With the summer around the corner, it's a good time to think about strategies to invite nutritious and healthy eating habits into our lives. The end-of the year parties, backyard barbecues and holiday travel can make it hard to stay with a routine. However, I believe that summers can also be an opportunity to be our healthiest self---starting with a plan.
The summer often has built in down time in work, school, and increased family activities. It's a great opportunity to strategize around food. For example, hectic work weeks may make meal-planning stressful and daunting, but the summer can be a great time to try something new. One tool I like to use is to do a big "all in one" cooking day, usually Sunday's, and I make all my lunches for the rest of the week. Sometimes it's a few big pots of soups, sometimes it's individually packed veggie bowls. I find that psychologically if I am trying to make good food choices---preparing everything I am going to eat in one day beforehand and set it up in a lunch bag, I'm more apt to follow my thought out plan. The exception for me is dinner, because I try to have a family dinner so usually I decide the night before what I will cook. However, I set aside everything else---from breakfast to lunch and my afternoon snacks. This trick doesn't work when joining friends or dropping by a summer party, so in those instances, I like to again think carefully about a plan. Usually this entails never going to a party on a hungry stomach. I'm more apt to over eat, and choose the highly caloric foods in those times, so I make sure to have a heavy snack or even meal before heading out.
Summer is also a great time to learn more about in-season cooking, shopping at farmers markets and looking at grocery stores for what is fresh. In many places around the world, in-season eating is hard to achieve because locally the weather does not permit produce to grow in the winter. However, summer is a wonderful time to explore the many foods that thrive at this time. Again, for me, the only way I feel efficient at farmers markets is to have a plan for what meals I anticipate making prior to shopping. I find the many vendors distracting and many times have come back with kettle corn and good looking tomatoes, only to have to go to the store to get a real meal.
Finally, for the many potlucks and pool parties you may attend, bringing hearty and nourishing food that you enjoy eating is a great way to ensure you will have healthy options and will help you avoid the processed foods that so many others bring. I often look to Pinterest or cooking blogs to come up with creative dishes, that both look good and are foods that I am aiming to eat more of. I find that when I make healthy eating choices I feel healthier, both physically and emotionally, however, there will be days when it doesn't go as planned. So remember to also cut yourself some slack and think in terms of prevention and mitigating unhealthful practices, but not "all or nothing". We all slip up, we all over indulge at times, and thankfully, we all can wipe the slate clean the next morning and start again.
Diana Naranjo, PhD
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
University if California San Francisco
Madison Clinic for Pediatric Diabetes