Summer is finally here. And while we’re all happy to experience warmer weather, sunshine, lake days and vacations, this time of year can present a challenge to health goals. The summer doesn’t need to be a write-off, nutrition-wise, however. It’s still possible to continue to make (or maintain) progress.
Here are a few nutrition strategies to make this your best summer yet.
CONTROL THE CONTROLLABLE
This is one of the mantras I live my life by, especially during the summer when I have something planned for nearly every weekend. Since I know that my nutrition will be a bit more flexible on the weekend, I make it a priority to keep things dialled in during the week. That means from Monday-Friday I fill my plate with lots of green veggies, protein and healthy fats (I call this a GPF style of eating), plus some carbohydrates to support my training. By keeping things relatively clean throughout the week, I am able to fully enjoy my weekends (in moderation —we’ll talk about that in a bit).
ESTABLISH A WEEKEND APPROACH TO HEALTHY EATING
Deciding that healthy eating would be a bit different on the weekend has been a game changerfor me. During the week, I’m pretty diligent about my nutrition. However, in the past, I felt pressure to maintain that discipline during the weekend too. I would bring my own food in Tupperware to parties; I’d avoid eating out with friends; I wouldn’t drink at all because it had “too many calories.” After a few years of doing that, I realized that I was missing out on a meaningful aspect of my social life. (Side note: if you do any of those things and truly enjoy it, more power to you.)
I also went to the opposite end of the spectrum, depriving myself during the week, only to go all out on the weekends. This inevitably led me to head into Monday feeling like crap and regretting my decisions, which only fuelled the cycle of restriction during the week and binge eating/drinking on the weekends.
It took trial and error, but I eventually landed on a balance between discipline and enjoyment. Step one in that process was deciding what healthy, enjoyable eating was to me on the weekend.
Here are some ideas on how to balance nutrition with enjoyment on the weekend (also applies to travel, too):
- Track macros during the week, and loosely track them on the weekend
- Make sure your breakfast and lunch are full of greens, protein and healthy fats (GPF), because you know you’ll be going out for burgers for dinner
- If you’ll be drinking, make conscious alcohol choices (more on that below) and make sure your meals are GPF to balance things out
- Bring your own snacks or prepped food on a road trip, or bring snacks/a healthy dish to a party so you know there will be healthy options available.
It’s unrealistic to think you won’t indulge in anythingthis summer. The challenge is to do it in a balanced, mindful way that still helps you stay on track to reach your goals. The key to meeting that challenge is to be discerning, so take a look at your day and pick one meal that’s the most important for you to indulge in. For example, it’s pretty easy for me to be in control of having a healthy breakfast and lunch most days, whereas dinners are usually when I’m out with friends, hanging out at a BBQ, or spending time with family.
As I mentioned, I make sure my breakfast and lunch are GPF-based so that I have more wiggle room to enjoy drinks or dinner. Which brings me to another simple guideline I love to live by: choose the appetizer/bread, alcohol OR dessert, not all three.That means if I want a glass of wine with dinner, I’ll say no to the charcuterie board, appetizers, snacks, or bread before dinner. Or if I know we’ll be having dessert that night, I’ll make a conscious choice not to drink alcohol so that I can enjoy a slice of cheesecake.
If you’re at a party, scope out all the food that’s laid out ahead of time. Usually parties are full of chips, dips, and drinks — all in addition to the main dinner. If you know they’ll be grilling burgers for dinner and you really want to have the full burger (with the bun in all its glory!), you can choose to opt out of having the snacks beforehand. *or bonus points if you bring your own healthy snack for everyone to munch on, like sliced veggies and hummus! If you don’t want to be tempted, hang out away from where all the snacks are. Or if there’s a chip/dip dish you really love, maybe have a mindful portion of that, and enjoy the burger without the bun.
Using discernment is all about balance and deciding what you really want to indulge in themostand saying No to the things that aren’t as appealing to you, versus eating them just because they’re there.
Can you drink alcohol and still reach your fitness goals? The short answer: yes(ish).
This all depends on how frequently and how much you drink. If you’re trying to reach a certain goal in your fitness or nutrition, the less alcohol you drink, the better.
Here are a few tips to help you stay mindful of your alcohol consumption this summer:
- Keep your meals clean/GPF as much as possible throughout the day if you’re drinking
- Opt for “lighter” beers and avoid super-sugary drinks. My go-to is a vodka soda water with lime, or I like to mix sparkling water like La Croix with vodka (thank me later)
- Pace yourself by drinking one glass of water for every drink you have. I like to do a 1-1 rule: one drink followed by one glass of water. This will also help you stay hydrated and hopefully help you avoid feeling hungover so you can show up to the gym to train the next day.
Last but not least, don’t apologize for making consistent, healthy choices.
If you want to stay disciplined and track your macros all summer, do it. If you want to bring your own healthy snacks or dishes to a party, do it. If you don’t want to drink even though everyone else is because you want to feel good enough to train the next day, more power to you.
People will always have opinions or make comments (Just eat it! You’re already so fit! or, Why aren’t you drinking?! Just have one). But ultimately, you’re in charge of your life. If you have health goals and those are important to you, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to continue to make progress over the summer.
Understand your priorities. Set some goals. Identify what success will look like this summer. And most importantly, enjoy yourself and live your life!
Julie Booher is a nutrition and lifestyle coach. Find her at www.juliebooher.com