6 Healthy Summer Swaps to Stay Fit This Season

by Alexandra Liles, CHOP5 Wellness Blogger

Summertime is just around the corner! With so many opportunities for festivals, fairs, and warm weather celebrations it can be challenging to stick to our health and nutrition goals. Rather than skimping on the summer fun, try these simple swaps to keep the party going and the fun flowing this season, while keeping the calories and cholesterol low and staying on track with your fitness goals.

  1. Try flavored or fruit-infused sparkling water instead of sugary sodas. Although average soda consumption has declined over the years in the U.S., Americans are still projected to consume over 42 gallons of soda per person this year. That’s a lot of empty calories and sugar filling our cups. Even when we choose diet options, we might be minimizing the calories, but we aren’t escaping the plethora of processed ingredients in each can. While more research is needed, studies have already shown that regular consumption of diet sodas and their processed ingredients can have negative impacts on our health. This season try swapping out your soda for sparkling water. Pick your favorite fruit and make a fancy mocktail. Waterloo has fun limited-edition flavors for summer. My favorite flavor at the moment is Summer Berry. Try it with a few fresh blueberries, a big slice of lemon, and a sprig of mint. Delish!

2. Try making your next summer BBQ more plant forward. According to the World Health Organization, red meat and processed meats are carcinogens. We don’t need to forgo the summertime BBQ to reduce our risk though. Load the grill with your favorite veggies instead; try sweet onions, zucchini, summer squash, sweet potatoes, even halved heads of Romaine lettuce (cut side down on the grill). Swap meats out for black bean burgers and grilled tofu. There are more plant-based meat substitutes for the grill than ever before but keep it simple and try sticking with less processed varieties whenever possible. The fewer ingredients on the label, the better. Experiment with different spice blends to make your grilled tofu the star of the BBQ. Lately I have been sprinkling a mix of garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and smoked paprika on mine before sending it off to the grill.

3. Try blending tofu or using mashed avocado instead of using mayonnaise in your summer BBQ side dishes. Is it even a BBQ without potato or macaroni salad? While no BBQ is complete without these summertime sides, we could certainly use a break from all the cholesterol and calories that come with them. Just one tablespoon of mayonnaise contains 6 milligrams of cholesterol, 94 calories, and 11 grams of fat. For a lower calorie, cholesterol free version, try swapping out the mayo for a vegan variety or try using mashed avocados in place of it altogether. Try this recipe for potato salad once you’ve found your vegan mayo. Or try making a more whole-food version of a creamy mayo replacement at home: Add a small block of tofu, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp salt, and 1 Tbsp of white wine vinegar to a blender and blend until very smooth. It’ll be ready to take the place of mayonnaise in all your summertime sides, dips, and salad dressings.

4. Try frozen grapes or berries instead of sugary candies and sweets. For those of us with a sweet tooth, sticking to our nutrition and fitness plans can be tough when there’s a huge spread of desserts and sugary treats at the party. Rather than feeling like we must limit ourselves, try leaning into the summertime bounty of fresh fruits instead. Eating frozen grapes and berries is a fun way to curb our sweet tooth cravings without any added sugar. My favorites are cotton candy grapes– they truly taste like candy!

5. Try savory seasoned popcorn instead of oily chips in your summer snack spread. We all know it is impossible to eat just one serving of potato chips. The next time you’re craving something salty and savory at a summertime get together, try popping up a bag of popcorn instead. Sprinkle generously with nutritional yeast, a pinch of salt, a bit of onion powder, and garlic powder. This popcorn combination is truly satisfying, has far fewer calories, and is more nutritious than a greasy bag of potato chips. Popcorn is also a fantastic source of fiber, with nearly 15 grams of fiber per serving!

6. Try nuts in their shells instead of grabbing a handful of the shelled variety. Adding nuts to your summer snack spread is a great way to add nutritious, fiber full, plant-based protein to the party menu. However, calories can certainly add up when you realize one serving is just 1.5 ounces, or a small handful. Choosing nuts in the shell will naturally help you pace yourself as you pause to crack them open between bites.

With a little creativity, you can make a few healthy summer swaps to keep your body fit, your brain engaged and your taste buds happy. Enjoy your summer!