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Nutrition: Ask Elesha

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The hot weather is upon us. Kids will soon be out of school and families and friends will gather poolside to enjoy summer festivities.Nutrition It is a relaxing time of year, but try not to be too relaxed about maintaining healthy eating habits. You may be over-indulging more frequently than you realize.

Puzzling Summer Weight Gain, Explained
Sipping on cool summery drinks at the pool or beach, inevitably part of the warm weather agenda, is the most common way of increasing your sugar intake. Unfortunately, the food sold at snack bars is typically not-so-healthy and can pile on the fat and calories in no time. A bite or two of your kids’ chicken fingers, French fries, ice cream cone or the occasional handful of potato chips can quickly add up! Even seemingly healthier items such as tacos, cobb salads and wrap sandwiches can be culprits.

Fortunately, most snack bars and beachside cafes offer healthier choices:

Instead of fried chicken fingers with French fries (about 700 calories), try a grilled chicken sandwich with a side of fruit (435 calories).

Swap a grilled chicken Caesar wrap (a whopping 746 calories) for a turkey sandwich dressed with lettuce, tomato and pickles (a modest 375 calories).

Instead of a cobb salad (650 calories), try a grilled chicken salad with vinaigrette dressing (365 calories).

Trade nachos (approximately 350 calories for 6-8 chips) for a grilled cheese sandwich on whole wheat bread (about 275 calories).

Substitute ice cream treats (usually 200+ calories) for a fruit popsicle (about 60 calories), or enjoy a small scoop of ice cream or frozen yogurt.

Order fruit instead of fries to shave off between 200 and 300 calories. And no, sweet potato fries are not a better option. They have roughly the same fat and calories per serving.

Make healthy substitutions at home as well:

Instead of guacamole and chips, try salsa and Beanito chips. While guacamole is healthy, it’s still high in calories and very easy to overdo. Beanitos are made from pinto beans and flax, and contain more belly-filling fiber and protein.

Substitute a regular hamburger on a bulky white bun for a ground turkey breast burger on a whole wheat sandwich thin. You can even add all the tasty trimmings (lettuce, tomato, a little mayo, ketchup, etc.). Swapping out the bun and burger will save a few hundred calories and slash saturated fat.

Popular summer dishes and dips like potato salad, cole slaw and spinach dip can be made using Greek yogurt in place of at least half of the mayonnaise.

Watch Liquid Calories
Replace regular sodas and juices for water, sparkling fruit-flavored waters or unsweetened ice tea (add a splash of sweet tea if you like) to save roughly 150 calories. Frozen alcoholic drinks are enticing but can pack at least 300-400 calories each. Instead, opt for infused vodka and soda water with a splash of fruit juice and a squeeze of lemon and lime. You will still feel like you are sipping a festive drink. If you prefer beer, swap a regular beer (about 150+ calories) for a Michelob Ultra or a light lime-flavored beer.

The Take Away
The occasional indulgence is fine, but a three month splurge will make those cute sundresses and bathing suits fit a lot tighter. Beware of mindless snacking—it still counts! A few bites of the kids’ chicken fingers and French fries most days of the week for three months can amount to about a five-pound weight gain by Labor Day.