8 Small Changes to Improve Your Health This Summer
Now that the days are getting longer and the weather is getting warmer, it might be time to re-evaluate our health routines. Summertime is often when we recommit to our healthy eating plans, so we look and feel great all season long. But don’t feel like you have to totally overhaul your fitness and nutrition plan to see results, there are plenty of small changes you can make that have a significant impact over time.
Here are some awesome new habits you can start forming for big results:
GET EXTRA SHUTEYE
Don’t underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep. Not only do most of our body’s restorative functions happen at night, but there have been studies linking higher BMI to people who get less than 8 hours of slumber a night. A 2012 University of Colorado study found that when participants weren’t getting enough sleep, it affected their food choices. Not only did this group end up eating more, but they also made poorer food choices. Aiming for 7-8 hours of restful sleep per night helps you choose nourishing foods and leaves your body rested and restored.
Not sure how you should handle eating before you hit the hay? In-house nutrition expert, Stephanie Nelson, MS, RD, says, “Eating two kiwi before bed has been shown to improve sleep quality, as has drinking chamomile tea or tart cherry juice. On the other hand, eating a large meal right before bed, especially one high in added sugar, can disrupt your sleep.”
STEP TO IT
Did you know walking can rev up your metabolism and helps soothe stress? The sunny summer weather makes it so much easier to get outside and get your steps in. Park farther away, take the stairs instead of the elevator, circle your kitchen while the coffee percolates, or take a few 10-minute walking breaks throughout the day. These little bits of movement might seem small but add up throughout the week! Don’t forget to try out the Step Plans available in your MyFitnessPal app for content to help you reach your fitness goals.
Stephanie says, “Summer activities like outdoor volleyball, hiking, swimming or rock climbing are all great workouts disguised as fun social opportunities. Volleyball and climbing can help you put on muscle, while hiking and swimming increase fat oxidation to help you lose weight.”
MAKE SMART SWAPS
Sun’s out, guns out, and (hamburger) buns out! With all the summer barbecues you’ll probably be attending, you might be diverting from your normal eating habits more often than you’d like. Every so often, try to opt for your burger on a lettuce wrap instead of a bun to save on calories and carbs. Can’t enjoy those grilled items without the bread? Opt for a light bun to save calories or a whole-wheat version for an extra dose of nutrients and whole grains.
Stephanie says, “Stay on track by swapping a hamburger for grilled chicken or your favorite sweetened drink for club soda infused with cucumber and a squeeze of lime. You don’t have to do a smart swap every time; take note of how frequently you’re attending events, and if it’s adding up, consider making healthy swaps at some to keep up your habits.”
Looking to reduce your carb intake this summer? Start the Low-Carb Meal Plan in the MyFitnessPal app for daily guidance and RD-inspired recipes.
While we love the ease and convenience of takeout, those restaurant meals can really add up when you’re ordering multiple times a week. Frequently eating takeout makes it hard to keep track of how these foods contribute to your health and personal goals, since you don’t know how they’re prepared. Consider cutting down on your takeout orders this summer and cooking at home. Fresh, flavorful produce is never easier to get than in the summer. Try hitting up your local farmers market once a week, grab some in-season fruits and veggies, and put together a healthy meal. Don’t have access to a farmers market? The produce section at the grocery store has the freshest options in the summer, too.
Stephanie says, “My favorite fruits and veggies to get at the farmers market right now are tomatoes, zucchini, peaches, eggplant and asparagus. You can mix and match these into a colorful salad or roasted veggie/fruit medley.” By swapping one of your normal takeout meals with a homemade meal, you’re getting extra vitamins, minerals and fiber, while reducing the excess oil, salt and sugar that comes in takeout meals.
Short on time? Pick a day each week to meal prep so everything is ready and waiting in your fridge. If you’re new to meal prep, check out this list of money-saving meal prep tips. Here are a few of our favorite meal prep recipes that are less than 350 calories. Save even more time by pre-tracking your meals in your MyFitnessPal app to ensure you stay within your calorie goals.
When you sit down with large bags of snack foods, it can be easy to consume more than one portion. Measure out your goodies in individual bags or containers ahead of time so you can easily grab, snack and track. To make things even simpler, log your snack in your MyFitnessPal app and it is saved in your history for faster tracking.
Still hungry? Stephanie has some advice for you! “If I want more food after eating a serving of chips or other snack foods, I’ll grab some pre-chopped broccoli or carrots and dip them in hummus. I’ll also wash it down with a glass of water, which fills me up. You should feel full, you’ve eaten the snack you initially wanted, and you’ve just gotten a serving of vegetables.”
UP YOUR VEGGIE INTAKE
The grill isn’t just for burgers and hot dogs! Stephanie believes summer is the perfect time to up your veggie intake. She loves to serve an assortment of grilled veggies. Not only do they taste great, but the extra veggies deliver a nutrition boost, too.
Just grab a grill basket and pop in your favorite vegetables. Toss them in a little oil (avocado oil is a great option when cooking at super high temps), throw on some of your favorite seasonings, and cook for a flavorful side. Love corn on the cob in the summer? Spray each ear with a little oil and seasoning, wrap in a damp paper towel and cover with foil. Throw on the grill, and in 20-minutes, you’ve got perfectly cooked corn!
INCLUDE PROTEIN AT BREAKFAST
Most people don’t get enough protein at breakfast, leaving them hungry soon after eating. Make sure you include protein with your morning meal to keep you full and satisfied. Some easy protein options include Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, eggs or protein powder. Check out these easy, make-ahead, protein-packed breakfasts for even more inspiration!
DRINK MORE WATER
Summer is the perfect time to increase your water intake as the heat makes it easier to get dehydrated. Keep a water bottle nearby at all times. Drink a glass when you wake up and before your meals and snacks to sneak more liquid in throughout the day. Not a fan of the taste of plain water? Add some fruit or cucumber slices to flavor your water without extra calories. Track your water intake in your MyFitnessPal app to ensure you stay hydrated. Not sure how much water your body needs? This guide to hydration can help!
THE BOTTOM LINE
These suggestions might seem small but, when done consistently, they can make a huge difference over time. Challenge yourself to try forming some of these habits and keep track of how they make you look and feel. Have any tips of your own? Let us know in the comments below!
Looking for a little summer inspiration? We’ve got you covered! Introducing the Summer of You Campaign. The challenge? Log 30 meals and 5 exercises from June 1, 2021, to June 30, 2021 for your chance to win prizes. Click here to learn more and join the challenge in your MyFitnessPal app.