When summer eating and drinking is out of control, it can take most of the fall to get back on track. You don’t have to deprive yourself this summer, but you can negotiate summer dining and parties without completely going off the rails. The barbecues, family vacations, and reunions — as well as all the other summer rituals that get us together with friends and family — are great for the soul, but can undo months of hard work and dedication.
With a little planning and flexibility you can still enjoy the summer fun. When preparing for a road trip, take some time to also plan the healthy food that you’ll take along. That way, you’re not relying on drive-through restaurants and gas station food disguised as being eatable.
Fruits, veggies, nuts, and cheese are always in my travel cooler. Some energy or nutrition bars are good choices when not loaded down with sugar, read the label and look at the first few ingredients listed. If sugar is near the top, you can do better. Bring lots of water and herbal ice tea so you aren’t tempted to grab a soda. Staying well nourished and hydrated will ensure that you still have plenty of energy when you arrive at your destination.
For those lake parties, barbecues and other gatherings that are requisite summer activities, make sure to bring a dish or two to share that will ensure some healthy options. Whatever the event, what host wouldn’t appreciate some help with the food? Be the one to bring a hearty, healthy salad or kebabs to throw on the grill—it doesn’t mean you can’t indulge in the ribs, potatoes salad or chips, it just means that in addition to those, you now have some choices that will keep you on track with your hard earned healthy goals.
When eating out is the only option, avoid the traditional fast food places. Even so called healthy fast food is loaded with preservatives that will wreck havoc with your energy level and your gut. Instead, opt for the slightly less fast establishments such as Panera and Chipotle where you have a wider array of choices as well as healthier options that won’t load you down or create intestinal turmoil.
The salads at many fast food places have so many preservatives on them that you could leave it sitting in your car for the weekend and it would look unchanged from when you bought it. Salads or burrito bowls made in front of you often contain minimally processed ingredients and you can usually personalize your order, so go light on the cheese, ask for condiments or dressing on the side and your body will thank you.
Food isn’t the only thing that can knock you off your heath journey. When watching the waistline, blood sugar or cholesterol, alcohol is another summer danger zone. A drink once in a while can be beneficial to many health goals but daily consumption or binging will disrupt any sort of balance that you may have established.
When everyone is drinking beer, wine or mixed drinks think of ways you can still feel social and part of the party without imbibing more than a single drink. You can follow that up with mineral water flavored with juice or lemon or ice tea.
If you are attending a party or family gathering consider bringing infused water—place slices of fruit (strawberries, lemons, oranges, for example) and/or herbs like mint, rosemary or basil into a pitcher of water. Let this sit over night or for a few hours at the very least for a tasty, refreshing cocktail substitute that will keep you hydrated and cool without the metabolic consequences of alcohol.
When fall comes and the company has gone home, the kids and grandkids have scattered and you have time to yourself again, you will want to look at yourself in the mirror and know that you are still well on your way down the road to your health goals.
Enjoy the rest of your summer and let me know how you manage!