Summer is here! You may find yourself having a great time at the beach, barbeques or fun poolside events! Though these fun activities are important to de-stress ourselves, we also want to be aware of what we eat so our health problems do not come raging back once Summer is over. If you’re not sure where to begin – here are a few simple tips for how to be healthier this summer.
1. Snack Smarter.
Start by getting rid of as much processed foods as possible. These products are usually filled with preservatives and are considered high-calorie junk food. Fresh produce is your friend! Fruit is abundant in the warm temperatures in the South so there is no reason not to take advantage of it! Start by slowly adding in fruits and veggies and other healthy snack choices around the house. Try out watermelon and other melons, strawberries, peaches, blueberries, and other fresh sweet foods as your go to snacks. Also think about veggie snacks like celery, carrots with a scoop of almond or cashew butter. A simple trick is to precut your fruit so it is ready to eat when you are hungry and craving something sweet and delicious Try and stay away from the pile of cookies or pint of ice cream when your sugar cravings start. You can do it!
2. Take control of your Portion size.
Just because we live in the south does not mean we need to eat as “southerns” do. Big plates for a meal is not realistic for us to eat all the time. Undo the super-size mentality and take control of your diet! Portion sizes should be about the size of your palm cupped. This is a great guide to estimate healthy portions.
3. Slash Your Soda Intake.
Soda is not good for you. No if ands or buts. It would be in your best interest to stop consuming your soda. Think of it as “diabetes in a can”. And those diet sodas, those are even worse with the fake sugars! Did you know they will only increase your thirst and cravings for sugar? Try and commit to going soda free this summer! Try slowly weaning yourself off these drinks. Need help? Switch to unsweetened ice tea, natural fruit flavored water (use slices of lemon, oranges or berries!) If you crave the fizz try seltzer or kombucha! Kombucha is a fermented drink meaning its full of probiotics which is great for regulating our digestion!
4. Choose Homemade Sauces, Dips and Dressings.
Did you know dips are incredibly easy to make! All you really need is a blender, whisk or a mason jar! This is a great way to omit processed foods from our diet and save on calories! Instead of pouring that dressing all over your salad, just lightly coat it instead. For homemade dressings, just put ingredients plus oil and vinegar in the jar, close tightly and shake vigoursly! Ta-Da homemade salad dressings! Beware of the chip table this summer. Make smart choices like a handful of pita chips or even better, vegetable sticks with hummus or salsa. Mmmmm!
5. Eat Breakfast.
Do you know that this is not only the most important meal but also the most important meal skipped over. Really, I mean it. This one can make a big difference in how many total calories you consume for the day. A healthy breakfast choice may establish your hormonal appetite regulation system for the day. A scone or muffin with coffee might sound good, but won’t tame your cravings or temper your appetite as much as a protein-rich breakfast from eggs (6 grams protein per 70-calorie med egg), chia seed pudding, oatmeal with almond butter or yogurt (esp Greek yogurt); yogurt or cottage cheese with fruit; or nut butters with a protein-rich whole-grain (if its okay for your body) or nut bread. Maybe even a Green Drink or Juice! Try to stay away from packaged, processed and sugar laden breakfast foods.
6. Make Mondays Meatless.
You may have heard the “Meatless Mondays” slogan, which started as a way to help the war effort during WWI. Now it’s a nationwide movement. Going meatless just one day a week can decrease your risk for cancer and other major health issues. It is important for us to only eat red meat once a week. Best if all meat can be grass fed and antibiotic and hormone free. Here are some great companies to order from if you cannot get it from your local farmers market: Heritage Foods USA, US Wellness Meats.
7. Get to Know Your Alternative Grains!
Did you know there are so many more grains out there besides wheat! They are all different and fun to experiment with to find your favorite. Quinoa is probably the most well-known non wheat grain, but now it is time to delve deeper into the rest! Look into Amaranth, spelt, chia seeds, flax seed and millet. Not only do they taste terrific, there are many health benefits to be gained by expanding your “Grain Universe”. Studies show that eating whole grains instead of refined grains lowers the risk of many chronic diseases. While benefits are most pronounced for those consuming at least 3 servings daily, some studies show reduced risks from as little as one serving daily. It is good to remember that not all of us are meant for grains, so if you have digestive symptoms with wheat, try the non-wheat alternatives, but even those may cause some issues. Just listen to your body!
8. Eat in Accordance to the Chinese Element Fire.
In Chinese Medicine, Summer is connected to the Fire Element. It is good to increase your “cooling” foods during this time. You can start to eat more raw and bitter foods like salads, cucumbers, watercress, dark green leafy greens and more fruits like berries. The organs related to summer are the Heart and Small Intestine. When the Fire element is balanced in the body, your blood will circulate better and your food will digest properly.
Enjoy and have a great Summer!!!
Emma Dan L.Ac.