How to maintain healthy eating habits during those hot summer months

Healthy summer picnic

Healthy summer picnic (Photo by Andreas Duess)

As appealing as it may sound, indulging in ice cream everyday during the warm summer months isn’t as good of an idea as you’d like — even if you get the strawberry shortcake or blueberry milkshake. Summertime BBQs are especially a time for junk food temptations. Here’s how to maintain healthy eating habits when the only food that sounds appealing on a hot day is soft serve ice cream.

Summer BBQs

One of the best things about summer is all the get-togethers with friends and family. Since most people will bring the usual items — chips, hot dogs, cookies, etc. — why not be the one who comes armed with a healthy item or two? writer Heather Topham Wood lists great items to bring along in her April 26, 2011, post titled “4 Ways to Make Healthy Picnic Foods.” Woods suggests:

  1. Eliminate the bad foods: Skip anything that has mayo as an ingredient, and eliminate high-sugar food items.
  2. Celebrate the growing season: Head to the store or your farmers’ market and get what’s in season. Toss together fresh blueberries, watermelon, cantaloupe, pineapple, etc.
  3. Bring lean protein instead: Scoop up veggie or turkey burgers to grill and serve on whole wheat buns.
  4. Don’t forget about the beverages: Make sugar-free iced tea and lemonade for guests, and consider bringing lighter beer and wine for those wanting a stronger drink.

Eat your fruits and veggies

If you’re like me, heating up your kitchen to cook a meal isn’t a fun option in the hot summer months. So, how can you eat a nutritious meal at home when it’s too hot to cook?

Hit up a local farmers’ market and load up on fresh veggies and fruit to mix together for a meal that’s good any time of the day. I’ll gather up anything that I can toss with a head of lettuce and call it a salad:

  • Home-grown apples
  • Dried cranberries or cherries
  • Walnuts
  • Blue cheese crumbles
  • Strawberries
  • Fresh mushrooms
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Choice of dressing: My current favorite is light raspberry walnut

If you have a panini grill or small sandwich maker, try grilling a small boneless chicken breast to slice up and add to your salad for a bit more protein. This will also leave you a bit more satisfied than salad alone.

Try something new

Instead of reaching for a boring ol’ chicken breast to stick on a skewer and grill with veggies, why not try using garlic-flavored chicken sausage instead? Paired with red and yellow bell peppers, red onion, cherry tomatoes and green onions, this is a new spin on a classic summer dish. offers up their recipe as part of their “Fresh, Healthy Summer Recipe” section.

Chicken sausage not your thing? How about grilled eggplant? The Grilled Vegetable Panini recipe from the Food Network takes about 30 minutes to prepare and is as flavorful as they come. Topped on a sliced baguette, the grilled eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, roasted red peppers and red onion is sure to please even the hungriest of bellies.

Late night snacking

It can be hard to try and eat healthy all day long and at night, too! If you keep the right snacks in your kitchen, you won’t find yourself reaching for junk food late at night. Add these items to your grocery list and you’ll feel much better about snacking late:

  • Greek yogurt: I like to throw a few in the freezer and enjoy this treat frozen.
  • Trail mix: Buy a bag in bulk or make your own mix including dried cherries, dark chocolate chips and unsalted nuts.
  • Hummus and pita chips: You can make your own pita chips by spreading olive oil and sea salt onto sliced pita and baking in the oven at 400 degrees until crisp.
  • Apple slices and peanut butter: Also try celery or green bell pepper with peanut butter!
  • Plain popcorn: Lightly sprinkle with a bit of olive oil and sea salt or cracked pepper for taste.

It’s okay to indulge in sweets every now and then, so don’t write off that favorite summer treat all together. Remember, everything can be part of a nutritional diet in moderation.

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