The sun is out in full force and the temperatures are rising! For many, this means cookouts, barbecues, vacations, and fun in the sun. For others, this means struggling with eating healthy, controlling portions, and fitting in regular exercise.
Many of us consider winter to be the worst time of year for our waistlines, but summertime is a time when many people struggle with their weight too. Don’t let summer get-togethers and hot weather get in the way of your healthy living commitments.
A little know-how can go a long way in keeping vigilant throughout the summer months. Let’s review what to eat and drink at summer get-togethers and our top tips to avoid packing on the pounds and staying healthy when the sun’s out!
What to Drink and Not Drink During Summertime?
The rising temperatures of the summer months have people reaching for cold, icy beverages more frequently. Proper hydration is important every day, but it becomes even more important during the summer months. Slight dehydration will have us reaching for fluids, but it is very easy to choose the wrong beverages that hurt our health and make dehydration even worse. What beverages should be avoided during the summer months to avoid dehydration and added calories?
Juice Drinks and Soda
In general, those so-called “health” drinks are fruit juice-based. Research suggests that juices may be just as bad for your health as drinking sugary sodas. How come? Most juice drinks have added sugar which means the average glass is less healthy than you think and can increase your risk for obesity and heart disease.
Soft drinks and juice drinks are a major source of empty calories in the American diet. Additionally, when someone consumes a lot of added sugar, they typically compensate for it by eating less of the nutrient-packed foods. Liquid calories are not worth the so-called added nutrients or health benefits that come with them. They do not fill us up either, leading to an overall increased calorie intake which can ultimately lead to weight gain.
Although caffeine itself can be healthy, too much of a good thing is never good. Children and adults alike should be warned about the risks of consuming these beverages. The brightly colored energy drinks contain 160-175 milligrams of caffeine in drink sizes ranging from 5 to 16 fluid ounces, with extra strength drinks containing upwards of 250 mg of caffeine.
A normal energy drink contains about three to five times the amount of caffeine in a typical 12-ounce can of soda. If a drink advertises no caffeine, the energy often comes from guarana, which is the equivalent of caffeine. With all of the caffeine or caffeine-like ingredients, it’s no wonder Americans are suffering from increases in heart rate, blood pressure, and heart palpitations. Your best bet is to stay away from these drinks completely.
Although a cold beer may be refreshing on a nice warm summer day, excess alcohol consumption can cause dehydration in a variety of ways. Alcohol decreases the body’s production of antidiuretic hormone, which is used by the body to reabsorb water. This causes your body to lose more fluid than normal through increased urination. Plus, drinking alcohol often leads to a lower intake of hydrating liquids such as water.
Both men and women should not drink more than four standard drinks on any single occasion and even less during hot weather. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 1-drink per day for women and 2-drinks per day for men.
As you may already know, alcoholic beverages can be very HIGH in calories. It is perfectly fine to have an alcoholic beverage or two at your next backyard bash, but if you aren’t careful it could easily add hundreds of calories to your daily intake.
A 12-ounce beer has 150 calories, a 3.5-ounce glass of wine has 85, and a margarita packs an even bigger caloric punch at a whopping 680 calories for 12-ounces. Even worse offenders are creamy cocktails, such as brandy alexanders and mudslide – equivalent to drinking a rich dessert.
A few easy tips to ensure you keep your alcohol calories in check include:
- Light beer is best. On average, a light beer will contain 80-120 calories, which isn’t too bad. Some beers, like wheat-based beers or IPA’s, can contain upwards of 400 calories, which can really break the calorie bank!
- Drink dry wine - not sweet. Sweet wine typically has an additional 100-150 calories per glass.
- Use club soda as a mixer. Club soda pairs well with vodka or gin. Plus, you will be helping to rehydrate yourself to prevent a hangover. Lemons and limes can help flavor this mixer without adding calories, plus it will add a nutritional boost of vitamin C!
- Say NO to adding juice, sports drinks, energy drinks, or soda to any alcoholic beverage. They simply add calories and sugar with no nutritional benefits.
So, what’s the perfect beverage for summer barbecues or long nights on the deck? Let’s review some drink suggestions to help guide you through it effortlessly. If you have diabetes and are curious what drinks may be your best bet, check out another one of our blogs.
