6 Strategies for Staying Slim Through the Summer
About Lela Iliopoulos
Lela Iliopoulos is a Registered Dietitian and Palos Health's Outpatient Dietitian Supervisor.
by Lela Iliopoulos, RD
Summer brings a welcome array of fresh flavors and foods to savor. After all, it is grilling season and who doesn’t love warm weather and a BBQ? Enjoy family and friends while firing up the backyard grill and eat outdoors without worrying about your weight. The following are some simple rules for smart eating during summer gatherings.
Be Mindful of Portions
It is so easy to lower our inhibitions when we are relaxed among friends and family while sitting in front of a huge spread on the picnic table. Unfortunately, calories eaten outdoors still count! So go ahead and enjoy while keeping quantities in check.
One strategy to keep portions in check is to eat a small snack before attending a get-together. Also, avoid skipping meals during the day to make overeating less of a temptation.
Easy Guide to Dividing Your Plate
One serving of a meat protein ( i.e. chicken, fish, or beef) is about three ounces. Keep side dishes to about ½ cup and no more than a cup depending on the item. Make second helpings about fruits and vegetables.
Check out the spread before you fill your plate, and decide what you really want to enjoy. The more variety on your plate, the more you will eat. That’s because food variety stimulates the appetite. So be choosy with your calories and limit the items on your plate. Look at all the foods available on the buffet to choose the ones that are worth eating before diving in.
Don’t waste calories on foods you don’t enjoy or are always available to you. Skip the chips, and get in line at the grill! Start with low calorie foods first, such as filling up with fruits and vegetables. Beginning with a salad is an easy way to get nutrition and keep you from overeating. Opt for olive oil and vinegar over creamy dressings. Cut out the extras and appetizers so that you can enjoy your faves without racking up the calories.
Balance Your Plate
Always balance your meals with a carbohydrate, protein and healthy fat for greater satiety and nutrient density. If you are craving a grilled hamburger on a soft potato bun, go for it, while keeping the balance in mind. Perhaps you will skip Suzie’s famous pasta salad to enjoy your special treat. If there is a whole grain bun option, you can get in some extra fiber as part of your meal. Not a bread lover? Then have a scoop of your favorite potato salad. Again, the idea is keep portions in check and even out nutrient distribution. Don’t feel pressured by family or friends into eating seconds or foods that you don’t want. It really is OK to respectfully say no.
Bring Your Own Dish
Offer to bring your favorite healthy dish. At least you know you will have something nutritious, no matter how decadent the other offerings appear. Share healthy fare, such as a salad, a whole-grain side dish, vegetable or protein dish or even a healthier dessert. Maybe you can be the one that brings the whole grain buns or breads to up the fiber content. You can replace the standard chips and salsa with a light avocado, cucumber and tomato salad dressed with extra virgin olive oil and cold balsamic glaze, and a little lemon. The point is to use all the wonderful offerings of summer – pick ingredients from your garden, buy local and take advantage of all the great foods that are readily available and in season.
Drink water during your meals. Not only can it help you stay hydrated, it can help you feel fuller, which can help you eat less. Have fun by infusing water with your favorite fruits to give it a little flavor and to avoid empty calorie options. Some suggestions are: lemon, mint, blueberries, cucumber, strawberries and oranges.
Stay away from the sugary drinks and watch your alcohol intake. Alcohol calories are considered “empty calories” (calorie dense and not nutrient dense), and alcohol intake can also decrease inhibitions to overeat.
Get Out and Play.
Summer is synonymous with the outdoors, carefree times and good fun. Make sure you get out and burn off some energy (i.e. calories). Toss a ball, play a game, run around with your kids or take a walk. Pick something you like to do outside and do it. Get the most out of the season while not sabotaging your efforts for good nutrition and weight management throughout the year.
Remember to keep an eye on portions, cut out the extras and always balance your meals with lean proteins, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats. When you are at an event, pace yourself and eat till satisfied, not stuffed. That way you will be able to enjoy special occasions without expanding your waistline.