Over the wintertime, it is easy to get cooped up inside, eat too much and skip exercise. Once it starts getting warmer out, we take off our layers of coats, sweaters, boots, etc. and want to wear shorts, tank tops and bathing suits. There is no reason to crash diet for summer, but it is a great time to start shaping up your diet so you can feel and look your best. If you got a little off track this past winter (I know that I did at certain times — hello cookies!), then you may want to start working a bit on your diet. Eating right helps you feel good, which is very important.
Here are some tips on ideas to shape up your diet for summer:
Include lots of produce ─ Fruits and vegetables are low in calories compared to most other foods and are packed full of nutrients. They are rich in fiber, which can help keep you full. For breakfast, consider having a smoothie with greens and fruits, or Greek yogurt with berries. For lunch, a great choice is a huge salad topped with lean protein. For dinner, grill up some chicken or veggie burgers along with marinated vegetables.
Cut back on desserts ─ Desserts are delicious but are often very high in calories. Some slices of cake are 500 ─ 600 calories! Instead, have a Greek yogurt or some fresh fruit to satisfy your sweet craving. Or have a square of dark chocolate or a frozen fruit bar, which are a lot lower in calories than typical dessert.
Drink more water ─ Our bodies need water to survive! A lot of times, when we think we are hungry, we are really just thirsty. If you recently ate but still feel hungry, have a large glass of water before reaching for a snack. Aim for a minimum of eight 8-oz. glasses of water per day. A great tip is to carry a large water bottle everywhere you go so that you always have it available. Also, there are apps to remind you to drink your water if you are very busy or forgetful.
Take advantage of in-season foods ─ In-season produce usually tastes the best since it is fresh that particular time of year. Stock up on these foods for the best flavors and nutrition. Spring in-season produce includes asparagus, rhubarb, lettuce and strawberries. Summer produce includes fresh tomatoes, peaches, plums, blueberries, cherries, zucchini and more.
Fire up the grill ─ It is easy to have a healthy meal when you are using the grill. Think lean proteins such as lean burgers, kebabs, chicken, lean steak and more. Marinate vegetables for a few hours in a mixture of olive oil, vinegar and spices for a meal full of flavor. Excellent choices for the grill include zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers, tomatoes and asparagus. With grilling, you usually can use a lot less fat than you would if you were sautéing food, for example. Using a grill mat is a great way to help prevent food from sticking to the grill and makes cleanup easier. You can even make your healthy dessert! Throw a few peaches, plums or pineapple right on the grill to bring out the natural sweetness.
Don’t skip breakfast ─ You have heard time and time again that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. That is because it is true! Breakfast helps to kick-start your metabolism for the day and prevents you from getting too hungry and overeating later on. Great breakfast options are eggs, Greek yogurt, oatmeal with flax, whole-grain peanut butter toast and more. Also, if you like coffee or tea, keep total milligrams of caffeine for the day under 300 mg. A cup of tea has about 20 ─ 50 milligrams of caffeine, and a cup of coffee has around 100 mg. Skip the creamer and added sugars if you are trying to shapeup and add skim or 2% milk instead.
Choose whole grains ─ Whole-grains make a great addition to your diet. They are rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals that refined grains often do not have. Aim to make at least half your grains wholegrain. Start right in the morning with a whole-grain English muffin or oatmeal. During the day, choose whole-grain pastas, rice, bread, tortillas, etc. instead of the refined, white versions. They often do not taste much different but provide a nutritious boost.
Snack smart ─ Even if you are trying to shapeup your diet, there is still room for some healthy snacks throughout the day. If you have only 3 square meals per day, you may end up overeating at these meals due to being overly hungry. Instead, stick to a couple of healthy snacks throughout the day for some extra nutrition and to prevent hunger until your next meal. When it comes to snacking, have something that contains protein. Examples are a banana with peanut butter, hummus with vegetables, whole-grain crackers with string cheese, popcorn with nuts, or yogurt with low-sugar granola. Nuts and peanut butter make excellent snack options that are rich in healthy fats, antioxidants, protein and fiber. Any fruit or vegetable makes a good snack.
Limit dining out ─ As Americans we love to eat out ─ I know I do! The thing about eating out is that the portion sizes are always huge, the food is usually cooked with extra fat, sugar, and salt and there often are not a lot of healthy options available. When it comes to portion sizes at restaurants, aim to eat about half your meal or less and take the rest home. Skip the appetizers unless there is a healthy option available such as hummus and vegetables. Appetizers are often deep-fried and can provide more calories than you should be eating for your entire meal! When you do eat out, choose a meal that is baked or grilled. Items that are sautéed or fried are cooked in fat, which adds a lot of extra calories to your meal. Also, feel free to ask questions when you are ordering. For example, how is this cooked? Can I order it without any added oils or salt? Can I have a side salad instead of French fries? It does not hurt to ask!
Watch portion sizes ─ When we go out to eat, a meal can literally contain 3 ─ 4 portions. If you eat your whole meal, you can be consuming a lot more calories than you need. When you eat at home, serve yourself a normal-sized portion, and you can always go back for more later if you are still hungry. I love the MyPlate method, which is having ½ of your plate fruits and vegetables, ¼ with protein and ¼ with grains. This helps to remind us not to overdo any one food group and to watch portion sizes.
Get your sweat on ─ Of course, part of getting in shape includes working out. Youfit Health Clubs has lots of options for working out and getting in shape for summer. They are very green and use recycled materials and their floors are made of recycled sneakers ─ so cool! They have personal trainers to help you get back on track, motivate you and provide advice to help meet your goals.
Keep in mind that shaping up your diet for summer does not have to include dieting. Making small, simple changes can help you meet your goals so that you can feel your best. Healthy lifestyle changes are always the route to go instead of a low-calorie diet or a crazy workout plan. Along with a moderate amount of exercise, these tips can help you shape up.