Summer is in full swing, which means backyard barbecues, baseball games, and beach vacations — and all the snacks and drinks that come with them. It also means hotter temperatures and longer days that require lots of energy.
How can you balance summer fun with a healthy eating routine that helps you feel your best?
We rounded up 10 nutritious alternatives to your favorite warm-weather treats that can keep you cool and energized all summer long.
10 Healthy Snack Alternatives
1. Ice Cream
Does the mere sound of an ice cream truck make your mouth water? We’re with you! While all that dairy and sugar might taste delicious, it’s sure to leave you feeling sluggish and bloated. Instead of ordering a double scoop, whip up a sweet smoothie bowl (we like these recipes on Greatist). Or, pick up fruit-based popsicles on your next grocery run. For a DIY fix, freeze bananas, blueberries, or cherries as a refreshing treat that’s both convenient and nutritious. Grapes are a popular option, but they are high in glucose and raise blood sugar levels very rapidly.
Sure, an ice-cold soda sounds nice on a hot summer day, but both regular and diet colas are linked to heart disease and obesity. If it’s carbonation you crave, we suggest getting your fizzy fix by sipping flavored sparkling water or even a kombucha. Dr. Rawls recommends plain sparkling water with a squirt of NuNaturals vanilla stevia–it tastes just like cream soda! You could also try a batch of our Detox Water with cucumber and citrus for an extra boost of energizing vitamins.
Who doesn’t love a summer cookout complete with cheeseburgers and hot dogs? However, red meat contains lots of saturated fat and is one of the hardest proteins to digest. Pair it with the inflammatory gluten in bread, and you’ve got a combination that’s particularly hard on your gut health. Swap out the ground beef for all-natural turkey or salmon burgers, and use crunchy butter lettuce cups or collard leaves in place of a bun. If you’re set on a meat burger, look for free-range elk meat (available at many grocery stores), which is very lean.
4. Fried Seafood
Fried seafood is often a staple during beach vacations, but the starches and sugars found in fried foods can lead to bloating, trapped gas, and abdominal discomfort. Not only that—the free radicals generated from heating vegetable oil at high temperatures is extremely damaging to the cell membranes of the body. If you’re headed to a restaurant, order grilled fish or refreshing dishes like shrimp cocktail in place of the fry basket. If you’re preparing a fresh catch at home, add flavor by incorporating spices and other seasonal ingredients. We love making this shrimp and avocado salad for a healthy, light summer meal.
5. Fruit Pies
So many of our favorite fruits are in season during the summer months (blueberries, blackberries, peaches, the list goes on…), and it’s tempting to throw them into baked goods like pie or cobbler. That said, adding dough and extra sugars counteracts all the great vitamins and antioxidants these fruits contain. We suggest satisfying your sweet tooth by grilling halved peaches and topping with cinnamon and a drizzle of local honey. Another option is to combine fresh blueberries, rolled oats, and sugar/stevia. Or you can skip the cooking entirely and make colorful fruit kebabs with strawberries, pineapple, and watermelon, or top a cup of greek yogurt with fresh berries.
6. Pasta Salad
Were you asked to bring pasta salad to a summer potluck? Instead of a traditional version with store-bought dressing and grain noodles, try a lower-sodium, gut-friendly version by swapping regular pasta for veggie noodles and dressing it on your own. All you need is a spiralizer, fresh zucchini or squash, lemon and olive oil, and other toppings of your choice!
7. Potato Chips
A bag of potato chips seems like a great, easy snack option to pack for a day at the beach or pool, but potatoes are a nightshade vegetable containing lectins that can irritate the gut. For a snack that’s easier to digest, lower in calories, and packed with vitamins, we suggest making a batch of kale chips. They only need to bake for about 15 minutes, and you can sprinkle with seasonings like chipotle pepper or turmeric to add nutrient-packed flavor. Another team favorite is baked sweet potato chips: thinly slice a sweet potato, drizzle with grapeseed oil and salt, and bake until slightly crisp.
8. Chicken Salad
Chicken salad is a tasty, refreshing summer meal but traditional recipes call for loads of mayonnaise and often wind up between two slices of white bread. For a more energizing version, blend an avocado in your food processor or use a scoop of Greek yogurt to replace the mayo. Serve on a bed of fresh romaine lettuce or with rice crackers. Salmon salad is another easy option. Simply combine one can of red salmon, a handful of chopped celery, pickle relish (optional), mayo, salt, and pepper.
9. Summer Cocktails
Sometimes a long, hot day calls for a refreshing cocktail, but fruity umbrella drinks often contain processed juices that are high in glucose and fructose. These ingredients are known to break down your body’s collagen, which you need for extra sun protection in the summer. Take a healthier route to Margaritaville by using fresh-squeezed lime juice or grapefruit juice and agave instead of pre-made mixers, and remember to drink in moderation.
10. Chips and Dip
Summer get-togethers are guaranteed to have chips and dip, and while a few scoops are okay, we’ve all been known to hover a little too close to the bowl. Swap out tortilla chips and cheese dip for carrot sticks or cucumber slices with homemade guacamole. Carrots are full of beta-carotene and avocados contain healthy, monounsaturated fat and tons of vitamins and minerals. For something a bit different, try bell peppers with hummus; the peppers pack tons of Vitamin C and you’ll get some extra protein from the chickpeas.
Have a summer favorite that you didn’t see on this list? Let us know in the comments or on our Facebook page. If you have your own nutritious variations on warm-weather treats, we’d love to hear about those too!
And, if you want to learn more about how to maintain great digestive health year-round, check out Dr. Rawls’ advice.