During the summer temptation lies everywhere, which means watching your diet, planning ahead, and not setting yourself up for binging is very important. Be careful with snack traps that can lead you down the path of unhealthy eating. Summer parties filled with treats, concession stands full of high-sugar, high-salt items, and gas stations and rest stops filled with road trip munchies can make sticking to a healthy plan difficult.
If you believe you eat too much sugar, why not try cutting back rather than abstaining 100%? Forcing yourself to eat no sugar at all for any length of time increases the likelihood of binging on it at some point. It is important to find balance within your diet and practice moderation. The “all-or-nothing” approach when it comes to food often fails and sets dieters up for a harmful yo-yo diet cycle.
Tactics to help you deal with summertime cravings and temptations can help you stick to your goals. Let’s review the basics to find a healthy balance.
1. Don’t skip meals. When you are experiencing food cravings one of the worst things you can do is not eat. When you skip a meal, your blood sugars often end up crashing leaving your body craving high sugar items to bring your blood sugar levels up quickly. You may also get to the point where you are overly hungry leaving you impatient to prepare healthy food and looking for something easy and convenient. By eating regular meals you help maintain more stable blood sugars and avoid getting to the point of being overly hungry and reaching for the first thing you see.
2. Plan ahead. If you know you will be attending a party with lots of food or on the road for a significant period of time, plan ahead and bring food along with you. When you have no options that fit your diet plan those temptations will be much harder to avoid. Ask if you can bring a dish with you. Some easy healthy options would be a fruit or veggie tray or a salad. Simple snacks for the car include unsalted nuts, fresh fruit, string cheese, or air-popped popcorn.
3. Focus on protein and fiber. Including fiber and protein every time you eat is key to dealing with cravings and keeping hunger pangs at bay. Fiber and protein help to balance blood sugars but are also very satiating. Many people find when they are getting adequate protein and fiber they do not get hungry as soon and are less likely to overeat junk food.
4. Follow the 90/10 rule. Following a healthy diet is not an all-or-nothing thing. Eating should be fun and enjoyable and the proper balance can help you stick to your goals long-term. When trying to be perfect with every choice many people find they get burnt out and then give up. Aim to make healthy choices 90% of the time; this includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and REAL food. Then 10% of the time allow yourself to fit in those FUN foods.
Here are a few of my favorite “go-to” summertime sweet treats that are sure to satisfy your cravings the next time they start to pang:
A simple yogurt parfait always does it for me! Simply take a cup or so of plain, Greek yogurt, add some fresh or frozen fruit, and top with a handful of granola, crushed graham crackers, or nuts for a quick, healthy and delicious treat. Dairy foods are encouraged as a regular part of a healthy diet by the DASH diet, Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and the Mediterranean diet. Yogurt is a nutrient-dense food that provides the body with a variety of nutrients for good health. It is a great source of protein, calcium, vitamin D, probiotics, and riboflavin.
When craving chocolate or cookies, why not reach for an apple or orange instead? You may be surprised with how satisfied you feel after. The natural sugars and fiber in whole fruits will provide the sweetness you are craving without the blood sugar spike, keeping energy and moods lifted without the sugar crash you get from candy and cookies. Some of the most delicious fruits are in season over the summer, meaning they not only taste better and are cheaper but offer better nutrition. Some of my favorite summertime fruits include berries, melons, cherries, peaches, and mangos. For busy, on-the-go summer days, fruits like bananas or oranges are perfect travel companions because they come in their own packaging making them easy to toss in a bag for later.
CAPRESE SALAD KABOBS
There is nothing like a fresh tomato right out of the garden. The flavor, juiciness, and freshness cannot be beat and is the perfect complement to summer. These kabobs are easy to assemble and look fun and colorful. They are a perfect dish to bring to a summer get-together. Thread two tomatoes, one mozzarella cheese ball, and two basil leaves on a skewer. Place skewers on a platter. Whisk together 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar and drizzle over the skewers. This snack is low in saturated fat, sodium, and cholesterol and with about 40 calories per skewer, it won’t break the calorie bank.
