In summertime, healthy eating is easy

August 2012

Enjoying a healthy meal

If you want to kick-start a healthy eating plan, summer’s an ideal time. The array of fresh fruits and vegetables is endless, flavorful, and juicy. And warm weather means you can grill, which is one of the healthiest ways to cook. So open your eyes and taste buds to the joys of summer eating.

Nothing is better than fresh produce picked at the peak of flavor. And you don't have to go to the grocery store to enjoy the harvest. Farmers' markets, which are cropping up in cities and small towns across the country, are great spots to stock up on produce. Why? Because you know it’s fresh. You know it's in season. And you get to meet the farmer who grew it. In season items also tend to cost less.

Of course, you don't have to leave home to pick produce. You can follow the First Lady and grow them right in your own backyard. Bookstores, libraries, and the internet offer lots of tips on starting a garden. Not only will you eat healthier from the garden, you'll get exercise working in it.

Enjoy your produce

Once you have your fruits and vegetables, it's time to enjoy them! You can grill vegetables as kebobs, in a grill basket, or in foil packets. You can add steamed or roasted veggies to whole grain pasta, potato, or meat salads. Or chop up raw veggies to mix into salads or top off tacos. Fruit can be fun, too. Add it to salsa, salads and yogurt. Stir it into pancake and muffin mixes. You can even grill certain fruits like pineapple wedges, halved peaches, and mango sections. (Lightly coat the grill with cooking spray and cook over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes.)

Adding herbs

Fresh herbs, which are simple to grow in a garden or windowsill, are great ways to season summer foods. In salads, they can replace fatty, salty salad dressings. With meats and vegetables, they can bring out their flavor. (By growing your own herbs, you'll also save money.)

Some of the best herbs for summer meals include fragrant basil, lively cilantro, grassy dill, cool mint, earthy oregano and spicy rosemary. There’s also peppery, fresh parsley and thyme, which is a mix of mint and citrus flavors. Herb ideas include:

  • Topping pizza and salads with basil

  • Mixing cilantro into salsas and chutneys
  • Adding dill to omelets and yogurt dressing
  • Blending mint
 into marinades for meat and vegetables
  • Sprinkling oregano on lamb, beef, and beans
  • Putting parsley 
in salads and pasta dishes
  • Rubbing rosemary on fish or poultry
  • Tossing thyme into boiling water to flavor rice or pasta

Fire up a healthier grill

Summer’s array of fresh fruits and vegetables make it an ideal time to kick start healthy eating.

Grilling is one of the best ways to prepare meats. It’s fast, fun and cooks off much of the fat. And you can go beyond the same–old, same–old hot dogs and burgers. Choose lean cuts of beef, including round, sirloin, and loin cuts, chicken breasts, turkey, and fish. And it’s easy to tenderize meat for more flavor and texture without adding fat. Marinate meats and fish in salsa, low–calorie salad dressing, wine, or citrus juices.

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