Balancing Healthy Eating with Summertime Treats

Summertime: a time of lazy mornings, firefly-lit evenings, all-day swimming, state fairs, and neighborhood tag. Yet the idea that kids eat healthier and exercise more in the summertime is somewhat of a myth. One study published in Obesity concluded that children are more likely to gain weight over summer breaks than during the school year.


There are a number of contributing factors. Kids often have fewer regular sleep-wake schedules, which can disrupt sleep patterns and circadian rhythms. They're spending more time in front of a screen. The food served at home may be less nutritious than what's served at school.

Beat the summer pounds

It's so easy to grab a bag of snacks when you're looking for something to fill your rumbling tummy. But resist the urge by keeping processed foods away from your pantry and offering these options instead:

Fruit kabobs. Watermelon, which is 92 percent water, helps keep you hydrated and full without you consuming too many calories. Pineapple bursts with sweet, juicy goodness, improves bone strength and eye health, and boosts the immune system. Both fruits hold their shape well, so get out the cookie cutters and thread them onto bamboo skewers with a few blueberries and strawberries mixed in to add other pops of flavor and color.

Love a little tart with your sweet? Eat a handful of cherries. Their anthocyanins help speed up fat burning and decrease fat storage. Cherries also contain beta carotene, vitamin C, and other compounds that help fight cancer.

Add a handful of raspberries to your breakfast cereal. They're a great source of fiber and cholesterol-lowering pectin. The antioxidants fight against heart and circulatory diseases and cancer, and the ellagic acid contains anti-inflammatory properties.

Make a fridge snack station for your kids stocked with frozen yogurt bark, watermelon pops and slushies, apple "donut" slices, raspberry and coconut energy bites, and more.

Healthy recipe hacks

Certain foods are synonymous with summer, like funnel cakes, corn dogs, macaroni and potato salads, burgers and ice cream sandwiches. No one says you have to eliminate these delicious foods from your diet--but try to only indulge in them as occasional treats, and try these alternatives instead.

Instead of a corn dog, aim for hot dogs that have fewer than 150 calories and 14 grams of fat. Eat it on a whole-grain bun, and top it with lower-sodium condiments. Make your own lobster rolls with just a bit of low-fat mayo on a whole-wheat roll, and add only a tiny bit of butter.

Make faux fried onion rings by coating sliced onions with egg whites and a mix of whole wheat flour, panko breadcrumbs, and parmesan cheese. Spritz with cooking spray or olive oil, and bake for 15 minutes at 450 degrees. No deep frying required!

Choose unsweetened tea over other sugary drinks. With zero calories and antioxidants, make it yourself using tea bags rather than buying mixes or ready-to-drink options at the store. Check out these nine thirst-quenching recipes.

Grill corn on the cob. Corn's lutein and zeaxanthin are two antioxidants that help lower the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness in older folks. Corn's insoluble fiber also feeds the good bacteria in your gut to help with digestion and keep you regular.

Looking for other recipe hacks to "healthify" favorite foods? Try these 90+ recipes from Food Network.

Boost your mental health

Everyone benefits from healthy eating. Incorporating certain foods into your diet even reduces feelings of anxiety, depression, stress, and sadness--each of which negatively affects your mental health. 

For example, plant nutrients--called flavonoids--decrease the risk of depression. One study reported that participants felt happier after consuming blueberries. Blueberries also have a positive effect on memory, learning capacity, and motor skills. We all know turkey's reputation for creating tryptophan-induced comas, but it turns out that tryptophan also raises serotonin, a mood-regulating and brain-boosting chemical. So, bring on the low-fat cheese sticks--because cheese contains even more tryptophan than turkey!

Summertime shouldn't include a vacation from healthy eating. Try some of these tempting, tasty treats that will satisfy your sweet tooth instead.
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