Monday, June 20, 2011

Ditch that High-Cal Cone: Tasty Summer Treats to Keep You Healthy

In the summer, it can be deceptively easy to gain weight fast. Just think about it: you're feeling relaxed, taking a stroll, enjoying the summer breeze and what do you see? A hot dog stand here, an ice cream truck there...the possibilities of cheap, easily accessible treats are endless and equally hard to resist. If it were any other season, a heaping cone of soft serve might not be as easy to acquire nor would it sound like much fun to eat.

If you're thirsty, your favourite drinks have just become much more affordable and easy to grab at most stores and take-out restaurants. Then, when nightfall hits, it has never been easier or more enjoyable to sit outside on a patio with friends and enjoy a few too many beers or spritzers, maybe paired with some loaded nachos. Yup, the calorie-laden snacks are plentiful all summer long and rather incompatible with a toned beach body. So what exactly can be done to remedy this dilemma? Lots.

For starters, even if you want to lose weight, you can have those treats if you are aware of and account for how many calories are in whatever treat you're enjoying. The key, however, is to actually enjoy the treat and not regret it. Treats are usually nutritionally poor, despite any health claims they may make, so you have to know you're downing empty calories. If you feel overly guilty about it, save it for a time when you will appreciate it.

If you're out and about and really want an ice cream, head over to an ice cream shop and ask for a kid's scoop of whatever you like. You will enjoy the flavour just as much, with less guilt as the calories will be controlled a bit more.

If you really want a treat but can't hack the poor nutritional stats, you can also make healthy substitutions for summer treats that are just as satisfying as the real deal. Instead of full-fat ice cream, go for some low-fat frozen yogurt. You can even jazz it up with fresh, seasonal fruit for extra nutrients and fibre, or some sugar-free jam on top for a hit of sweetness. Try crushing up some high-fibre cereal on top for some added crunch. The result is a healthier dessert alternative with extra vitamins, minerals and fibre!

If you like sorbet, why not try some frozen fruit kebabs, low-calorie frozen fruit bars or juice bars? Speaking of bars, there are so many 100-calorie (or thereabouts) desserts out there like those from Skinny Cow or Breyers and even supermarket brands that are both delicious and highly figure friendly!

If you've got to have a soda or beer, go for the lower-calorie kind. There are so many diet sodas out there now, in addition to some really good quality light beers and cocktails. If you like iced coffee, ask for a regular coffee over ice and add in a little skim (or dairy alternative, like soy) milk and maybe some sugar-free syrup or sweetener for an added kick without the calories.

When it comes to savoury snacks like nachos and hot dogs, you're best off making your own at home and watching your portion sizes. In restaurants, the calories, fat and salt are piled on to make dishes more addictive. At home, you can control how many chips you throw on your pan, how much cheese you want to add and what veggies you'd like to include when making nachos. You can skip that added salt and add plenty of nutrients and fibre with toppings like avocado, onions, tomatoes, peppers and black beans. With hot dogs, you can purchase leaner sausages like those made from chicken or turkey, and choose healthier toppings that may not be offered at your local hot dog stand. You could also eat just half the bun if you want to save some more calories.

You can definitely still enjoy your summer treats to the max, even with the occasional 'real deal' indulgence, but moderation is key. The rest of the time, with these tips and tricks, you won't even miss those high-sugar, fat and salt-filled indulgences!