Summer is here and it is the PERFECT time to establish some new healthy eating habits (or get back to your old ones). I want you to have your healthiest, most energy-packed summer EVER, and that all starts with your eating choices. Not to mention summer is an AWESOME time to help your kids begin to learn about nutrition, get them involved in food prep, and get away from the processed foods which may creep in during the school year.
When it’s sunny and warm out we tend to be more active – which also sets the stage for weight loss. So not only can you seriously up your nutrition game, but you could easily lose five to seven pounds this month by following these strategies:
Part One: Eat for Success
1) See Green
Incorporate a fruit or veggie EVERY time you eat. Make the same rule for your kiddos. Same goes for meals: when cooking or eating meals add frozen veggies into everything. If you tend to be super hungry at night, try an entire bag of frozen broccoli or other non-starchy veggie. Note: Implementing this strategy will most likely require some prep ahead of time, or buying pre-washed, chopped veggies. A GREAT habit to get into is breaking down/washing/chopping/bagging all your produce as soon as you come home from the grocery store. My kids get a snack and can choose to play outside or watch one parent-approved show so I can do just this after every shopping trip.
2) Get Your Spice (or Herb) On
Experiment with different seasoning blends and fresh herbs. I love shopping local, so make it a point to get to all spice at least once every couple of months. Of course every spice aisle of every grocery store is chock-full of options, too. Pick out three or four new ones, or for bonus points, check out an ethnic grocery store to score truly authentic new spices. Then thank the cooking gods for Google as you get ideas on how to use your new found treasures.
3) Be Inspired by the Season
Go vegetarian at least once this week, or if you’re already doing that, make it twice. Go to dairy, nuts, and legumes for protein, and make sure you incorporate plenty of healthy fats for satiety.
4) Hand Out Awards
Track your fruits and veggies! Make a chart on your fridge for each family member (there are lots of color sheets you can print off, so kiddos can color in each fruit or veggie as they eat them, or a good old sticker works, too).
You want 8-12 servings per day for an adult, and a great place to start with kids is every time they eat a snack or meal (so, 4-7).
Decide what your goal is, then decide what the reward will be. For example, is mom going for 10 servings a day? Jack, four (with maybe trying one or two NEW things a week?); and Sally, who already likes a lot of veggies, is going to go for six. Every time you eat a serving, everyone gets to mark off a box (or put a sticker on the chart). Add to the fun by allowing kids to help pick out new produce at the store or farmers’ market.
You can gauge where your family is at with food treats and decide if you want to do a food reward (like going out for ice cream, while discussing that it’s an occasional treat) or if you all need a step back from the sugar and want to go with something non-food related.
What’s a serving? For fruit, an adult serving is 1/2 a cup of chopped/frozen or a small whole fruit. Most “standard” fruits (pears, apples, etc.) are 1 serving for a medium or 1 ½ for a large. Berries and apples are your best choices, and tropical fruits are on the bottom of the list. Servings for veggies look like a 1/2 cup chopped fresh or cooked (I really say 1 cup for “fluffier” things like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, etc.) or 1 cup of leafy things and greens.
5) Embrace Salad Season
Get into the habit of eating salads at LEAST once a day. I prep my “toppings” ahead of time, then just spoon some on my salad for quick and easy eating. Toppings should include at least three additional veggies, one source of fat (nuts, cheese), and a taste/textural element (fruit, something crunchy, dried herbs, etc).
Note on dressing: The best dressing choice is a 3:1 vinegar to oil. Specialty stores have incredible selections of high-quality vinegars and oils and will help you make an amazing combo. IF you can’t make your own right away, choose a light dressing with as few ingredients as possible. Also consider doing “creamy” ones yourself using a packet of seasoning (such as ranch) with a mix of Greek yogurt and flax or other milk substitute. You will DRASTICALLY reduce your calories.
Part Two: Move More!
1) Get Sweaty. Every Day
How many times a day can you get sweaty? Can you run around your yard for 10 minutes in the morning with the kids? Run some stairs, do push-ups, squats, and plies during nap? Finish your day off with 10 minutes of core work or Pilates BEFORE you sit on the couch? Those 10 to 15 minute chunks of INTENSE exercise have been shown to be extremely effective for weight loss and are manageable for even the busiest mom schedule.
2) Be Social
Join a class, walking group, or other with-kids activity. It can be as easy as starting a new family tradition of riding bikes or going for a walk every night after dinner. Play a family game of “soccer,” meet up with a mom or two for a walk and talk twice a week, or check out hike it baby for weekly opportunities to get moving WITH your kids. No more excuses. More moving.
3) 100 Challenge
Along with your fruit and veggies chart, make an activity chart. Start with 100 of the basics:
- triceps dips
- plank hold (I make 100 into 10 minutes)
- seated twists
- super woman lifts
- hip bridges
- wide squats
- (and whatever else you want to throw in for bonus points)
Get 100 reps of each exercise done by the end of the week (or heck, every three days if you’re more advanced).
Gaining a little bit of muscles will ramp up your metabolism and help your body get tighter and leaner, all great things for summer.
One last note: when we are thirsty it activates the same areas in our brain which are triggered when we are hungry. Therefore, those afternoon hunger pains are often times actually signals that your body needs WATER. Keep your weight loss on track by making it a point to stay incredibly hydrated all summer. And kick artificial sweeteners to the curb: new studies show they do so much more harm than we ever thought. Make this the summer of “spa water” (infuse water with fruit and herbs) and unsweetened teas. Water kefir is a great probiotic, easy to brew yourself and an awesome alternative to juice for kids, too.
If these tips feel overwhelming, tackle one at a time. Put one new habit or behavior in place each week, and you and your family will be on the path to a lighter, healthier place in no time!