Add fresh fruit or slices of cucumber and sprigs of mint for a tasty treat. All of the flavor and none of the artificial additives! For those of you that are bored of plan ‘ole water, making a fruit-infused water may help you reach your goals of drinking more water because the refreshing flavors will leave you wanting to grab another glass. One of my favorite infused-water recipes for summertime is adding strawberry slices, lemon, and mint to a pitcher of water. When I’m ready to drink I’ll add a few ice cubes and sit back and enjoy this sugar-free twist to strawberry lemonade!
Looking for something refreshing with those familiar bubbles without the unnecessary sugar, calories, additives, and artificial sweeteners? Sparkling water has so many great varieties and flavors for everyone. Check the labels and be sure there are no additives like artificial sweeteners, sugars, and other ingredients. These tasty drinks are carbonated water and natural flavorings making them a perfect pairing for an afternoon barbecue. You can make a zero-calorie and zero-sugar ginger ale by adding a spoonful of finely grated ginger to a glass of seltzer water, and add a bit of stevia (if desired) to add a little sweetness.
Iced tea is refreshing and just shouts summertime. Sun tea is easy to make and even better to drink. A slice or two of lemon adds a little fruit flavor without compromising the calories. Just be sure to not add sugar to your tea or select unsweetened, otherwise, it goes from being a good choice to one with as much sugar and calories as soda.
This may be the most boring item on the list but ice, cold water is the perfect choice for quenching your thirst during the hot summer months. Many times when people think they are hungry, they are actually just thirsty. By drinking lots of water throughout the day, you’ll lower the risk of overeating.
Every system in your body depends on water. Water flushes toxins out of vital organs and carries nutrients to all your cells. Fluid needs vary from person to person and depend on many factors, including your health, how active you are, and where you live. While chronic dehydration can have devastating effects and even lead to death, mild dehydration can also cause health issues. The chances of becoming dehydrated significantly increase during the hot summer months.
For the general population, aiming for at least 8 – 8 oz. glasses of water per day can successfully prevent dehydration, but more is needed during the summer months and especially if you spend a lot of time in the sun. One of the best ways to assess hydration status is to check the color of your urine to make sure you’re drinking enough. When properly hydrated, urine should be pale yellow in color. If the color is darker that means, it’s time to drink up!
Summer Eating Game Plan
BBQ season is officially upon us! At a typical barbecue, you’re oftentimes surrounded by nothing but unhealthy options. But just because you enjoy BBQ fare, doesn’t mean it has to ruin your healthy eating habits. We’ve compiled a few tips and suggestions to help you get through the summer barbecues, picnics, cookouts, and impromptu get-togethers this summer (and beyond).
Do the best you can, with what you have, and where you are! If the only options are unhealthy food, then you can either choose to not eat or choose to practice portion control. If eating a lot of bad food is bad for you, then eating less of the bad food is less bad for you. Eat more of the healthier options, and cut back on the unhealthy options.
It’s essential to have some general guidance when going through the BBQ buffet. Keeping the plate method in mind can help. Fill up half of your plate with vegetables and fruit, one quarter with protein, and another quarter with whole grains. This will naturally fill your plate with fewer calories and more nutrients. (BTW, this method is great ALL the time, so practice it at home and at restaurants too!) And, the more colorful your plate, the better – so add lots of leafy greens, carrots, and bell peppers to the vegetable mix, if those choices are available.
DON’T GO HUNGRY
Nutritionally, what’s the worst thing to do when going to a party? Go hungry! Sure, it makes sense in our minds to not eat all day to save calories, but the opposite is true. Going to a party hungry will no doubt cause you to eat higher-calorie foods and bigger portions than what you intended.
To combat the urge to fill your plate over and over again, make sure to eat a healthy breakfast with protein and fiber so you’re not too ravenous by the time lunch or dinner rolls around. Breakfast is a great time to include some fresh seasonal fruits like blueberries, cantaloupe, and watermelon too!
Loading up on healthy food before going to a party can help prevent overeating. It’s amazing how much less appetizing food can become when your stomach has put up the “no vacancy” sign. When you get to the barbecue, this allows you to focus on the company and fun rather than the food.
B.Y.O.D. (BRING YOUR OWN DISH)
Healthy eaters always make sure to bring a healthy appetizer or side dish to a party. That way, they know what ingredients were used and are comforted knowing that it is truly a healthy dish. It’s always a good idea to keep a list of some of your favorite dishes that travel well and you feel comfortable enough cooking to whip them up quickly. Additionally, your hosts and fellow party mates will be grateful for a light and healthy dish to balance out the meal.
