Making Healthy, Delicious Food Choices This Summer

How to survive the summer's party season without packing on the pounds

As with every holiday season, parties and get-togethers offer a lot of food and drink choices—many of which can be unhealthy.

To tackle some of the most common summertime food concerns, Edye Wagner, Clinical Nutrition Manager at Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital, gives tips on how to navigate summer’s party season.


Embrace the Summer Selection

The first thing consumers should do is embrace fresh foods that are available this time of year. Visit your local farmers market or produce stand and pick up some of the foods that you can’t get during other seasons. Most local groceries will have a good selection as well.

Work these fresh fruits and vegetables into the dishes you bring to parties or serve at your own home. They’ll add some great flavor, beautiful color and key nutrients to your diet.


Choose One, Not Both

Just because there are hamburgers and hotdogs doesn’t mean you have to eat hamburgers and hotdogs. This tip applies to any party season. A lot of times, there aren’t healthy options like grilled chicken breast or turkey burgers.

But when faced with hamburgers and hotdogs, pick one and stick with it. There will be plenty of opportunities to have the other over the summer. You’ll want to make sure to limit your portion size so as to not overdo it.


Eat Foods That Are Special

You can eat potato chips are any day of the year. Why eat those at a party? Instead of indulging on run-of-the-mill snacks, pick more special, seasonal dishes.

If there’s a nice pasta salad with some good vegetables, have that. A lot of backyard barbecues will have a big watermelon or fruit salad—that’s something we don’t usually get all winter. Even things like ice cream or other frozen treats are okay in small portions.


No One is Perfect!

Keep in mind that no one is perfect all of the time. If you want to have a cheeseburger, go ahead and have it. Just remember that portion size is key. If you happen to overindulge, don’t beat yourself up about it. It happens from time to time.


Summertime Cocktails

Cookouts and picnics are a time a lot of us use to catch up with friends and relax with a cocktail or two. Keep in mind, though, that you want to be careful with alcohol at these functions. Not only can alcohol quickly dehydrate you, but a lot of our summertime favorites—margaritas, piña coladas—are loaded with sugary calories.


Beware of Food Safety

Perishable foods shouldn’t be left unrefrigerated for more than a couple of hours. If something’s been out on the table for a long time, you should avoid it, especially if it’s protein-based. It could be the eggs in the mayonnaise of a potato salad, or the hamburger that’s been on a platter for a while.

Something else to keep in mind all summer is packing kids’ lunches for day camp. Above all, avoid packing anything perishable, especially in the high heat.

Find out what your kids’ camp offers. If they are not serving lunch, ask if they have refrigerator available to store a sack lunch. If not, stick with something like PB&J that doesn’t spoil, or something else that can be eaten at room temperature.

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