Summer is our time to be social (because who can really deny hibernating with Netflix all winter long?), but social doesn’t have to mean eating what your friends do. We caught up with nutrition coaches from Dr. Lipman’s Eleven Eleven Wellness Center to discuss which summer foods should always be left uneaten.
Baseball may be America’s number one pastime, but this ballpark favorite shouldn’t be America’s lunch go-to. “Processed meats, such as hot dogs, are overloaded with salts and nitrates, and they are typically made from poor quality meat,” says Jackie Damboragian, a Be Well Health Coach at Eleven Eleven Wellness Center.
Healthier Alternative: “If you choose to indulge, look for organic, nitrate-free hot dogs made from grass-fed beef.” Even better, go for unprocessed meats like grilled chicken or a grass-fed burger.
In the heat of summer, we tend to drink even more unhealthy, opting for soda, lemonade and sweet iced tea because they feel so refreshing. “But in reality, the sugar in them is dehydrating, causing blood sugar spikes and crashes, and over time they will leave you feeling depleted, causing weight gain and taking a toll on your body.”
Healthier Alternative: Enjoy flavor without the sugar. Damboragian recommends sparkling water with lemon and/or lime, mint-infused water, coconut water, kombucha and herbal iced tea sweetened with stevia (a natural sugar).
Chips (and Other Salty Snacks)
At most social gatherings—especially the constant summer BBQs—noshing on carb-heavy snacks, such as chips, crackers and pretzels, is a given. “These foods are highly processed and often made with cheap oils and gluten.”
Healthier Alternative: Look for whole foods, such as veggies, nuts and guacamole. “Another great way to prepare is to bring your own snack or appetizer,” says Damboragian. “Hummus and veggie sticks is easy to bring along and will help ensure that you have a healthy option available.”
With sandwiches and burgers being summer favorites, bread is everywhere. But because bread is also highly processed with added sugars and fillers (that are unnecessary, but provide a longer shelf life), it should be eaten in small doses.
Healthier Alternative: Damboragian suggests wrapping food in collard green wraps. A large lettuce leaf can hold a burger or multiple burrito fillings. “If you must have bread, choosing sprouted grain or gluten-free bread, such as those made by the Food For Life brand, are a great choice.”
We can’t explain it, but the more fun we have in the sun, the more likely we turn to a refreshing spiked beverage. “Because many of the fun, summery drinks are loaded with sugars and dyes, it’s important to choose wisely, reaching for cocktails that are lower in sugar,” says Amanda Carney, a Be Well Health Coach at Eleven Eleven Wellness Center.
Healthier Alternative: Carney offers a healthier version of a summer staple: the margarita. “Use a good quality tequila along with freshly squeezed lemon, lime and orange juices. If you need to, add a little raw honey instead of using triple sec or simple syrup.”
Ice Cream and Ice Pops
To quote a wise woman—my mother—the summer hasn’t started until you’ve had soft serve. However, Carney warns that ice cream and pops cause a significant spike in blood sugar as well as digestive upset and inflammation.
Healthier Alternative: “If you dream about ice pops during the warmer months, blend up a combination of fresh berries, unsweetened almond milk and stevia to make your own,” says Carney. “All you need is some popsicle sticks and containers to freeze the mixture in.”
From barbecue sauce to globs of ketchup and salad dressings, a good summer BBQ has its fair share of condiments. However, be cautious. Most store-bought sauces come packed with sugars, high fructose corn syrup and preservatives.
Healthier Alternative: Top off grilled meat with natural herbs, such as garlic, rosemary and thyme. “You can also make your own marinade, ketchup or barbecue sauce using a combination of good quality ingredients,” says Carney. If you don’t have the time to make your own, try and find healthy alternatives at your local health food store or farmers market.”