By Carolyn O’Neil, MS, RD
Attempting to squeeze the last bits out of summer? It’s unbelievable how fast this time of year goes! Like many, you may be approaching the realization that there are not enough weekends left of the summer to entertain your plans or goals, including your diet. Well, I have some good news for you! The ability to incorporate healthy eating habits into your diet may be easier than you think. Food has been lightening up, and it’s the prime opportunity to snag some good habits. The summer issues a new crop of restaurant menus that feature more salads, grilled entrées, cold soups, frozen drinks and fruit for dessert. The problem is that ‘light and fresh’ doesn’t always mean light in calories.
Whether you’re tossing your own or eyeing the salad section on a menu, beware of large entrée salads. Many can weigh in around 1,000 calories. So chances are, when you pile on the cheese, fried chicken, croutons, bacon bits and salad dressing, you’ve probably eaten more calories than a burger and fries. Check nutrition information listed on many restaurant websites.
The principal ingredients in a salad are supposed to be fresh, raw vegetables, which are low in calories, and are a good source of fiber to keep you feeling full. Pick veggies in lots of different colors to contribute a wide variety of nutrients to your diet. Add a total of 3 to 4 ounces of lean proteins such as boiled egg, grilled chicken or steak, steamed shrimp, seared tuna or deli-sliced roast beef, turkey or ham. Accessorize with a few nuts or a small amount of grated Parmesan or crumbled goat cheese.
- Look for menus that take advantage of summer’s bountiful harvest of low-calorie, nutrient-rich produce including tomatoes, cucumbers, field peas, peaches, basil, and all kinds of berries. Did you know that the vitamin C in produce is essential for building collagen for healthy skin?
- Avoid cream-based soups and go for choices chock full of vegetables. Fruit soups, from melon to strawberry, are delicious and nutritious, too.
- Instead of ice cream or gelato, you’ll save hundreds of calories per serving by choosing fresh fruit sorbets or frozen desserts made with low-fat or fat-free milk. Choose fresh fruit when possible and skip the crushed candies.