Summertime often brings with it plenty of picnics, barbeques, and ice cream, often washed down with a cold glass of your favourite tipple. But indulging in your favourite calorie-laden summer foods can cause the weight to gradually creep up. In fact, a study by the University of Georgia, USA found that while on vacation 61 percent of the participants included put on weight, which some were still carrying around for up to six weeks after the holiday had ended.
To help you avoid excess weight gain this season, whether at home or on vacation, here we round up some expert advice on how to enjoy your summer favourites in a healthier way.
1. Make it yourself
Premade dishes are often high in fat and sodium to help give them a longer shelf life, which can lead to health issues like elevated blood pressure. So instead buy fresh ingredients and enjoy some home cooking or make your favorite summer salads.
"When you prepare the food yourself, you have more control over the quality of the nutrition, and something that's freshly prepared always tastes better," says Sabina Valentine, a nutrition expert with the Centre for Health and Nutrition in the University of Alberta's School of Public Health.
2. Try out healthy alternatives
Think about the healthier choices you can make at summer get-togethers and family events, says Bethany Denlinger, M.D., medical director of the Cardiology Lab at VCU Community Memorial Hospital, such as choosing lean beef and make smaller hamburger patties, or instead grill chicken or salmon.
Valentine also suggests swapping mayonnaise in favorites like potato or pasta salad with Greek yogurt or creating a lighter oil-and-vinegar dressing, replacing salt with herbs and spices, and eschewing chips for crunchy veggies or baked slices of whole wheat pita bread.
3. Try fruit for dessert
Skip the cake and ice cream and instead try grilling sliced bananas, peaches, pears or pineapple. "Fruit's natural sugar makes the dessert so sweet when it's barbecued, you don't need to add anything to it," says Valentine.
Sonya Islam, a registered dietitian at Children's Hospital of Richmond at Virginia Commonwealth University, also suggests letting kids make fruit kebabs to encourage healthy choices.
4. Hydrate with water
Cold brews and sodas are often a popular choice to cool down in summer, but water is the best choice for staying hydrated. The sugar in the drinks also increases the calorie count and can lead to weight gain.
"It's also wise to keep in mind that beer and wine are diuretics, which cause you to lose more fluid than you're drinking, so they could be potentially dehydrating," adds Valentine, who advises alternating alcohol with glasses of water to help ward off empty calories and dehydration.
To encourage kids to drink enough water Islam suggests flavoring seltzer water with a blend of citrus and other fruits to make a healthy choice more interesting. She also recommends letting kids get involved by laying out a variety of cut fruit, creating a "bar of flavorings" for them to come up with their own custom flavor for their water.
5. Eat the rainbow
"Look for options that are naturally bright and colorful," says Islam. "This will probably lead you to vegetables and fruits instead of cheese curls. For a healthy meal, make half of a child's plate vegetables and fruits that are prepared without a lot of extra fat or sugar." This can also be easier during summer when bright and fresh fruits and vegetables are readily available and make a light and refreshing meal.
6. Follow the 80/20 rule
If you just can't pass on what you love this summer, then don't. "Don't deny yourself the pleasure of indulging in a food you love, just do it in moderation," says Valentine. A balanced way to eat a little of what you fancy is to follow the 80/20 rule: Treat yourself 20 percent of the time and stick to a healthy, balanced eating plan the other 80 percent.