Northwestern Medicine

Don't Let the Summertime Wreck Your Waistline

Northwestern Memorial Hospital May 24, 2012

Dietician offers tips to avoid unwanted weight gain without sacrificing good taste

CHICAGO, IL – Memorial Day marks the return of long summer days in the sun, evening barbeques, baseball games and family vacations. High calorie foods are also abundant, causing the most disciplined of diners to be tempted to make poor food choices that can wreak havoc on their waistlines. Before starting to indulge this weekend, Hannah El-Amin, registered dietician at Northwestern Medicine Integrative Medicine, suggests making simple diet modifications to prevent unwanted pounds.

“As summer kicks off, we are reminded that the season can be synonymous with weight gain,” said El-Amin. “Small adjustments and balance in your diet can help maintain good nutrition throughout the next few months.”

El-Amin says simple substitutions are key and recommends the following tips for savoring the tastes of summer.

At a backyard barbeque
As you light up the grill and set out a spread, El-Amin suggests modifying your menu to include options that are low in calories and fat. Choose lean cuts of beef or chicken, turkey or salmon burgers and lamb kabobs served with whole grain buns. Baked chips, grilled vegetables and potato salad made with light mayonnaise make great side items. For dessert, consider grilled pineapple or fresh fruit with a low-fat yogurt dip to satisfy your sweet tooth.

At the ballpark
Traditional ballpark food can set you back almost 1,000 calories. Choosing a regular size hot dog topped with mustard and relish instead of a jumbo size dog with high-fat toppings like chili and cheese will help slash your calorie intake. El-Amin says it’s important to remember that liquid calories count too. Several healthier alternatives are now offered at most parks, including veggie burgers, grilled chicken sandwiches, and frozen yogurt. These non-traditional, lighter treats can satisfy big cravings with fewer calories.

At festivals or amusement parks
If the sweet aroma of funnel cakes and other deep-fried foods lures you in at festivals and amusement parks, select one item only and share it with a group of friends. This will allow you to enjoy your favorite treat while practicing good portion control. Walking an extra lap or two around the park afterwards will help burn a few calories too.

“Planning ahead can also help keep your waist slim as well as your nutrition goals on track,” said El-Amin. “It’s always a good idea to keep healthy snacks handy and never go to a summer soiree hungry.”

According to El-Amin, eating healthy should be easier in the summer thanks to the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables that are available. A trip to the local farmer’s market can help encourage healthy eating and make for a fun family outing.

Learn more about Northwestern Medicine Integrative Medicine nutrition services

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