While we wholeheartedly reject the notion of a "summer body" and believe fad diets are less-than-effective, we do think summer days are the salad days of nutritious eating. Why's that, you ask? All the fresh fruits and veggies in season, of course! (Plus, the heat makes us crave crisp veggies and fruit-filled smoothies like nobody's business.)
To give you some ideas for trying new foods and creating healthy exercise habits this summer, we sat down with our go-to nutrition expert, Dr. Benjamin Burton, Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine here at ZOOM+Care.
Hi, Dr. Burton! We want to be clear: We don't co-sign the whole "trendy summer diet thing." That said, summer is as good a time as any to start incorporating nutrition-packed foods into our meals. Can you give us some bite-sized tips for doing so?
The health and diet industry has indeed created many interesting ideas around how, what, when, and where we should eat. Plus, there are diverging notions about health and what it isn't—and a lot of disagreement on the subject. One thing is evident through all this: Eating "healthy" is an extremely personalized thing, and it looks different for everyone. I want to preface this advice by stating that health tips should not be approached from a "one size fits all" frame of mind.
With all this said, I do think summer is a great time to mix it up and try some new patterns to see if there are aspects of your life you can change to improve your health. Here are some recommendations:
- Try something new. Hate eating your veggies? Summer is the perfect time to experiment with them, since there are a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables that come into season this time of year. Broccoli is a great example. Summer is the time of year where broccoli is the freshest and most savory. It’s an excellent time to develop a taste for it!
- Try an open-air or farmer's market to see what foods naturally grow near you. When you make a purchase, ask the growers how they prepare the food. Local farmers and gardeners are passionate about natural foods, and they can provide fun ideas you may have never thought of. For example, having toast with sweet green peppers and almond butter, or eating tomatoes like an apple with a little salt after every bite.
- Move cooking outside. Summer is a great time to experiment with some nutritious new recipes, too. Grilling, smoking, barbecuing, and even dutch oven cooking encourage experimentation, and are excellent during the summer, because cooking outside removes the heat of food preparation from your house.
In addition to nutrition, another important part of creating a healthy lifestyle is finding hobbies and activities you enjoy. If you are trying to make a change in your routine, don't focus on restricting. Instead, focus on adding—adding in nutritious foods, yes, but adding in activities as well. Summer is a great time to do this. Try these things out:
- Plan an adventure. This goes without saying, but summer is the perfect time to get your heart rate up with activities like hiking, biking, and swimming. Grab a quick snack before you go, and embark on your adventure! As an added bonus: When you get home, you will be hungry—and your next meal will taste that much better.
- Experiment with new hobbies. Maybe you don't like, or are unable to participate in activities running or hiking, or—that's fine! Grab your camera or your phone and get out and take some pictures. Try bird watching, flower pressing, go on an art walk, or explore the local architecture. All these activities will get you out of the house and into the outdoors. Summer is a great time to find an outside passion or interest, which in turn gets you moving. As silly as it sounds, having hobbies really promotes an active lifestyle!
- Take advantage of summer to boost your mood. People who spent 120 minutes a week in “green spaces” report a significant increase in both their mental and physical well-being, compared to those who don’t go outdoors. Since the Pacific Northwest is often rainy in the fall, winter, and—let’s face it, spring—take advantage of the weather to soak up the mood-boosting benefits.
In closing, if you're trying to boost your energy and make healthy lifestyle choices, find that unique pattern that works for you. If you don't see results, then mix it up and try something new! Summer is a great time to get to mixing.
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