BY DINAH SHORE
Good ol’ summertime is finally in full force! It is great to be outside in the early morning or at dusk to enjoy a walk with friends or family when the temperature is more comfortable. Summer is a great time to make small changes in your lifestyle to improve your health and your family’s health. Many of us spend most of the day at a desk, whether at school or at work, and it is easy to come home, complete our chores and then just sit some more. Make a small change by finding a healthy slow cooker recipe to prepare dinner, then spend the spare time taking a pre-dinner walk with the family around the neighborhood. Instead of going to the gym by yourself on Saturday mornings, find a local hiking trail and get outside with the family or a group of friends. If you have younger children, bring a list of things to find on the hike (an acorn, a squirrel, a caterpillar, etc.) Who doesn’t like a treasure hunt?
Try to make an effort to stop skipping meals. One of the most important meals skipped is breakfast. Research shows breakfast helps boost metabolism, improve your food selections throughout the day, and improve mental performance. Studies show an association between weight control, slimmer bodies, and breakfast. Research also shows that those who consume breakfast tend to consume less fat, and more vitamins and minerals than those who skip the meal. Stock your kitchen with convenient, ready-to-eat foods. For example, you can have fresh fruits, pre-washed salad greens, non-fat yogurt, milk, and cereals around. Try waking up a little earlier if you need to make time for breakfast, and pack lunch the night before. On days when you’re not busy, you can prepare dinner items that you can pre-portion and freeze for several meals.
Many people skip regular meals and just graze all day. While consuming smaller, more frequent meals can help boost metabolism, nibbling on high-calorie foods with little nutrients all day long can lead to weight gain. It is still important to consume balanced, nutritious meals or snacks throughout the day if you want to rev up your metabolism and lose weight. Grazing can result in consuming too much fat and calories, yet not enough nutrients. Less all-day munching and more regular meals can help you fuel up properly to lose weight. Many people think a little nibble here, and a little nibble there can’t do much damage. This may be the case, depending on what and how much you are nibbling on. However, most people aren’t nibbling on a nutritious, low-calorie carrot or high fiber berries. Many people choose to take a bite or two of some favorite high fat or high sugar food that is packed with calories in even just a little amount. One lollipop, one potato chip with cream cheese based dip, and one spoonful of ice cream easily can amount to 50 calories each. One cocktail meatball, one spoonful of icing, and one cube of high-fat cheese can amount to 100 calories each. One small fried chicken wing, one teaspoon of cookie dough, and a spoonful of tartar sauce, pesto or Hollandaise sauce can easily add up to 200 calories each! Try to be conscious of when and what you may nibble on. Try to avoid nibbling on high-calorie treats. Those fewer bites a day can make a difference in losing a few more pounds.
Find a replacement for those pasta cravings. Pasta is filled with carbohydrates, and though they’re fine once in a while, the weekly pasta meal can add pounds to your body quickly. Instead, try making spaghetti squash or swap out traditional wheat pasta with quinoa pasta. I bet no one would even be able to tell the difference. A vegetable spiralizer is a great tool for making “spaghetti” from vegetables. This substitution is a great way to reduce calories and starch but still allows us to have a “spaghetti dinner”!
Summer can be a very busy season and leave us lacking in rest because we have more daylight hours for outdoor activities. Sleep has an impact on weight control. A great change to make this summer is to set a goal to get about 8 hours of sleep each night. Not only will you have low energy levels from little sleep, but research also shows that people tend to compensate for lack of energy with food. It is easy to lose track of time when the days are longer, so try to leave time at the end of your day for relaxing and unwinding prior to getting a good night’s rest.
Think of summer as a time to enjoy nutritious meals with fresh fruits and vegetables from your garden or the farmers market, exercising outdoors while spending time with family and friends, and pleasant dreams of vacations to come! Summertime is slim down time with these simple, healthy choices for meals, snacks and social time.