People have already begun to pull out their grills and for those who haven’t yet, Memorial Day is a good weekend to fire up the coals. Al fresco dining season is upon us.
You might think as the weather gets hotter, it’s natural to eat lighter meals. But dietary experts say that’s not the case.
Some stop eating those heavy winter stews and chilis, only to heap their plates with summertime mayonnaise-laden salads accompanied with high-calorie alcoholic beverages.
“People tend to be more active and outside more. When you’re outside more you sweat and your body’s working harder. And if you are more active, you need good food to give your body energy,” said Dr. Keith Kantor, CEO of Service Foods. “If you’re at the appropriate weight and are active, you need more calories. But that’s a small percentage of us. For those who want to maintain or lose weight, it comes down to the amount of calories in versus the amount of calories burned.”
Following are tips to lighten up your meals this summer.
- People are to drink one half of their body weight in ounces of water per day. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, drink 75 ounces of water. This helps control hunger. If you don’t like plain water, add fruit for flavoring.
- Follow the My Plate guidelines given by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Half of your plate should consist of fruits and veggies while the other half should be lean protein and whole grains.
- While ribs, burgers and hot dogs are barbecue staples, give grilled fish a try. The healthiest types include salmon, trout and herring, which are high in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
- Buy chicken breasts – and remember to remove the skin before eating – instead of the fattier dark meat (legs and thighs). Or try grilling chicken or turkey burgers using breast meat, and add diced onions for another layer of flavor.
- What cut of meat to buy? Choose “loin” and “round” cuts of red meat and pork. And buy “choice” or “select” grades of beef instead of “prime.” While these have the least amount of fat, trim the fat when you get home.
- Use a rack to allow fat to drip away from the food.
- Avoid processed meats like hot dogs and sausages. They are high in salt and unhealthy fillers.
- Go green. Try grilling some unexpected foods like asparagus or bread. Throw pizza on the grill for a quick dinner.
- Brighten up… add red, orange, yellow, purple and other bright colors. Serve green leafy salads or fruit salads (or a combination of both, like baby spinach with strawberries or mixed greens with orange slices) instead of heavy, mayonnaise-based salads. Then add some crunch – and healthier fats – with some toasted walnuts or almonds instead of croutons.
- Instead of store-bought salad dressing, try making your own dressing or vinaigrette. Olive oil and lemon will do the trick as well.
- Kabobs are a great way to serve grilled meat and veggies.
- Instead of potato chips, which can be high in saturated and trans fats, serve raw veggies like cucumber, carrot and celery sticks, cherry tomatoes and broccoli and cauliflower florets with a low-fat dip like hummus, fresh salsa or guacamole.
- Drink water or diet soda. Regular sodas are loaded with sugars and calories.
- Cut back on commercially baked foods, like cookies, pies and cakes. Remember that most store-baked goods are made with egg yolks, butter or shortening and other ingredients high in saturated fat and/or trans fat.
- A smoothie with luscious fresh fruit in season, fat-free vanilla or lemon yogurt and a touch of honey makes a healthy, refreshing dessert alternative.
- Try grilling fruits like pineapple slices, nectarines, peaches or plums – the natural sugars caramelize with the heat and give them great flavor. Fruits are loaded with vitamins, minerals and fiber – and they’re low in calories.
- If you’re going to drink alcohol, stay away from high-calorie drinks and go for non-calorie mixers. You can start with sparkling water, fresh fruit or mint leaves, then add the alcohol.
- Watch the salt – cut back on salty seasonings and condiments like teriyaki, soy and barbecue sauce. Be sure to read labels and get the most natural condiments.
- Choose low-fat, reduced-fat or fat-free cheese for your sandwiches and hamburgers.
- Choose whole-grain, high-fiber breads and rolls, such as whole wheat, oats, oatmeal, whole rye, whole-grain corn and buckwheat. Or, try your burger bunless!
Sources: Dr. Keith Kantor, CEO of Service Foods; American Heart Association; Cookinglight.com.