PROTEIN CHOICES ARE IMPORTANT
Meat is often the highlight of any great BBQ. Some get-togethers require bringing your own meat. If that is the case, stick with lean turkey burgers, chicken breast, or dare I suggest a veggie burger! Any of these would be great choices.
Many typical items you will find, including hot dogs, brats, and hamburgers are high in saturated fat, sodium, and can be highly processed. These are all things typical Americans eat way too much of and even cutting back a little can significantly improve your health.
Add lots of veggies like lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, red onions, and avocado slices to add an extra layer of flavor and fiber to your burgers or sandwiches. You can also pile on grilled vegetables like red peppers, onions, and zucchini for something different.
WATCH THE SAUCE
Some BBQ sauces are nothing more than a slurry of sugar and high fructose corn syrup, while others use vinegar and spices to add a kick.
Vinegar-based sauces are typically your best bet. A sharp vinegar base gets a sweet balance from a little brown sugar, plus a little body from a dollop of ketchup. Of all of the sauces, this one is usually the lowest in calories and sodium.
Red sauces start with ketchup or tomato sauce, and then brown sugar and molasses are added to sweeten it up. Red sauces are typically high in sugar and sodium and are higher in calories than vinegar or mustard-based sauces.
SELECT HEALTHIER SIDE DISHES
Dive into fresh fruits, vegetables, and summertime salad greens. All of which provide a great deal of fiber and nutrient-rich calories. Another favorite is grilled vegetables, these are a great way to sneak in vegetables and flavor (think roasted garlic) into any get-together.
Instead of potato salad scoop up some baked beans, they are heavy on protein, fiber, and antioxidants. One of the most calorie-laden dishes at a cookout is often traditional potato salad due to the amount of mayonnaise and dressing. Just one cup of mayonnaise-based potato salad has 360 calories and 21 grams of fat. Instead, try some roasted vegetables with a light dressing to significantly reduce the calories and fat while increasing the fiber and other essential nutrients.
Go for coleslaw if it’s vinegar-based, instead of traditional mayonnaise-based, which adds additional fat and calories to a dish that can be a good choice.
Collard greens are also a ‘green light item’ and among the healthiest sides you can eat. This side dish carries a day’s worth of vitamin A, 2 days’ worth of vitamin K, and a heavy load of sulforaphane, a cancer-fighting antioxidant. Most likely they are cooked in fat, so try to stick to a smaller portion if they seem greasy.
CHOOSE HEALTHY DESSERT
Yes, you can have dessert! That’s right, a fruit-based dessert can offer a light, refreshing, naturally sweet end to a meal. Desserts like dark chocolate-covered strawberries add heart-healthy antioxidants, some fiber, and a host of vitamins, minerals, and other phytonutrients to your meal.
DON’T DOWNWARD SPIRAL
If you couldn’t stop yourself at the summer party buffet or dessert table, it’s okay. Try not to let the guilt fester and just try to add some exercise to your routine after indulging. It’s a great time for a long walk, bike ride, or hike. And always remember that the next day is a new day. Don’t let it be a reason to continue indulging in unhealthy habits and forgo your healthy lifestyle.
FOCUS ON THE POSITIVES
While there may be some unhealthy temptations during the summertime, there are also many factors working in the favor of our health and weight management goals. The weather is usually good enough to get in some outdoor physical activity daily, and fresh produce is quite abundant this time of year too. If the weather is too hot during the day, plan your outdoor exercise for early in the morning or later in the evening once it cools down, and bonus you might catch a great sunrise or sunset!
Focus on what you can control, and try not to let one meal or day get you down. Instead, add some exercise to your routine after indulging and get back to your healthy eating goals at the next meal or day.
While many people struggle to continue their healthy eating habits over the summer, keep in mind it’s a great opportunity to make some healthy eating substitutions with the season’s best produce and initiate some healthy eating habits to continue year-round and for life!
If you’re looking for a steady and healthy meal plan that keeps you on track and doesn’t let you fall into summer’s food temptation, give Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating a shot! Our meals are fresh and delivered right to your door! Some summertime favorites on our menus include our Smoked Chicken Cobb Salad with BBQ Ranch Dressing, Berry Colada Parfait, Fresh Fruit and Cottage Cheese Plate, Orange Berry Waffles, Pecan & Poppyseed Chicken Salad, and Chili Lime Fish with Pineapple Salsa.