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Wednesday, June 24, 2020 - Tips for avoiding the dietary landmines of summer


While it might be long and it might be hot, there’s no reason your summer has to be unhealthy as well. (Stock photo)

By Julie Fortenberry RDN, jfortenberry@stph.org

The arrival of summer means lazy days at the pool, family picnics, vacations and tons of outdoor activities. It’s a time of year when family memories are made, and it’s a season that we look forward to no matter what age we are.

For many, however, it also can be a time of year for added anxiety over certain social events and the food choices that accompany them.

You might add in the fact that we are out of our normal routine and possibly traveling on summer vacation. This can be a lethal combination for three months of weight gain.

With that in mind, here are a few tips to stay lean this summer.

The pitfalls of traveling. Vacation can be tricky when it comes to maintaining your weight. The key is planning ahead.

Book physical activities in which the whole family can participate. Pack your favorite healthy snacks for the car and hotel, such as nuts, beef jerky, fruit, etc.

If you go out to eat while on the road, search local restaurants’ websites and read through the menu ahead of time. This will help you feel comfortable and help you order healthy options when eating out.

The grilling game. Warmer weather usually means we welcome back the backyard grill. This can actually be a healthy change from the same old kitchen recipes.

Fill your grill with lean cut meats such as fish, chicken, shrimp, filets and pork loin. Veggie kabobs can be a yummy way to sneak in some vegetables.

Busy parents might also consider taking the opportunity to grill extra meat and vegetables for quick dinners during the week.

The search for hidden sugar. When we think of sugar, we often think of the dessert table that beckons after a meal is complete. But in actuality, sugar is everywhere when we start looking for it.

For example, two tablespoons of barbecue sauce is often equal to consuming three to four packets of sugar.

To cut down on the calories, try using lemons or fresh herbs like rosemary and basil for added flavor instead of automatically reaching for barbecue sauce.

If you do choose to use barbecue sauce, read the label carefully and make sure it contains less than five grams of sugar for every two tablespoons.

Side issues. Side items at a summer event can really do your waistline in. Limit the potato salads, baked pasta dishes, chips, and beans swimming in barbecue sauce. Instead, take advantage of fresh fruits and vegetables, as it is the season for some of the sweetest choices.

Fruit and vegetable trays make a fantastic go-to during the summer as they provide a refreshing option on a hot day.

The beverage trap. Alcohol isn’t an uncommon accompaniment to summer events and meals, but it contains only empty calories and has no nutritional value. It also affects your weight in a very negative way.

Granted, alcoholic beverages consumed in moderation can have a place in our lifestyle. The goal is to be mindful of the actual drink and the amount consumed. Steer clear of calorie-laden beverages such as daiquiris and cream-based drinks like a mudslide.

Mixers such as tonics, sodas, and juices pack in the additional sugar content. These extra calories can add up quickly and lead to unwanted weight gain. In place of these, try a sparkling or naturally flavored water as a mixer.

In addition to these tips, be sure to keep up your exercise routine and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated during these hot months. Because while it might be long and it might be hot, there’s no reason your summer has to be unhealthy as well.

Julie Fortenberry is a registered dietitian at St. Tammany Health System.