During the long, hot days of summer, it can be easy to relax on healthy eating habits. Children home on summer vacation, family trips or planned outings, or simply the presence of energy-sapping levels of heat can make it difficult to stick to healthy routines. For this article, we will address some of the healthier foods and habits to embrace during the summer months.
Great Summer Foods
The following foods are all tasty and healthy to eat, and should be a priority when considering what foods to eat or prepare for meals during the summer.
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Avocadoes: High in fiber, vitamins B5, B6, C, K, folate, and potassium, and full of antioxidants.
- Bell peppers: High in carotenoids, which are associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and eye diseases.
- Berries: Berries are high in antioxidants, fiber, and vitamin C.
- Corn: High in fiber and low in calories, corn contains antioxidants that can help protect against sun damage and promote eye health.
- Salad greens: Beet greens, dandelion greens, spinach, lettuce, and Swiss chard are seasonal during the summer months; these greens are high in protein, iron, vitamins A, B, and C, fiber, and antioxidants.
- Tomatoes: One cup of raw tomato can provide up to 40 percent of the daily recommended vitamin C intake, and 20 percent of the daily recommended vitamin A intake.
- Watermelon: Very high in lycopene, an antioxidant that aids in sun protection and heart health. Even better, watermelon is 92 percent water, making it a great source of healthy hydration.
- Lean meats
- Fish: Grilled salmon, tuna, and shrimp are high protein, lower-fat alternatives to red meats.
- Chicken: A better alternative to fatty, greasy ribs or burgers, grilled chicken is high in protein yet low in calories, fats, and carbohydrates. They also make for great skewers combined with bell peppers, onions, and zucchini.
- Ground turkey: A leaner, healthier alternative to ground beef for making burgers.
Foods to Avoid
On the other hand, these popular summer foods are full of salt, sugar, or cholesterol, with minimal nutritional value for the caloric content.
- Barbecue sauce: Just two tablespoons of barbecue sauce can contain over 100 calories – much of that coming from sugar. For a healthier barbecue alternative, use a dry rub of herbs and spices.
- Fried dough: Funnel cakes and other fried dough foods – staples of fairs, carnivals, and boardwalks – are full of trans fats, raising bad cholesterol and lowering good cholesterol.
- Ice cream sandwiches: Ice cream is a popular treat in the heat, but one ice cream sandwich can contain over 500 calories, with 60 percent of those calories from fat.
- Onion rings: Oily and salty, onion rings are full of cholesterol and trans fats.
- Overly charred meats: The charred, blackened bits of meat off a grill can actually contain carcinogenic compounds.
- Ribs: This popular barbecue and grill food is full of saturated fats, and are often slathered in sauces packed with sugar.
- Pizza: Full of grease, carbs, salt, and fat, pizza is a guilty pleasure because it’s so unhealthy for you.
- Snow cones: A snow cone is basically just ice and sugary syrup with chemical coloring. The ice may feel great when it’s hot outside, but much like a soda, eating a snow cone is simply drinking sugar.
- Sugary drinks: Soda, lemonade, milkshakes, and sugary iced teas may seem refreshing on a hot day, but amount to largely empty calories with little-to-no nutritional value.
General Tips for Healthier Summer Eating
- Focus on portion control. Summer is a popular time to grill up big burgers, steaks, and racks of ribs, and a popular time to indulge in ice cream and sugary popsicles. Just remember to keep the portion sizes reasonable to prevent overeating and excessive intake of unhealthy fats, sugars, and cholesterol.
- Hydrate often! Your best choices for drinks to keep you cool and refreshed in the summer heat are ice water, unsweetened iced tea, and no-sugar-added fruit juices.
- Replace salt with spice. Instead of using salt when cooking your food, try instead herbs, spices, and vinegars for added flavor.
- “5 Ways to Eat Healthy During the Summer Months.” DailyHealthWire. June 9, 2014. https://www.trihealth.com/healthy-eating/5-ways-to-eat-healthy-during-the-summer-months
- “8 Healthy Summer Foods to Add to Your Diet.” Eating Well. July 10, 2018. https://www.eatingwell.com/article/105269/8-healthy-summer-foods-to-add-to-your-diet/
- Hargruth, Anne. “8 Healthy Tips for Summer Dining.” Mayo Clinic Health System. July 24, 2020. https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/8-healthy-tips-for-summer-dining
- Toback, Rebecca. “17 Best and Worst Foods of Summer.” Explore Health. June 21, 2017. https://www.health.com/food/17-best-and-worst-foods-of-summer
- Weinberg, Sarah. “Summer Foods You Should Never Eat.” Delish. June 18, 2018. https://www.delish.com/food/g21599862/worst-summer-foods/
- Yang, Sarah. “Finally, Some Healthy Summer Eating Tips That Don’t Suck.” The Thirty. July 2, 2019. https://thethirty.whowhatwear.com/healthy-summer-eating-tips