FROZEN CHOCOLATE BANANA
Bananas are one of my favorite fruits, and as added nutritional bonus, they are a great source of vitamins C and B6, and are jam-packed with potassium and fiber. For a delectable treat, take half a banana, melt some dark chocolate, dip the banana in the chocolate, and top with chopped almonds. Put the dipped banana into the freezer and in just a short time you will a delicious, tasty, and sweet treat.
FRUIT AND COTTAGE CHEESE
Fruit and cottage cheese is a delicious, yet extremely satisfying snack. It has everything you need to feel satisfied from sweetness to fiber and high protein. Avoid the cottage cheese and fruit cups at the grocery store and pair your cottage cheese with fresh-cut fruit to lower the amount of added sugars in this snack. If you are watching your sodium make sure you are reading labels because cottage cheese can be a hidden source of salt in your diet.
FROZEN GRAPES AND BLUEBERRIES
Pop some grapes or blueberries in the freezer for a few hours and then enjoy a slightly sweet treat packed with antioxidants and other nutrients. They are especially great on hot, summer days! A 1-cup serving of frozen grapes has just 60 calories! On top of being low in calories, frozen grapes are full of antioxidants, vitamin K, and copper. One cup of blueberries is about 80 calories and contains fiber, vitamin C, and cancer-fighting anthocyanins. For an extra treat, dip the grapes or blueberries in low-fat regular yogurt before freezing.
TRAIL MIX WITH DARK CHOCOLATE
A small serving of a healthy mix of nuts like almonds and pistachios with a few nice chewy pieces of dried fruit like unsweetened raisins or tart cherries, and some dark chocolate pieces makes a great snack mix with good nutritional value too. For extra fiber and crunch, add some air-popped popcorn. This addition will increase the fiber with only 30 calories per cup. Popcorn also contains the antioxidant polyphenol, which is thought to protect against heart disease and neutralize free radicals. A perfect snack for a summertime hike or summer road trip!
FRESH CUT VEGGIES AND HUMMUS
Non-starchy vegetables, such as carrots and celery, add nutrients and fiber to the diet but contain fewer carbohydrates than their starchy counterparts, such as corn, potatoes, and peas. These low-carbohydrates veggies add a rainbow of color to your diet, which means you are getting an array of antioxidants. Snacking on vegetables helps you meet the American Heart Association’s recommendations of 4-5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Cut up some bell peppers. cruciferous veggies, cucumbers, or carrots and serve with a cool hummus dip for a quick and healthy snack. Most hummus brands you can find at the store have about 25 calories per tablespoon. Bonus, vegetables are full of water so they will help keep you hydrated in the dog days of summer.
GREEK YOGURT BARK
Are you craving something cold and creamy during the summer? Often summertime and ice cream go hand in hand. A great substitute for high-fat, high-sugar ice cream is to whip up an easy batch of Greek yogurt bark. Look for lightly sweetened Greek yogurt to get the benefit of additional protein and less sugar. Spread the yogurt on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. You can add ¼ cup of honey and a teaspoon of vanilla if you’d like. Top yogurt with fresh-cut berries and cocoa nibs (or mini dark chocolate chips) and freeze for at least 3 hours. Want to add more crunch to your yogurt bark? Sprinkle some whole grain granola on the top. Once the bark is hard, break into pieces and serve.
Another trick I’ve learned with my kids is to buy low-sugar organic yogurt tubes and throw them in the freezer. When we are having a pool day or are wanting a frozen treat I pull them out of the freezer, cut the top, and it is an easy, fun frozen yogurt treat. Nutritionally it offers more vitamins and minerals and less sugar than the freezer pop popsicles. Look for the yogurt tubes with no artificial dyes.
Need help getting started with healthy snack options? Browse our weekly meal plan menus for more inspiration!