Summer is right around the corner, marking a time of barbecues, outdoor eating and gatherings with family and friends. It is also means going to the beach and wearing (while also feeling comfortable in) your favorite bathing suit.
To enjoy the summer season and social gatherings that go along with it, it is important to make healthy food and lifestyle choices. It is no surprise that as a practicing nutritionist, this is one of my busiest seasons.
Here are several healthy -- and simple -- swaps to make this time a healthy season. Try to incorporate at least one swap per day and you will be on your way to a healthier summer.
1. Wake up practicing gratitude instead of complaining.
Be grateful for the good things in your life, instead of the bad things. While we can all finds things in our lives that could be better, things could also be a lot worse. Starting your day with a grateful heart opens us up to receive all of the miracles that life has to offer.
2. Start your day with a bowl of oatmeal instead of a bowl of granola.
Not only is oatmeal filling and contain fiber, it's also lower in calories and sugar, when compared to granola. While a half cup serving of oats contains just 1 gram of sugar, many varieties of granola contain upward of 10 grams of sugar.
Oatmeal is a good source of soluble fiber, shown to reduce cholesterol levels. The type of fiber in oatmeal, beta glucans, may be particularly beneficial for heart health and also for weight control. Oatmeal also contains minerals, including magnesium and potassium, which promote heart health.
3. Top your oatmeal with fresh blackberries instead of sugar.
Blackberries taste sweet and are high in antioxidants and fiber while adding bulk to your portion of oatmeal. Sugar, on the other hand, is nothing more than empty calories
4. Drink sparkling water instead of soda.
Soda contains pure sugar, is liquid candy and a waste of calories. Swapping soda for sparkling water can save you hundreds of calories. For flavor, add a splash of lemon, lime or cucumber or throw in a few fruit flavored ice cubes (pour your favorite juice into an ice cube tray and freeze).
5. Eat a salad made with kale instead of iceberg lettuce.
In general, the darker the green, the more nutrients it contains. While iceberg lettuce is mostly water, kale is richer in nutrients and antioxidants such as folate, fiber, and vitamins A and C.
6. Top your salad with grilled salmon instead of steak.
Salmon contains heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids known to prevent blood clots and promote heart health. Red meat, including steak, on the other hand, is high in saturated fat.
7. Toss cherry tomatoes instead of croutons into your salad.
Adding tomatoes to your salad will boost your intake of antioxidants such as lycopene and vitamin C without contributing too many calories. Croutons, on the other hand, contain few nutrients and are mostly empty calories.
8. Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
Engaging in unstructured exercise such as taking the stairs or parking your car a few blocks away from where you are going is a great way to rev up your metabolism. Taking the stairs is also a great way to boost lean body mass.
9. Snack on peanuts instead of chips.
Hungry for a snack? Adding a handful of peanuts to your diet is a great way to boost your intake of healthy unsaturated fats which may benefit the brain as well as the skin. Peanuts are also rich in the antioxidant vitamin E. And even better, eating peanuts may protect against major causes of death.
10. Eat 'spaghetti' primavera made with spaghetti squash instead of white pasta.
Not only will you save lots of calories by swapping pasta for spaghetti squash, the squash will also give you a healthy helping of folate, vitamin C, fiber and magnesium. And even better, you can enjoy a generous portion without having to worry about gaining weight.
11. Enjoy fresh corn on the cob instead of mashed potatoes.
It's great to take advantage of produce in season. Corn on the cob is fresh and sweet while also containing a healthy dose of fiber. It is also portion controlled so it is hard to overdo it as you would mashed potatoes.
12. Swap your salt for a dash of turmeric.
Cooking with herbs and spices is a great way to reduce the amount of salt you ingest. Turmeric, in particular, not only adds a zesty flavor but it also contains anti inflammatory properties which may promote health.
Wishing you a wonderful summer. We would love to hear your favorite summer swaps.