Summer is officially here, and that means one thing: vacation! Whether you’re in school, or you’ve graduated to the daily grind, summer is still synonymous with relaxing, having fun and enjoying time with family and friends.
Though you might have grown up equating summer time with junk food, if you really want to stay active, have fun and feel good, don’t take a vacation from eating healthy. In fact, summer can be a great opportunity to start making healthy changes in your diet.
Fresh fruits and vegetables are available in abundance, and they become more affordable when they’re in season. In addition to filling you full of the vitamins, minerals and enzymes your body needs to stay strong and active, fresh fruits and veggies also help keep you cool and hydrated.
One of the best parts of summer is sharing meals with family and friends. However, one of the biggest challenges to eating healthy is the social pressure to eat what other people are eating. This summer, try starting a trend and get others to jump on a summer health kick with you! Summer picnics and potlucks offer a great opportunity to turn social pressure into support. Invite friends and members of your family to each contribute one new dish to a potluck focused on local, in season produce. If everyone experiments, someone’s bound to hit on a winner!
Check out some of our tried and true, delicious recipes on our website. Of course, it’s okay to have a “free” day once in a while and give yourself a pass on some extra birthday cake or your favorite ice cream popsicle.
A practical approach is the best because it’s easier to maintain a healthy diet when you don’t feel like you’re depriving yourself. The most important thing is to stay focused on what healthy, nutrient-rich vegetables, whole grains, fruits and legumes you can add into your diet in new and exciting ways, instead of always being focused on what you can’t eat.
The most important time to make decisions on what you’re going to eat is when you’re at the grocery store. Once it’s in your cart, it will end up in your fridge, and once it’s in your fridge it will most likely end up in your belly. So, start your summer off right by making a concentrated effort to load your cart up with fresh, organic and natural foods. Shopping for a cookout? Grab tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, peppers and seitan cubes for marinated shish kebabs. Look for whole grain buns, veggie dogs and ketchup without added sugar or high fructose corn syrup. Choose fruit spritzers over sodas, and rest easy knowing you can have fun without packing on the pounds.
Recently, National Public Radio released a graph from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showing that Americans today spend the highest portion of their grocery money on processed foods including frozen dinners, packaged snacks, sweets, and canned soups.1 Last month, we talked about a study which found that processed food is often more expensive by portion size, and that healthy food can be affordable. So if you’re feeling the pinch in your food budget, the answer may be different than you think.
Take the opportunity to try new recipes using whole grains you can buy in bulk, or vegetables that are high in fiber. You may find that you feel satisfied more quickly and spend less on expensive snack or junk foods.
This summer, simplicity is the key. Simple, minimally processed foods that are closest to their natural state are the healthiest for your body. Simple, easy to prepare recipes are the most likely to make it into your weekly routine. Back in our grandparents’ day, a simple approach to food was common. Their food didn’t come out of a box. It was harvested from fields, pulled from the soil, plucked from trees and eaten in its natural, whole, unprocessed state. So this summer, take a trip back to a simpler time, filled with simpler pleasures. Savor the simple tastes of summer with in-season fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and other all-vegetarian, organic and natural foods.
- “What America Spends on Groceries.” NPR. (Accessed June 7, 2012)