Whether you’re aiming to slim down for summer or wanting to improve your diet, here are six simple summertime diet tips from a few of our favorite food and nutrition experts.
Get your head in the game
Trying to lose weight for the bikini season? Nutrition expert and New York Times bestselling book author Joy Bauer, R.D., says the way to slimming down is to get your head in the game. Bauer’s latest book The Joy Fit Club
(Wiley, April 2012) rates commitment as rule number one for reaching your goals. She says that having your head in the game means understanding your personal goals, being willing to go the distance and seeing the journey as a lifelong approach to health (not just for the summer).
Though you may be striving to get into that itty bitty bikini before you hit the beach, keep in mind that starving yourself isn’t the answer. Keri Glassman, R.D., author of Slim Calm Sexy Diet (Rodale, May 2012) and founder of Nutritious Life in New York, warns that cutting back too many calories will counter your weight loss goals. A healthier approach is actually to eat more healthy foods, especially protein-rich foods. “Skimping on protein can slow weight loss since protein takes longer to digest than carbs and too little protein also means you aren’t getting the maximum benefit of protein in building lean muscle,” she explains. Lean muscle is key to keep your metabolism fired up all year long.
Keep it real
Non-fat foods and sugar-free desserts may sound like a dieter’s dream come true, but fake foods aren’t going to do your beach body any favors, particularly if they don’t satisfy your emotional and physical hunger. Ellie Krieger, host of Food Network’s Healthy Appetite and author of Comfort Food Fix (Wiley, October 2011), says that “a little of the real thing goes a long way. For example, I’d rather use two slices of real bacon in my BLT than turkey bacon or tofu ‘bacon.'” In addition, make sure you really savor your meals — eat what you like (in moderation) and eat slowly and mindfully so you can enjoy every bite.
Take advantage of healthier substitutes
Summer cookouts don’t have to mean diet disaster. According to celebrity chef and author of The Biggest Loser Cookbook series, Devin Alexander, you can have a healthy BBQ season by making a few easy substitutions. She suggests, “substituting 96 percent lean ground beef for ground sirloin or even fattier cuts of beef when making burgers, use yogurt dressings instead of mayo on salads or as spreads, add fresh herbs to salads for big flavor and few calories and opt for fresh fruit purees
instead of pre-made sugar-laden cocktail mixes.”
Drink more water
Staying well-hydrated isn’t just key for your health, it can help also help you lose weight. However, this doesn’t mean sitting poolside and loading up on pina coladas and margaritas. Quite the contrary, says Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D., author of Read It Before You Eat It (Plume, August 2010). “Drink water instead of sugared beverages,” the nutrition expert advises. “One simple way to get in the habit of hydrating healthfully is to swap one sugared beverage a day for water.” Considering that the average American consumes nearly 800 calories a week from sugary drinks, swapping them out with water can actually eliminate over 41,000 calories per year (this equates to losing nearly 12 pounds!).
Add more chilled salads to your summer menu
When the temperatures rise, so do your cravings for lighter fare that doesn’t weigh you down. Taub-Dix suggests putting salads on your daily menu. “Keep yourself cool in warm weather by including lots of cold salads filled with fresh fruits and veggies — these foods naturally contain more water than most foods, which can help keep you hydrated, and they also provide an array of nutrients and a bounty of color and flavor,” she adds.
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