Smart Substitutions to Avoid Summer's Worst Calorie Culprits

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Summer is back, and it's brought with it all of its usual accomplices, such as backyard barbeques, poolside lounging, beach vacations and amusement parks—none of which are particularly known for their healthfulness. But that doesn't mean you have to let your goals melt in the hot sun, nor does your social calendar have to suffer. Whether you're headed to a family reunion or a fun-filled festival, it is possible to make healthy (okay, healthier) choices. Read on for your guide to smart summer sustenance.
Fairs, Festivals & Amusement Parks
A day at the amusement park doesn't have to mean your weight goes on a roller coaster ride of its own. If possible, fuel the family with a healthy meal at home before heading out, so you don't have to spend time and money waiting in food lines. If the venue allows, pack your own nutritious snacks to curb mid-day cravings.
However, even with the best of intentions, there will likely come a time when you find yourself at the mercy of the concession stand. But that doesn't mean you have to fill up on empty calories—believe it or not, nachos and funnel cakes are not your only options. Below are some tips for making wiser choices.
  • Skip the fried or breaded chicken and go for a grilled chicken breast sandwich (or, better yet, just order the grilled chicken without the bun).
  • Instead of fries, choose apple slices, strawberries or a side garden salad.
  • Craving a burrito? Order a burrito bowl, which includes the tasty fillings and veggies without the high-carb tortilla.
  • Skip the ice cream and satisfy your sweet tooth with lower-calorie frozen yogurt.
  • Stay hydrated while you play, so your body doesn't confuse thirst for hunger. Avoid sodas, juices and lemonades; instead, stick with water to replenish fluids without the empty calories or the sugar crash.
After making your selection, grab a table and eat without distractions. You'll be less likely to overeat if you pay attention to what you’re eating, than if you were mindlessly noshing between the Big Six and the Ferris wheel.
Backyard Barbeques
Nothing screams summer like an All-American cookout…but the typical menu of hot dogs, hamburgers and macaroni salad goes against every diet goal in the book. That doesn't mean you have to pull a no-show at the next Sunday Funday. Instead, bring some smarter choices to the picnic table.
  • Instead of a beef or pork hot dog, choose a turkey dog on a whole wheat, low-calorie bun—you'll still get the great taste with less than a third of the calories.
  • If you must have a burger, consider a turkey burger or veggie burger instead of a hamburger. Skip the high-calorie condiments in favor of fresh veggies, tomato and naturally low-fat mustard.
  • We've got nothing against potatoes, but potato salad is another story—most are slathered in high-fat mayonnaise. Consider swapping for coleslaw or vegetarian baked beans, or try one of these healthier potato salad recipes.
  • Skip the potato chips and tortilla chips in favor of kale chips or fresh veggies. And instead of using ranch or high-fat dips, choose healthier guacamole or salsa.
Explore more healthy cookout choices and calorie comparisons here.
Music Festivals
A weekend filled with live music, dancing, friends and porta-potties may not seem conducive to healthy eating habits, but you may be pleasantly surprised. In recent years, many of the country's biggest music festivals—Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits and Governors Ball, to name a few—are embracing more nutrition and less junk. Below are some of the healthier ways to stay full and fueled for all that dancing:
  • Many events, including the Firefly Festival, offer plentiful gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options.
  • Look for offerings from local farmer's markets, including fresh organic produce.
  • Healthy fare at San Francisco's Outside Lands includes fresh fruit and veggie dippers, frozen bananas, chicken and vegetarian tacos, split pea soup and more.
  • Most of today's music festivals offer water stations to keep fans hydrated and to ward off heat stroke. Other healthy drinks include tea and fresh pressed juices.
  • Instead of ice cream or sugary frozen drinks, choose frozen fruit treats and yogurt—they're just as replenishing as they are refreshing.
Beach Days
Swimming and sunbathing can work up quite an appetite, but most beaches and pools aren't known for their nutritious concessions. Below are some healthy, portable and virtually sand- and waterproof snacks to bring along on your next waterfront picnic.
What are your biggest food weaknesses in the heat of summer social season? Share your favorite healthy substitutions that keep you eating, looking and feeling your best.