As we have welcomed the first day of summer and a beautiful strawberry moon, much warmer temperatures, we wear less clothing. We lounge by various bodies of water. We cook outside and reach for cold drinks. We set new goals for weight-loss, for bodies suitable for bathing suits, and we lament over the next class or family reunion, just around the corner. In the midst of all of this, we are almost inevitably tempted by grilled burgers and hot dogs, red-white-and-blue cakes, and icy, frozen margaritas…all of which whittle away at our summer health goals. When we maintain healthy eating (and drinking) year-round, reaching those health goals are (pardon the pun) a “piece of cake!” We can thoroughly enjoy the ambiance of summer while still making healthy and delicious choices. Here are some easy ideas for sustainable summer sustenance:
Veggies on the Barbie – Grilled vegetables can be fantastic on the grill, when cooked just right. For the grill fanatics, there are a wide variety of grill tools, such as veggie baskets, griddles, and even sauté pans that can sit right over the fire. In a pinch, a thick sheet of foil can also work just fine. The key to cooking veggies on the grill is taking your time. Set them to the side of the fire and let them cook slowly over the heat. Most veggies will “sweat” on their own, bringing out their natural juices, so oils don’t need to be added. Wrap an entire bulb of garlic in foil or parchment paper and grill it until it’s soft. Spread the softened garlic over your veggies for amazing flavor. A squeeze of citrus (lemon, lime or even orange) adds an excellent, tangy touch. The key is patience. Taking them off the grill too soon can sacrifice some flavor, but, also, take care not to overcook. Bright color is still the goal. Mushrooms and onions are fantastic substitutes for oils when cooking, because of their natural juices. As soon as they begin to “sweat,” add more veggies to absorb that delicious flavor.
Fruit, Glorious Fruit – Summer seasonal fruits are amazing and have a natural ability to soothe and hydrate the body. Make a melon bowl by slicing a cantaloupe or honeydew melon in half and scooping out the seeds. Fill the hole with fresh strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, mango and shaved coconut. Slice a small watermelon in half and top it off with passion fruit. This makes a delicious breakfast or mid-day meal. What new summer fruit will you try this season?
Summer Drinks – We know that hydration is critical to keeping our organs healthy in summer heat. Cold water is a given, but sometimes we want something a bit more celebratory. Cucumber-lemon water with mint is fantastically refreshing and detoxifies the liver. Another wonderful treat is blended watermelon with coconut water, loading our bodies with minerals and natural electrolytes, lycopene, antioxidants, amino acids and vitamin C and B6. Freeze coconut water in small cube trays and blend it in there for a slushy alternative. Remember that sodas, sweet and/or caffeinated drinks, and alcohol dehydrate the body. If you choose to imbibe in some of the less nutritious temptations, consume extra rejuvenating, rehydrating fluids, to counter act that effect.
Avocado – Need we say more? Sliced, on top of veggie fajitas, diced into fruit salads, or smashed and dolloped as delicious guac, avocado is a summer holiday favorite. The great urban myth that avocado makes us gain weight is easily dispelled by more and more research. The truth is that avocados contain healthy fats that facilitate absorption of phytonutrients, optimize brain health and, due to being a wonderful low-carb source of fiber, promote weight loss! Several clinical studies demonstrate the benefit of eating avocado with high fat meals. One of the most recent studies, published in February 2013 in Food and Function1, provided more support for the benefits of avocado. The study showed that eating an avocado with a hamburger decreases triglycerides, inflammation and vasoconstriction (an increase in blood pressure). While we fully support minimizing consumption of animal products, avocado can certainly assist in that transition. The moral of this story is to eat avocado to your heart’s delight…quite literally!
Let’s relish in our time with friends and in the sunshine, while still honoring our bodies and our health. Crowd out the less healthy foods by filling your body with food that helps you feel vibrant, light, and renewed. Sharing meals is one of the most common cross-cultural practices at family and social events. Fill those meals with foods that promote good health for our individual selves, for those we love, and for our communities. What could more beautiful and worth celebrating than seeing those around us thrive? Before you know it, you’ll want to keep this going all year long!
- Li Z, Wong A, Henning SM, et al.. (2013) Hass avocado modulates postprandial vascular reactivity and postprandial inflammatory responses to a hamburger meal in healthy volunteers. Food and Function 4(3), 384-91. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23196671