We’re already more than halfway through summer. Can you believe it? There’s something about the warmer weather and lack of rigidity and structure in the summer that makes us feel relatively carefree. Sometimes this means eating a little more than we would normally, or reaching for snacks we wouldn’t otherwise have eaten just because the time seems right (hello, ice cream sandwiches!).
Summer is all about fun and enjoyment, but that doesn’t mean you have to throw away those healthy lifestyle habits completely. In fact, picking up some new habits before the fall season hits might even be easier now that you have a little less to worry about (school, the holiday season, etc.).
Small steps can really add up, so incorporating just a few small tweaks this month–like the 6 healthy habits below–can help you get you into a groove so that you’re all set come fall.
1. Phase out sugary drinks
You already know that sweetened drinks aren’t good for your health. What many people don’t realize is that regular sodas aren’t the only culprit. Juices, sweetened coffee drinks and even some smoothies can pack tons of sugar (read: empty calories).
The key isn’t to reach for diet versions of your favourite drinks. Artificial sweeteners aren’t great for you either, and don’t be fooled by enticing terms like cane sugar, agave or even honey. They’re marketing terms that, while true, don’t necessarily equal fewer calories from sugar (when in doubt, read the nutrition facts to be sure).
Instead, think simple! Make water your best friend. Keep a large bottle with you so you can sip throughout the day, and have a glass with breakfast and lunch. For dinner, try sparkling water for something a little more special. Add berries, citrus or cucumber for flavour if needed.
Plain tea, served hot or cold, is also a great option and one of my personal favourites! Here’s a link to one of my Instagram photos on how to make unsweetened iced tea. It’s super easy.
2. Pile on the fresh vegetables and fruit
If ever there was a time to enjoy fresh produce, it’s right now! So many things are in season and there are tons of delicious recipes floating around Pinterest, Yummly and elsewhere. (Stop by my salads board on Pinterest for some of the most crave-able, beautifully presented salads you’ll ever see!)
Add two or three different vegetables or fruit to every dish you make. You can blend them right into the recipe (like I did with this butternut squash sauce) or whip up a simple side dish. This Thai cucumber salad is an old fave, and homemade fresh salsa can be added as an accompaniment to just about any dish. Here’s a few you might like: mango cucumber salsa, watermelon tomato salsa and strawberry avocado salsa.
3. Swap out meat once in a while
You don’t have to be vegetarian or vegan to replace meat with plant-based proteins now and then. Instead of thinking of it as a sacrifice, or something that only granola-eating hipsters can be bothered with, be open minded this summer and go meatless some of the time. The health benefits are many and you might even discover a new dish you can’t live without!
Give veggie dogs or veggie burgers (like these curry spiced lentil burgers) a whirl at your next barbecue, or make a batch of spicy maple baked tofu and throw it in a wrap or on top of a salad. Getting into the habit of making meatless meals takes a bit of extra thinking at first, but once you get used to it, it’s kind of fun. You’ll be all set come fall.
4. Spend time outdoors each day
It’s hard to put into words how good it feels to spend time outside. You know the feeling – you feel calmer, rejuvenated, refreshed. Take advantage of the warm weather now and do one activity outdoors each day this summer. Getting into the habit now will make it easier to stick to the routine when fall rolls around.
If time is scarce, time spent outdoors can be as short and sweet as reading a magazine in your backyard while dinner cooks, sitting on a bench outside your office building or going for a walk around the block. However you spend it, enjoy every last second because we’ll be complaining about the weather in no time!
5. Try an activity you’ve always wanted to learn
I’m always in awe of my sister and wonder how she finds the energy to participate in all the activities she does. In the summer she plays baseball and volleyball after work during the week, and goes hiking, cycling, kayaking and rock climbing on weekends.
I’ve always been more of a bookworm and am happy reading a novel outside for 4 hours, so sometimes I need a little boost to get out of my comfort zone. Two things I had always wanted to do were try a barre class and take up long distance running.
A few summers ago I tried both of these activities for the first time and fell in love. They both took time, patience and dedication to do well, but I was able to take advantage of that positive summer energy and channel it into something new and fun. Both activities are now part of my regular fitness routine and I can even admit I’m pretty good at them now, too. Try it yourself this summer and see if you find your new favourite hobby in time for the fall season!
6. Make your own food more often
Cooking more of your own meals is one of the simplest things you can do to make smarter food choices. Two roadblocks I hear people complain about often are a lack of time and plain old laziness.
The first one is easier to solve because there are many, many meals that can be made in 20 minutes or less. In fact, I never spend more than 30 minutes total on dinner every night. They key is to think simple. Cook up some grains like noodles or quinoa, stir-fry mixed vegetables and a protein with seasonings (soy sauce and sriracha are good bets) and combine it all together. Or grill a piece of fish or steak and pair it with steamed (or even microwaved) broccoli and a baked potato (also microwaved!). Add flavour with herbs and spices or a sprinkle of grated cheese.
If you’re feeling lazy (let’s face it – we all go through this now and then), simplify things even more. Dinner can be as basic as cooked leftover chicken and chopped vegetables stuffed in a wrap, or vegetable sticks, pita wedges and hummus. Or pop open a can of beans, toss it with herbs and lemon juice and serve with crusty bread (that was the basis for this white bean, parsley and lemon salad).
For more tips on how to get into the habit of cooking your own meals, visit my post on how to make home cooking part of your lifestyle.
What healthy habits are you looking to adopt before the summer’s out?