Backyard barbecues, pool parties, picnics in the park, and trips to the ice cream shop — ahh, the signs of summer! Between a calendar full of festive occasions and the whirlwind of summertime travel, it’s easy to let your healthy habits slide.
While traditional seasonal party foods like burgers, hot dogs, and mayonnaise-laden side salads won’t help you reach your wellness goals, you don’t have to miss out on the flavors of summer to stay on track. In fact, the warm summer months offer an abundance of nutritious and delicious seasonal produce that can take your next summertime celebration from a long day of overeating to a nutrient-packed and energizing party. Whether you’re the host or a guest, these tips can help you get the most out of summer celebrations.
- Gather inspiration from the farmers’ market. What better way to celebrate summer than with the taste of local produce? The best part of using seasonal summer produce is cooking doesn’t have to be complicated. Layer bright, juicy tomatoes on a platter with basil and mozzarella for a caprese salad. Or, toss chopped tomatoes, cucumber, and onion with lemon juice and olive oil for tasty salad. Fresh ears of corn get toasty and sweet on the grill, and you can finish the meal with a cup of frozen yogurt topped with sweet berries.
- Embrace healthy swaps. Substitute plain yogurt for half the mayonnaise in your pasta or potato salad, or use a vinaigrette dressing instead. Greek yogurt makes a great swap for sour cream in dips as well.
- Don’t go against the grain. Instead of sides and buns made of refined grains, reach for whole grains first. Bring a farro or bulgur and vegetable-filled salad to enjoy with a vegetarian or meat-based burger served on a whole wheat bun.
- Fill the grill with vegetables. Grilling isn’t just for meat! Make vegetable kebabs or grilled eggplant or portabello mushrooms for an easy alternative to a beef burger. As a bonus, grilling vegetables makes kitchen cleanup minimal.
- Get creative with protein. Skip the beef burgers and dogs for a leaner, more nutritious option. Think about vegetable-based burgers, fish, chicken, or marinated tofu. If you’re feeling a little adventurous and want to impress guests, try grilling a whole chicken (yes, you can). When eating out, skip the fried seafood and go for grilled or baked.
- Stay hydrated. Long days out in the sun will increase your hydration needs. Sip on water throughout the day and skip sugary beverages, which can actually be dehydrating. Add flavor to still or sparkling water with fresh fruit, citrus, or herbs. For a refreshing twist, make this ginger-lime spa water.
- Bring a healthy dish to share. Attending a party where you know healthy options will be scarce? Offer to bring a vegetable dish or fruit salad, other guests are sure to appreciate the vibrant colors and flavors.
- Stay active. At the beach? Enjoy a walk alongside the waves. Backyard barbecue? Get a group to toss a football or Frisbee. The great outdoors is your playground and the options to add a little activity to your party are endless. Enjoying a game or an evening swim will also keep you away from the bowl of potato chips or the dessert table.
- Indulge a little. It’s a celebration after all. If you plan to have dessert, skip the chips and dip. Or, if you know you can pass on the ice cream or cake, grab that scoop of potato salad. Choose what you will enjoy the most and savor each bite.
- Catch up with friends. You came for the company, right? Instead of spending your night standing by the food table, walk around and catch up with the friends or family you came to see.
Longer days filled with sunshine give us good reason to celebrate. Enjoy all that these warmer months have to offer and use these healthy strategies keep it fun — and balanced.