Much like the arduous tasks of finding fresh activities to occupy suddenly school-less children, there are a few things that the summer season just wouldn’t be the same without. Like lounging by the pool, flip-flops, and of course, all the juicy, flame-licked hot dogs, brats, burgers and bbq sides that follow you everywhere all summer long.
For most of us, it doesn’t matter if it’s the sweet scent of hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken wings, or tender fall-off-the-bone ribs… if it comes off the grill, it feels (and tastes) like summer.
A lot of people will replace veggies and nutrient-dense foods with savory meats and saucy sides high in sugar, trans fat and vegetable oil. Often times whatever’s on sale dictates what’s for dinner. And whose to judge a savvy bargain shopper with a family of mouths to feed? But while you might save a few bucks in your pocket now, your health may be what pays the in the long run.
1.) Take Responsibility For Your Food
The Western diet is heavy on meat without a balance of diverse nutrients and anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids that offset pro-inflammatory omega-6. The recommended ratio of omega-3’s to omega-6’s is between 1:1 and 4:1. The average American diet is more like 16:1.
This lack of balance leads to an increased risk of diabetes, cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and obesity. All of which are heavily influenced by inflammation in the body.
By making smart choices though, you can still enjoy some of those tasty summer staples and get the necessary balance of omegas needed to reduce the risk of inflammation.
One of the easiest ways to replace 0-6 with o-3’s is by switching to grass fed meats. 100% grass fed animals have a nearly perfect balance as low as a 1:1 ratio. Conventional store-bought meat is typically raised on a diet of corn and soybean meal that’s astronomically high in omega-6. And you know what they say… you are what you eat and all.
Another tip, make a dedicated effort to fill your fridge with fresh fruits and veggies, and eat them before they spoil. Most veggies won’t last much longer than between grocery trips. While grocery shopping, buy everything you need for a large salad or two, and then some. Throw a new vegetable that you’ve never prepared in so you have to learn what to do with it once you get in the kitchen. Then commit to using all of them before they go bad. You’ll be surprised what you end up cooking after you get tired of steamed broccoli and salad.
2.) Cook More!
I’m not saying you need to channel your inner Rachael Ray every night of the week, but having dedicated cooking time a couple days a week can pay big dividends for your health, your wallet, and your stress levels. Plus it can be really fun and if you can get your family involved a great way to spend time together outside of the living room.
Cooking at home helps cut processed foods out of your diet, and give you complete control over what goes in your meal and how much goes on your plate. By cooking at home, you’ll remove the temptations of “cheat meals”, and if you plan a head a little bit, the benefits of cooking at home are all around pretty compelling.
Summer is full of opportunities for impulsive moments that make your eyes especially hungry. Yes we’re talking about ice cream, barbecue, and happy hour patio specials. I would never ask (or even recommend) someone firmly give up these things up. But cooking fresh, delicious food at home can be a game changer in the long run.
3.) Planning Makes Perfect
I know, meal prep takes time, and you’re busy. I get it. But until you actually get in the habit of doing it, you probably won’t ever realize the amount of time it actually saves. If you take a couple hours a week to plan and prep your meals ahead of time, the benefits of meal planning go beyond your health. You’ll cut down on daily decision-making, cooking, and cleanup time, and expenses. Don’t act like that doesn’t sound like a dream come true.
Meal prep will also help you stay true to yourself. Having your meals planned and prepared in advance will safeguard you from an impulse fast food decision or from delaying your meals.
4.) Expand your Horizons
A lot of people get intimidated in the kitchen, which is usually just a product of one thing: experience. Trust me, I used to feel the same way. But as I’ve spent more time experimenting and approaching cooking as trial and error instead of a monotonous endeavor, I’ve developed a solid skillset that continues to get better and make for some especially enjoyable meals.
When you develop your ability to cook at home, you’ll open a new horizon of flavor and nutrition possibilities. Doing things as simple as making homemade salsa instead of buying a jar from the store will has a great effect on your health, and your confidence. You’ll avoid preservatives, sugars, and oils found in processed foods. These things add up significantly over time.
It doesn’t have to be difficult or even unenjoyable to maintain a healthy diet without completely eliminating summer staples. A little research on where to get fresh and local options combined with a few more minutes planning and in the kitchen will save time, money, and something else we didn’t discuss much, the planet.
Plus, you’ll still be able to enjoy all the yummy foods you associate with the sunny season while looking and feeling good by the pool.