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Three tips to get healthier this summer

July 9, 2019

Pam Schoonveld, M.S., R.D., LDN, Clinical Dietitian/Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation

Summer is the perfect season to revisit that New Year’s resolution to get healthier. Whether your goal is to lose weight, fit into a special outfit or swimsuit, lower blood sugar or boost metabolism, summer provides opportunities to attain your lifestyle goals. Long days offer an opportunity for evening walks. Fruits and vegetables are fresher and tastier, so it’s easy to make healthy food choices. On the downside, barbecues, outdoor parties, the call of the ice cream truck and the desire to quench thirst on hot summer days with lemonade and other sweetened drinks can pose challenges.

Here are three tips that can help this summer:

Cut calories

Make changes you can live with, rather than adopting a short-lived fad diet. Cutting out 250-500 calories each day can lead to a 1- to 2-pound weight loss per week. Forgo a doughnut and specialty coffee to save 400 to 800 calories. Instead, plan healthy meals and snacks to stay satisfied. Each meal should contain at least three food groups; each snack should contain at least two. For example, oatmeal with a banana and milk makes a good breakfast. A ¼-cup serving of nuts and a piece of fruit makes a good snack.

Lower cholesterol

Lifestyle changes can lower cholesterol up to 25% and blood pressure as much as 20-40 mmHg. Get out and be active. A total of 200-300 minutes per week of moderate- to high-intensity exercise can lower cholesterol 4-7%. This translates to a 30-minute daily walk or 60 minutes of exercise 5 days per week, such as riding a bike or walking the dog. You can combine different exercises throughout the day, so swim 30 minutes in the morning and play actively 30 minutes with a preschooler later.

A high-fiber, plant-based diet can lower cholesterol about 5 to 10%. Include some fruit and/or vegetable at each meal. A daily salad would give you a good boost to your vegetable intake. Try adding berries to your cold cereal. Visit a farmers market and buy seasonal produce to get the best-tasting, best quality fruits and vegetables.

Monitor sugar intake

Prevent diabetes or improve blood sugar numbers by increasing physical activity and losing weight. Get a handle on added sugars such as cookies, cake, coffee cake, ice cream and other sweets. These make fine desserts, but lousy snacks. If you’re going to have something sweet, have a small serving and eat it at the end of a meal so you are less likely to eat more than you need. You may find that eating a well-balanced meal of lean protein, whole grains and fruits or vegetables satisfies enough so that you don’t need much of the sweet food.

Read food labels for added sugars. Aim for no more than 24 grams per day for women and 36 grams per day for men (less is better). Depending on what you eat, the added sugars add up fast.

Cold cereal, granola bars, yogurt, ice cream and sweetened drinks contain significant added sugars. Sweetened cold cereal typically has 9-12 grams per serving. A 12-oz. serving of lemonade, sweetened iced tea, or soda contains about 40 grams. Have a piece of fruit instead of candy and choose low-fat milk or infused water instead of soda.

Small changes in your daily food choices and activity habits add up to make a big difference over time.

Learn more about the NCH Wellness Center’s programs, equipment and specially trained staff that can help you achieve all of your fitness and nutrition goals. Call 847-618-3500 to become a member.