Healthy summer eating

February 24, 2012

Food, Fruits and Vegetables, Meat

While food is an integral component of our summertime activities, remember that good nutrition and good times can truly go together like fireworks and the Fourth of July.

by Karen Langston — 

School is out, and many of us are already planning for the lazy days of summer, which will undoubtedly feature campfires, barbeques, picnics, beach get-togethers or just hanging out with friends. While food is an integral component of our summertime activities, remember that good nutrition and good times can truly go together like fireworks and the Fourth of July.

Here are five strategies for eating healthy and still enjoying summer’s privileges.

Barbeque essentials

For many of us, meat makes up the bulk of our summer food consumption. The average North American consumes 250 pounds of meat each year. Whether we are scarfing down hotdogs at the ballgame or cooking them up on the grill, look for all-beef franks that are free of sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate.

Nitrites and nitrates give chicken and beef hotdogs, luncheon and deli meats, and bacon and ham their pink color and, to some extent, their flavoring. These additives are also preservatives and antimicrobial agents that serve to cure the meats.

Numerous studies question the safety of these preservatives, as nitrites mix with gastric juices and convert to nitrosamines, which some studies have linked to an increase in gastrointestinal cancers. Brands to look for include Hormel® bacon and deli meats, and Applegate Farms® ( These companies carry nitrite-free hotdogs, cold cuts, sausage, bacon and burgers to help you prepare healthy summertime barbeques.


A picnic or a barbeque is not complete without condiments. Ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise and relish are the usual favorites that nicely complement the summer chef’s food array. Use organic condiments that are free of the most harmful preservatives. Most importantly, they do not contain high-fructose corn syrup.

High-fructose corn syrup is a well-known, but poorly understood ingredient. Researchers continue to debate its safety. Here is what we do know: High-fructose corn syrup is metabolized differently than sugar, and consumption in large amounts presents certain metabolic and hormonal affects that lead to fat storage and weight gain. Look for condiments that are free of high-fructose corn syrup, artificial ingredients, dyes and preservatives such as butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) and sulfites.

Brown bagging

Whether you are going on a picnic, a hike, or making sandwiches for campers, packing healthy foods in those lunch bags is important. Choose breads that are high in fiber, with whole grain listed as the first ingredient. Whole-grain breads are chock-full of B vitamins, which provide energy.

Load up on veggies, such as leaf or romaine lettuce, thinly sliced cucumbers and tomatoes, which not only provide vitamins and minerals, but also contribute to the six to eight daily servings of vegetables we all need in order to stay healthy. A nutritious sandwich contains a complete meal of carbohydrates and protein for growth, stamina and energy. Add a bottle of water and some fruit for a complete, energizing meal.


Hydration is important year-round, but especially during the summer months. Water is by far the best choice for hydration, as it lubricates your joints, helps you think clearly and gives you energy. When indulging in other summer beverage favorites such as iced tea, opt to make your own.

When I was growing up, summer meant Mom’s homemade iced tea with just a hint of sweetness and sliced lemons. I remember a glass pitcher sitting on the back porch in the warm sunshine. Brewing your own beverage allows you to control the sweetness by using low-glycemic sweeteners, such as agave or stevia. You can also make iced tea in the refrigerator.

Avoid sugary drinks and colas as much as possible. They lack nutritional value, the caffeine causes dehydration and many conflicting reports exist about the safety of aspartame, Nutrasweet® and sucralose. Instead, opt for one of the many natural, chemical-free alternatives to conventional, sugar-filled, chemical-laden sodas. Virgil’s ( offers root beer and cream soda with no artificial ingredients, preservatives or caffeine. Blue Sky Beverage Company ( is a reputable source for sodas, and sports and energy drinks that do not contain harmful chemicals.

Fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables exemplify healthy summertime eating. Strawberries, watermelons and cantaloupe make delicious, light and nutrient-filled snacks. Fruits and vegetables not only contain essential nutrients, but they also include water, which helps us maintain proper hydration. Fruits and vegetables are full of vitamins, including B vitamins, which facilitate the processing of carbohydrates and proteins.

They also provide the energy needed for that last spike to win a volleyball match or to wrestle the Frisbee® from the neighbor’s dog. We each need six to eight servings of fruits and vegetables daily, as they contain antioxidants and phytonutrients that researchers now say may protect a person from disease and illnesses like diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers.

Healthy summer eating does not require sacrificing your favorite foods, but it does offer the opportunity to find healthier alternatives for a better quality of life. A significant benefit to choosing healthy alternatives is the lack of preservatives and synthetic flavor enhancers. Those who enjoy healthier choices say their food tastes better, especially fruits and vegetables.

Food producers will continue to offer an increasing number of healthy choices as consumers continue to demand products without unhealthy preservatives, colorings and chemicals. Having fun and enjoying the summer is natural; so too should be our food. Wishing you all a happy and healthy summer.


Karen Langston is a Chief Body Reorganizer and extreme nutritionist. or 623-252-HEAL (4325).

Reprinted from AZNetNews, Volume 30, Number 3, June/July 2011.

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