Quick - name some food you associate with summer. Chances are that you probably thought of food you cook on the grill, like hot dogs, hamburgers, and chicken, or you might have thought of the food from county fairs or community picnics, like funnel cakes, corn dogs, and ice cream. Ideally, you thought of fresh vegetables right from the garden, like tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, squash, and lettuce.
It’s difficult to pinpoint what summer eating should consist of. Even the food on this list from the Atlantic (link) ranges from gazpacho to fried chicken. Still, it is worth considering that eating a healthy variety of foods during the summer might be a better choice for you and your family. For one, healthy, light foods, such as fresh vegetables, fish, and grilled white-meat chicken (which you can combine with cabbage leaves (link) to create a pretty wicked enchilada), won’t leave you with an overstuffed feeling, which can be uncomfortable during some of the hottest days of the year. But, eating light and healthy during the summer can also have mental health benefits, since the way we eat plays a big role in the state of our mental health.
So, while the corn dogs are calling from the fair and the sizzle of hot dogs on the grill is whispering to you, there are still a few ways to make sure you eat light and healthy during the summer — not just for your body, but for your mind as well. Here are three of them:
1. Substitute Meats on the Grill
Consider swapping out the hot dogs and burgers for grilled vegetables (link), such as tomatoes, squash, mushroom caps, whole potatoes, or potato wedges (which children love) (link), and, of course, corn on the cob. You can serve them in a salad, on skewers, or on a large platter that can be passed around at the family dinner table. These vegetables are rich in fiber (link), which improves digestive bacteria levels that regulate mood and behavior. They can also help you think clearly and stay alert (link).
2) Think Light on Desserts
Ice cream on a hot summer day sounds delicious, but it tends to be, according to Livestrong.com (link), digested too slowly, and it’s high in fat and sugar. Think instead about making frozen yogurt parfaits (link) with berries and chopped nuts. You can also indulge in other summer fruits for desserts, such as watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew melon. Like vegetables, these are high in fiber, which not only makes them easier to digest, but also helps improve your mental state. You can also make your own frozen pops using fresh fruit.
3) Use Light Sauces and Marinades
When eating meat or other proteins during the summer, consider using lighter sauces and marinades instead of heavier steak or barbecue sauces. Even though barbecue sauce might be another traditional taste of summer, many varieties are loaded with sugar. For healthy alternatives, you can create your own sauces (link), such as a salsa verde, a red wine sauce, or even a teriyaki sauce. You can use these for dipping, or try marinating the meats with them before putting them on the grill. Either way, you’ll still get flavorful food with a lighter touch.
It might also be worthwhile to consider seeking the assistance of a nutritionist to help you develop a healthy, well-balanced diet, especially if you’re new to the healthy eating scene. If you have a senior in your household, Medicare will cover nutrition therapy if a doctor deems it medically necessary. However, if they are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, they have more options to explore, including home meal delivery services (link).
It’s ironic that during the warmest time of the year, we traditionally fill ourselves with some of the heaviest, most sugar-laden foods, which is what we normally do during the holiday season. But, eating lighter foods, whether they’re savory or sweet, or come from the grill or freezer, helps us physically and mentally, and gets us through the warm months of summer.