Summer is officially here. That means vacations, barbecues and pool parties are likely starting to fill your calendar. And, after a year spent mostly indoors keeping to yourself, it’s understandable if you’d rather lounge around with a piled-high plate than eat salads and hit the gym. Fortunately, you can enjoy the summer season without derailing your health and fitness goals.
“We all want to enjoy summer treats, so make it your goal to focus on the 80/20 Rule,” says Amy Goodson, MS, RDN, a sports nutrition expert. “So, 80% of the time focus on eating produce, lean protein, whole grains and healthy fat, then 20% of the time, enjoy chips, guacamole and a margarita or ice cream. The key is balancing out your choices.”
Below, Goodson and Leslie Bonci, MPH, RD, of Active Eating Advice, share six tips to help you achieve that balance and stay healthy through summer and beyond.
After grabbing a burger off the grill, sit down and savor it slowly, says Bonci. Even better, opt for foods that require utensils rather than hand-held items. This keeps you from eating too fast and grabbing seconds before you realize you’re full.
Summer is loaded with fresh, delicious produce. “No matter if you are grilling in the backyard, at a barbecue or hanging out at the pool, try to make half your plate produce,” suggests Goodson. Salads — both of the vegetable and fruit variety — are great starting points. Then, be sure to add some protein and carbs, plus fiber, to help you stay full longer.
There’s more than one way to make potato salad. And grilling doesn’t have to be a meat-dominant exercise. Bonci advises lightening up potato salad by using Greek yogurt or a mustard-based dressing instead of mayo, and try grilling mushrooms and other vegetables in addition to the proteins. Speaking of meat, chicken breasts and lean flank steaks are great alternatives to pork ribs and fattier cuts of beef. Goodson suggests skipping the bun and wrapping your burger in lettuce or serving a fresh fruit salad instead of creamy pasta salad.
Chips and dips are staples at summer events. Understandably so — they’re delicious. But you can still get that crunchy, salty satisfaction without overdoing it on fat and calories. “Try whole-wheat crackers or pita chips or even roasted veggie chips instead of potato chips,” says Goodson. And for the dip, try protein-rich hummus or one made with Greek yogurt instead of sour cream. Looking for ideas? Try mixing ranch seasoning with 0% Greek yogurt for a cool and creamy appetizer served with carrots and cucumber slices. Or blend up some Greek yogurt, salsa and taco seasoning for a tasty dip. Dip, dip, hooray!
Cold beers and bubbly cocktails taste great during summer, but when you’re sweating in the hot sun, your body needs water. “Make sure to include water in your hydration plan,” says Goodson. “Alternating between water and adult beverages can help decrease the potential risk of dehydration.” Drinking plenty of water is also great for digestion and your skin, and it can help you avoid overeating. If you get bored with plain water, Bonci adds that you can supplement your intake with unsweetened tea and infused waters. Our favorite refreshing way to serve H20 is with fresh cucumber and lemon slices!
Poolside cabanas are so inviting, and lazy mornings on the couch are a rare treat. But staying active during the summer ensures you’re burning calories and using food for fuel. Bonci reminds us that getting outdoors and moving can be restorative for the body and mind. She suggests going for a walk, run or bike ride, taking a hike, going swimming or tending to your garden. There are no wrong answers here. As long as you’re moving, you’re doing great.
With these tips in your arsenal, you’re well-equipped to handle whatever summer throws your way. Remember: You deserve to let loose once in a while, just try to consume more wholesome foods and enjoy the additional indulgences in moderation. So, if you want to eat that burger, go ahead and eat that burger. If potato salad is calling your name, answer it. The point here isn’t to deprive yourself, but to make decisions that ultimately set you up for success, whether you’re trying to maintain your weight, drop a few pounds or simply avoid the sabotage that comes with a full summer schedule.
Make progress every day while you work on mini fitness and nutrition goals, like walking more steps or learning to track macros. Go to “Plans” in the MyFitnessPal app for daily coaching and easy-to-follow tasks to keep you motivated.