Keep Summer Healthy: Shape Up Your Eating Habits

Want to shape up your eating habits over the summer? With an abundance of fruits and vegetables, there is no time like the present.

You've decided to cut back on hot dogs, peel the fatty skin off your barbecued chicken and limit mayo-laden macaroni and potato salads. Will this be enough to shape up your summertime eating habits?

Cutting back on high-fat meats and mayo-drenched salads is a good place to start. But along with limiting certain foods, it's just as important to think about what to add to your meal plan.

To make healthy eating habits stick, it's better to think more about enjoying your food and less about what to avoid. Here are some ideas to whet your appetite that won't expand your waistline.

Make simple substitutions
Breaking an unhealthy food habit doesn't mean you have to make radical changes or follow complicated recipes.

  • Exchange artery-clogging creamy sauces and dressings with marinades or dressings made with olive oil or canola oil (heart-healthy fats) and herbs.
  • Instead of serving a classic potato salad with creamy mayo, try steaming new potatoes and drizzling them with olive oil, garlic powder and chopped chives.
  • Look for chicken or turkey sausages to grill instead of pork. They taste delicious and often offer great savings on fat and calories.
  • Use wholesome barley or quinoa for a grain-based salad instead of pasta or potatoes. Add lots of raw, cut-up veggies, such as red peppers, carrots, red onion and celery.
  • Go for sorbets and fruits instead of heavy cakes if you crave dessert.
  • Drink plenty of water in lieu of sports drinks and sodas.
  • Downsize what you put on your plate. Fill two thirds of it with fruits, vegetables and grains, and one third with poultry, fish or meat.

Take advantage of the season
Summer is prime time for the best fruits and vegetables.

  • Try grilling vegetables, such as pearl onions, mushrooms, zucchini and bell peppers. Most vegetables can be grilled by cutting them into bite-size pieces and threading onto skewers. Grilled fruit kabobs are also a great summertime dessert!
  • Buy fresh herbs (or grow them). They can bring out the flavor in food. If you have extra, chop them up, put them in an ice-cube tray and fill it with water. Once the herbs freeze, pop them out and put them in a plastic bag. Defrost by running them under hot water.
  • At your next barbecue, skip the chips and serve crunchy carrot sticks, bell pepper strips and broccoli with a low-fat dip.
  • Head to the beach with a veggie-filled picnic lunch. In addition to turkey or lean ham on whole-wheat bread, pack fruits and vegetables such as baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, grapes, plums and cherries.
  • If you are going camping or hiking, unsweetened dried fruits, such as cranberries, raisins, apricots and figs, are easy to tote in your backpack.
  • Avoid food dyes and excess sugar and make your own frozen fruit pops at home. Freeze 100 percent fruit juice in small paper cups (add diced-up fruit to the juice before freezing for extra fiber and nutrients). Insert wooden sticks when the juice is slushy enough to hold the stick upright. When the juice is frozen solid, peel the paper off and serve.
  • Keep containers of fruits and vegetables washed and cut into bite-sized pieces in the refrigerator. Have them as snacks instead of chips and cookies.