Healthy Summer Eating

“Grill, baby, grill!” This is the seasonal mentality when it comes to summer cuisine.

There are plenty of simple, healthy meals and snacks that are inexpensive and delicious. The best way to optimize summer meals is to use a variety of seasonal ingredients and create, rather than just simply cook, dishes that complement the warmer weather.

When you feel the sudden impulse to turn on the air conditioner, turn to food as an alternative way to cool down instead. Your body will thank you for the extra fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals in these healthy options that are also lower in fat and calories.

The most convenient way to browse for healthy summer foods is at the local farmer’s market because the vendors grow seasonally and offer their customers the freshest products. Summer fruits and vegetables are nature’s gift to humanity. We may live in California where access to any produce is within a grocery trip year round, but the natural flavors and true appreciation for the produce only comes with its assigned season.

Bell peppers, radishes, corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, celery, spinach, broccoli, zucchini and yellow squash are great vegetables to purchase throughout summer that can become quick snacks or additions to salads. These vegetables are also an easy transition into eating more raw foods for the added enzymes that would otherwise be depleted by the heat from cooking.

By incorporating more raw foods into your diet, your body will be able to naturally detoxify and stimulate better digestion. Melons, oranges, cherries, pineapples, avocados, jicama, mangoes, apricots, apples, grapes, strawberries, blueberries and blackberries are all succulent fruits full of satisfying flavor as well.

Eating these various summer produce does not mean only eating them as isolated snacks; there are a multitude of ways you can include them to make your daily meals more fresh and colorful.

Salads are a standard approach and easy to customize to your particular tastes, such as adding certain dried fruits or nuts. Be creative and make your own summer squash salsa to eat with strips of jicama, prepare a mango slaw with papaya, red onions, bell peppers, and red cabbage or even substitute strips of zucchini for your pasta. These are healthy and textured alternatives to the usual chips and salsa or even a bowl of spaghetti.

As for starting your day with breakfast, it only takes your favorite fruit to give an exciting twist to your yogurt, cereal or toast. Eating a grapefruit or drinking a smoothie is always refreshing and helps you start your day with energy. Also, by replacing Gatorade or fruit juice with coconut water, you can still replenish electrolytes and taste the sweet flavor but with a more natural source.

An interesting spin on sweet treats are to pair guava jelly with queso fresco or watermelon with feta cheese. You probably would not want to go back to your cookies ever again. Not only can these alternatives serve as an appetizer or snack, they can also serve as a surprising dessert. Dessert can also be sorbet or frozen grapes instead of ice cream or soft serve. You can also add raw agave to replace honey and maple syrup.

Summer eating habits involve tasty food with minimal preparation. Summer also provides a convenient opportunity to transition into a healthier diet by focusing on food at its freshest and purest. Simple additions and uncomplicated substitutions create an effortlessly accessible summer meal that will benefit your wallet and body. Now you can relax.