Summertime Fun without the Guilt: Northwestern Memorial Hospital Dietitian Offers Tips for Making Healthy Food Choices
Moderation and balance help maintain nutrition and prevent overeating
For many, the potential to overeat during the summer season is all too present during picnics, ballgames, backyard barbeques and outdoor festivals that go hand in hand with summer and offer savory, yet often unhealthy, foods and snacks. The opportunity to indulge can often force nutrition to take a back seat, however, experts at Northwestern Memorial Hospital say that doesn’t have to be the case.
“Healthy summer eating doesn’t require forsaking your favorite foods,” says Annie Neuendorf, MPH, RD, LDN, of Northwestern Memorial’s Wellness Institute. “With a few simple modifications and most importantly, balance, you can enjoy summer gatherings without the fear of unwanted weight gain.”
Neuendorf suggests the following tips for keeping nutrition top of mind while enjoying your favorite activities:
- Picnics and backyard barbeques: As you light up the grill this summer, consider turkey versions of your favorite foods such as burgers, brats and hotdogs. While still delicious and full of flavor, the turkey versions are lower in fat and calories. Another way to lighten up your barbecue is to include variety. Rather than always grilling meat, spice things up with seafood or vegetable kabobs from time to time. Both offer a delicious meal that is quick and easy to grill, and most importantly, low in calories. Neuendorf also cautions that side dishes such as potato salad and coleslaw often have heavy mayonnaise bases that make them high in fat and calories. For a healthier side dish, reach for baked chips with salsa, fruit salad or corn-on-the-cob.
- At the Ballpark: When possible, eat before going to the game. An empty stomach at a ballpark full of stadium fare can quickly lead to poor nutrition. If you’ll be eating at the stadium, be on the lookout for light and low-fat concession options that are now offered at most stadiums, such as grilled chicken sandwiches, fruit cups and low-fat yogurt. Of the traditional concession items, lemon-ice, soft pretzels and hot dogs tend to be among the lower calorie items.
- Festival fun: While the aroma of funnel cakes and other deep-fried foods can be enticing, beware. Most have an over-abundance of calories that can quickly take you off course. If you plan to indulge a little, be sure to plan accordingly and make healthy food choices for other meals. Also, don’t forget about the importance of exercise. Even a brisk walk through the fairgrounds will get your body moving and help burn those extra calories. Festival fare that tends to be lower in calories include baked potatoes (skip the added toppings and go easy on the butter), Italian ice and roasted corn-on-the-cob.
“The key to healthy eating during the summer months is portion control,” says Neuendorf. “It’s okay to take part in summertime festivities and the food they have to offer, as long as you enjoy your favorite foods in moderation and make time for daily exercise.” To avoid overeating at social events, Neuendorf offers these three tips:
- Don’t skip meals in order to “save room” for a meal later in the day. This can make balancing meals difficult and lead to overeating. Be sure to eat a full breakfast before attending mid-day or afternoon events so you don’t arrive with an empty stomach.
- Choose healthy, portion-controlled meals throughout the week to offset the variety of rich foods eaten during a weekend event. If the majority of your meals are balanced and you make time for exercise, a little indulging here and there won’t lead to unwanted weight gain.
- Plan ahead. Determine a set amount of cash to bring to festivals and survey all food options to help curb impulsive eating and spending. When possible, opt for sample size portions.
For more information on nutrition or services offered at the Northwestern Memorial’s Wellness Institute, call 312-926-WELL.