The Best and Worst Foods of Summer

Julie Fortenberry, RD, LDN

We tend to think of summer as a time where we exercise more and make healthier, seasonal food choices, but think again.  One study found that kids gain weight three times faster over the summer than they do the rest of the year, thanks to more access to junk food and sedentary activities, like video games.

While there is not a comparable statistic for adults, summertime also offers many temptations like barbecues, festivals and vacations. When we are out of our “normal” routine, it’s easier to indulge in those foods we know we should limit.

Healthy Summer Eating graphic

Common Summertime Foods to Avoid:

  • Corn dogs are a kid pleaser, but this deep friend food packs about 20 grams of fat and lots of sodium. Instead, choose a hot dog under 150 calories and 14 grams of fat and limit sodium to less than 450 milligrams, ideally on a whole grain bun.
  • Fried seafood is fine if you are sharing a few with friends or family; just don’t make a meal out of it. A ¾ cup of fried seafood is about 500 calories and a whopping 26 grams of fat. Seafood is a way of life here in New Orleans, enjoy it, but choose healthy cooking preparations over fried.
  • Ribs are a barbecue staple and come in lots of shapes in sizes, but you should keep them off your summer menu. A quarter pound of beef or pork ribs is about 288 calories and lots of saturated fat—and that’s before you add sauce.   If you opt for ribs, prepare them at home, trimming off all visible fat, keeping portion sizes small and skip the sauce and substitute low-fat spices like mustard, garlic and chili powder.
  • Daiquiris sound light and refreshing, but their nutritional profile is big and bloated. An 8-ounce strawberry daiquiri has more calories than a double-patty hamburger and is loaded with fat and sugar. Try a lower calorie cocktail or mocktail like sparkling water with lime instead.
  • Macaroni and potato salad are summer picnic and barbecue favorites, but when made with fattening mayonnaise they are high in saturated fat and calories. Try swapping low-fat mayo for heart healthy unsaturated fats, like olive oil or greek yogurt.

Say Yes to these Summertime Favorites:

  • Corn on the cob is a high-fiber, low-calorie food. You can shave some off the cob into salads.  Try to choose the yellow variety over the white kind for added Vitamin A.
  • Watermelon is a great way to rehydrate after a long day in the sun. Watermelon is over 90% water, just 44 calories per cup and is a better source of cancer-fighting lycopene than raw tomatoes.Iced tea
  • Iced Tea: Tea has zero calories and lots of antioxidants. To get the nutritional benefits of tea, you need to make it yourself, not buy the bottled variety.  If you make your own black or green tea using a tea bag, tea is just a beneficial hot or cold.
  • Fruit Salad: summer is peak season for colorful berries and stone fruit and red, purple and blue fruit are good sources of antioxidants and vitamins. Some fruits, especially berries, pack up to one-third of your daily fiber needs per serving.
  • Gazpacho: In thesummer, the last thing you want to do is cook over a hot stove. Chilled soups are a great solution. Gazpacho is filled with healthy ingredients like bell peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers which make it light and flavorful.

Fortenberry, JulieJulie Fortenberry is a registered dietitian at Touro Infirmary. She obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Southern Mississippi. Julie believes that lifestyle changes and wholesome nutrition are obtainable, and brings real-life understanding to wellness and nutritional counseling. 

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