Top 10 Diet and Exercise Tips for a Healthy, Happy Summer

Summertime is one of my favorite times of year. The weather is warm, the days are longer and weekends are spent BBQing, eating ice cream and lounging by the pool or beach. As fun as these activities are, they aren't exactly conducive to weight loss or staying in shape. And when you've got a bikini to wear or short shorts to rock, you really don’t have much wiggle room for 10 pounds of ice cream. But that doesn't mean you have to completely cut out the foods you associate with summer. All you have to do is be a little more mindful of how much and balance the burgers, pies and cones with healthier dishes. You moderate the rest of your life, why not do the same for your diet? If you’re struggling with some extra pounds this summer or just want to better balance how you eat, check out these 10 foolproof, super easy tips and tricks to get your best summer body yet, or just maintain the sexy figure you have already.

Use your grill!

Grilling is one of the healthiest methods of cooking you can do, especially when it comes to preparing meats, vegetables and even desserts. Unlike sautéing, baking or braising, grilling doesn't require as much oil, butter or fat. In fact, just a brush of olive oil is enough to keep your chicken breast from sticking and give it flavor. Plus, you can grill just about anything, from pizzas to desserts, so the options are endless.

Enjoy the season’s fresh produce.

Probably my favorite part of summer, besides lounging by the pool, is the abundance of fresh produce that’s finally in season. Instead of sticking to the same boring vegetables you’ve been eating, toss a few bright blueberries, raspberries, summer squashes or strawberries to add a dash of color, antioxidants and vitamins to your vegetable rut. The best part about so many of these ingredients, like blackberries and watermelon, is that they can be eaten completely on their own, no cooking or added fat required!

Keep track of what you eat.

Tracking your meals is one of the best ways you can keep tabs on what you’re eating and better decide which items you need to remove to reach your goals. I personally love the PlainSmart Pledge app, for a few reasons. For one, it’s free. Most importantly though, it makes it very easy to track everything you eat right on your phone, and it calculates all of the calories, fat grams, sugar and carbs so you don’t have to. It also lets you track your mood and your weight, so you can get a better picture about how your weight and food selections affect your emotional well-being. You can also talk selfies so you can see first hand how your weight loss is changing your appearance. It’s an easy way to keep tabs of your diet when you’re on the go.

Get outside!

With longer days and warmer temperatures, you no longer have to get to the gym to get a workout in. So why not add some variety to your daily elliptical workouts by heading outside? Instead of running 3 miles on the treadmill, hit a local running or bike path in your area and do it outside. There are so many amazing trails in and around DC, Maryland and Virginia that allow you to work out while getting some fresh air (and see some pretty spectacular views). You can also hit the amazing hiking trails we have near the city (Great Falls) or venture out to Shenandoah for some serious mountain hiking, biking and running. For more local hikes, check out Localhikes.com or http://www.recreation.gov/

Stay hydrated.

It is so easy to get dehydrated during the summertime, especially if you’re drinking other beverages in lieu of water, like colas or beers. If you’re heading to the beach or a hike, be sure to carry a water bottle with you as a reminder. It’s also key to start your day off by drinking two glasses of water. If you plan on drinking alcohol, be sure to follow most drinks with a sip of water to stay hydrated (and keep hangovers at bay).

Get creative with healthy food swaps.

As much as I love eating a big plate of pasta or a burger, these dishes aren’t doing much for my weight loss efforts. But that doesn’t mean I have to cut out those flavors entirely. Instead of regular spaghetti and meatballs, I make zucchini noodles with PlainSmart bison meatballs. The zucchini noodles have over 50% less calories, fat and carbs than regular pasta, and the bison meatballs are much lower in fat and calories too. Instead of burgers on high carb buns, I put my favorite patties on a salad and toss it with some low fat vinaigrette. If you’re craving chicken salad, sub in Greek yogurt for mayo and stuff the recipe into an apple (instead of a pita) to save even more fat or calories. Applesauce and coconut oil also makes great subs for butter and oil in desserts and vegetarian sausages or soy cheeses can be used in place or regular for a vegan option too.

Downsize your plates.

Overeating is as much a visual activity as it is a physical and emotional one. When we use standard 12 inch plates, we’re preprogrammed to add more food than we need to our plates. Think of those BBQs and summer potlucks you got to. Because you have that giant paper plate, you’re more inclined to fill up on more mac n’ cheese, chicken or pie. To be a smarter eater, replace your standard 12 inch plates with 10 inch ones. A study at Cornell university found that those who used a smaller plate reduced their calorie consumption by almost 30%, and lost up to 2 extra pounds per month. Stock your bbq with smaller plats and you’ll have a skinnier you.

Drink smarter.

Having a cold beer or a fruity margarita on the beach or by the pool is a huge part of summer enjoyment for many of us, so there’s absolutely no need to cut that out. Instead, just drink a little smarter and opt for beverages that don’t pack such a high caloric punch. Instead of regular lager or ale, enjoy an organic honey ale or a cider, or a creamy oatmeal stout. These beers are filled with healthier antioxidants. To make a healthier margarita, use stevia, honey or natural sweeteners (like fresh fruit) to sweeten your drink.

Rank and prioritize your favorites.

You should never cut a food completely out of your diet, especially if it’s something you enjoy. Don’t think of your diet as black and white because that’s not only unattainable, but more often than not leads to binges. Think of your diet as something fluid, something that changes as you change. If you want a hamburger, get a hamburger, but load up on healthier sides, like salads or grilled vegetables, instead of fries. If you know you’re going to want a piece of pie, eat a lighter meal, like tofu in place of hot dogs, so you can really indulge without guilt.

Remember to have fun.

This one sounds like a no brainer, but it’s too important to miss. We sometimes put so much pressure on ourselves to be healthy, watch what we eat, exercise and diet, that we sort of forget to actually enjoy the summer and have fun. After dinner, toss the ball with your kids or dog (you can burn up to 150 calories per hour playing catch). If you’re at the beach, an hour of surfing burns over 100 calories and 60 minutes of beach volleyball can burn over 250 calories. If you’re on vacation, an hour of sightseeing (and walking) can burn 130 calories. You can even burn up to 80 calories an hour of just playing lawn games, like cricket or bocce ball.

Editor's Note: Claire Gallam is a local blogger, writer, recipe creator and founder of The Realistic Nutritionist. She is also a cookbook author of the recently published "Eat Skinny, Be Skinny: 100 Wholesome and Delicious Recipes Under 300 Calories". Claire's recipes, photography and stories have been seen on Buzzfeed, Tasty Kitchen, Food Gawker, and Bon Appetit.

Written by: Claire Gallam 

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