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Avoid diet disaster this summer

Jessica Padykula is a freelance writer and editor in Toronto, Canada covering a wide range of  topics for several online lifestyle publications. She is a regular contributor for SheKnows, covering travel, style, relationships, health and...

4 Simple healthy eating tips

So you’re working towards getting bikini-ready. You’re hitting the gym, walking more and doing your best to make healthier food choices. But it can be trickier than you think to stay on track. Backyard barbecues and patio parties are full of sneaky and not-so-sneaky diet saboteurs, not to mention all those tempting ice-cold (but sugar-laden) beverages staring you in the face every time you turn around. But fear not, we’re here to help you avoid diet disaster and stay focused on health this summer.

Healthy bbq with friends

1Treat yourself – in moderation

There's no way you're going to survive the summer without treating yourself at least a little bit. Watching all of your friends indulging in creamy potato salad, succulent burgers hot off the grill and frosty beverages is going to drive you to distraction if you don't allow yourself at least a little taste. But the trick is not to overdo it. Rather than going to your friends' barbecue with an empty stomach and visions of hot dogs dancing in your head, eat a small, healthy meal before you go.

Quick pre-party meal idea: Throw together a salad made with power-packed greens like spinach or even finely chopped kale, shredded carrots, chopped red and yellow pepper, grape tomatoes and raw chopped nuts (about a handful, or 10-12 nuts) all topped with a squeeze of lemon, fresh cracked pepper and teaspoon of olive oil.

By noshing on a healthy pre-party snack, you won't feel like diving head-first into the buffet as soon as you arrive. Now you can choose the treat you're most looking forward to, eat it slowly and really enjoy it!

2Bust good-food boredom

Are you still holding on to the idea that anything good for you is bland and boring? You're not alone, and many people have a similar view of all things healthy. But trust us when we tell you that eating well doesn't have to mean suffering through a culinary snooze-fest. First off, choose color. There's nothing boring about bright colors, and healthy eating starts with incorporating a plethora of fresh (and delicious) fruits and vegetables into your diet. Here are a few ideas to get your started:

  • Skip the carrot sticks and boiled broccoli and opt for roasted or grilled veggies – grab some skewers and fill them with everything from eggplant and peppers to mushrooms, onions and zucchini. Brush with olive oil, season and grill!
  • Add sautéed greens to salads for a dose of extra flavor, texture and vitamins.
  • Swap mayo for hummus or white bean dip on everything from sandwiches to burgers.
  • Trade white potatoes for sweet potatoes to get the extra antioxidant benefits – they can be baked, mashed, roasted or even grilled.
  • Berries, berries and more berries! Throw them in the blender with orange juice and a banana for a frothy treat, add them to yogurt or eat them by the handful. So good -- and so good for you.
  • Top grilled fish or chicken with fresh salsa instead of creamy sauces. Make your own by finely dicing whatever fruit and veggies you love – tomatoes, mango, peaches, onion and pepper make a tasty combination. Salsa is also a lively topper for baked sweet potatoes and burgers.

3Avoid temptation

Having a cupboard full of chips and cookies and a freezer full of ice cream and prepared frozen meals isn't going to make sticking to your diet very easy. Even if your family can't get enough of the sweet stuff and you've vowed to buy sugary snacks for them but not touch the unhealthy items yourself, you'll still be tempted to indulge. You don't have to deprive yourself or your kids, but do make sure to stock up on healthy treats that will benefit everyone, rather than sticking with the processed, sugar- and sodium-filled items in such abundance at the grocery store.

  • Bake whole wheat pitas brushed with oil and lightly seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic powder until crisp, break into chips and dip into hummus.
  • Make popsicles from fresh juice or blend your own smoothie pops (bananas and strawberries with orange juice is delicious) rather than stocking your freezer with the neon sugar-shocked pops.
  • Instead of buying cases of cola, make your own fresh "soda" using sparkling water and a splash of your favorite juices. Get the whole family off soda with this trick.
  • Make fresh fruit kabobs and keep them in the fridge for easy snacking. Try strawberries, pineapple and watermelon or kiwi, orange and blueberry.

4Always be prepared

One of the quickest ways to derail your diet is to leave the house without an eating plan or a healthy snack to keep you going. As soon as you get hungry, the food court or drive-though will come calling, or if you're out for lunch with friends you'll order the creamiest, fat-filled pasta on the menu because you're too hungry to think straight. Rule No. 1: Never leave the house hungry if you want to stay on track. Rule No. 2: Keep a small bag of raw nuts, an orange or apple and a low-calorie granola bar in your purse at all times so you always have something to eat if you get tied up and you're out longer than you thought you would be. Other quick-pack snacks include pre-cut vegetable sticks, dry cereal (low-fat, high-fiber) and bananas.

With these tips in mind you should have no trouble staying on track this summer and getting through barbecue season without any extra pounds.

More health tips & advice

10 Healthy eats for women
Low-calorie ways to stay hydrated this summer
Healthy eating tips and tricks

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