How To Transform Your Guilty Pleasure Summer Treat To Be Healthier

Summertime calls for hanging by the pool, weekend road trips and a wide array of yummy foods to eat. There’s nothing like digging in to barbecue straight off the grill, biting into a hot dog at a baseball game or licking up the last drips of an ice cream cone. Enjoying all of your favorite summer foods is a fun way to celebrate the changing season, but they may leave you feeling bloated or sick later on. If you’re trying to watch your waistline or have more energy this summer, it is possible to still have food that is delicious and have fun with loved ones.

We consulted Jason Boehm, Board Certified Nutrition Specialist and Joanne Larsen, dietitian at Ask the Dietitian for their best tips and tricks on nourishing alternatives to classic summertime staples. With a few small modifications or swaps, you can savor all your favorite summer foods in a delicious, but still nutritious way.

If you love hot dogs or corn dogs…

If you’re a meat lover, there are many higher quality cuts of meat that are healthier to enjoy this summer. Make this the summer you learn to use a grill! “Grilling allows fat to drain off meat, poultry and fish during cooking,” says Larsen. “Grilling at a lower temperature keeps meat more moist and less likely to burn on the outside.”

For your next dinner, try firing up your grill to make meat kabobs instead of a hot dog. Larsen recommends marinating lean chicken, pork or beef with spices or herbs for one hour in lemon, vinegar or soy sauce before spearing them on a kabob stick with vegetables. She also suggests trying turkey kielbasa sausage as a lean substitute to a hot or corn dog.

If you love cheeseburgers…

Cheeseburgers may be a staple at any BBQ, baseball game or carnival, but try making your burger with something other than non-lean beef. One mouthwatering option is to make a sweet potato patty using a simple recipe. Add avocado on top to get the same creamy effect as cheese, with a boost of healthy fats.

If you still find yourself craving a juicy hamburger, Boehm suggests eating your burger on a lettuce wrap or Paleo coconut wrap instead of a traditional bread bun. You could even forgo the bun all together to skimp on some carbs.

If you love ice cream sundaes…

As kids, there was nothing better than the sound of the ice cream truck coming down the street on a hot summer afternoon. And let’s be honest, it’s a stage we never grew out of! Although tasty, ice cream is full of fats and sugars, especially once you add the cookie pieces and other toppings. If you find yourself craving a scoop of ice cream after every single dinner, have it in moderation by swapping out other cool treats some nights.

There are so many ice cream substitutions on the market these days such as HALO TOP, which is low calorie and sugar. Boehm says no-sugar-added coconut ice cream is a delicious trade. Larsen also proposes having frozen yogurt with chopped fresh fruit, fruit ices made with real fruit (check that ingredients list!) or a homemade fruit smoothie, such as one with plain yogurt and frozen fruit chunks.

If you really can’t pass up the ice cream, get it in a cup instead of a cone to save on some calories.

If you love potato chips

Although they’re an easy snack to pass around during movie night or munch on during a family potluck, potato chips are empty calories loaded with salt. For the same crunchy sensation, Boehm says to try snacking on roasted or raw almonds.

Larsen says, “If you are going to eat chips and dip, at least make the dip guacamole or salsa. An easy guacamole recipe is to mash an avocado with juice from 1 lime and mix in a couple tablespoons of fresh salsa.” Opt for baked chips as opposed to fried or tortilla chips, as these contain two teaspoons of fat in a 3/4 ounce bag.

Related: 5 Easy Cooking Swaps for Instantly Healthier Food

If you love Frappuccinos

Starbucks is the perfect place to catch up with old friends, stop at on the way to work, or finish up an assignment for a summer class. But who are you kidding? You know that Vanilla Bean Frappuccino is just a fancy way to eat multiple scoops of ice cream and a dollop of whipped cream.

Healthier drink options to try are iced vanilla lattes with nonfat milk, which have less than 15 grams of sugar or a Caramel Frappuccino "Light" as a guilt free dessert at only 100 calories.

If you love potato salad…

A typical side dish at any backyard barbeque, potato salad usually contains large amounts of mayonnaise and oily dressing. Boehm advises trying no-sugar-added broccoli slaw in place of potato salad to cut out fat and get extra vegetables.

Another healthier side dish to bring to your next gathering is bean salad. According to Larsen, half a cup of potato salad is like eating a slice of bread with 2 tablespoons of butter on it. She suggests mixing any type of lentil or dried bean you like, such as kidney, garbanzo, lima, or black beans with a vinegar and oil dressing for an extra boost of fiber!

If you love sugary cocktails…

Nothing screams summer like a fancy frozen concoction with a tiny umbrella. However, these fruity boozy drinks tend to be filled with sugar, so try swapping for a DIY wine spritzer. Mix chilled wine and sparkling water in a glass, adding slices of fresh fruits for even more flavor. You’ll get all of the party, while staying hydrated and regret-free. Boehm also recommends trading that sugary sangria for a glass of light chardonnay.

It is possible to make healthy food and lifestyle choices without missing out on the social gatherings that come along with summer. Try to make a few of these healthy, simple swaps throughout the week to keep your energy up all summer long!

JMU alumni making her way into the "real" world. Passion for spending time with my large Italian family, running and eating any and all desserts I can get my hands on.

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