily be shared between two (or more) people. Also, you often don't have anywhere to store leftovers in a hotel room so this reduces waste as well as saves calories and money.
- Second, do appetizers. These are often much larger than necessary and can act as an entire meal for one person or you can order a couple and split them with whomever you're with.
- Third, seek out restaurants that utilize local ingredients. You're more likely to get healthier food with a focus on produce. Plus, you get to discover the varietals of fruits and veggies that grow locally, which can often be surprising and are usually delicious.
All in all, the good news is that during the summer you’re likely to find yourself craving healthier foods due to the heat. Take advantage of that and fill up on fruits and vegetables before you let yourself get tempted by the unhealthy options such as chips and dip and soda.