Written by Andrew Arra, RD/LD
Summertime, in my opinion, is truly the best time of year. Long and warm (mostly humid) days breed a renewed energy to focus on things that the standard hustle & bustle of the year tend to force us to put aside. For Baby Bear and I — it was focusing on Baby Arra making his debut 11/2018, moving into a bigger space, and travelling a ton for weddings and other celebrations. For most I’ve spoken to around our community, the months of June through August were spent fostering relationships, spending meaningful time with family, travelling & adventuring, but most importantly (and for the purpose of this post) investing in their own health & wellness.
The tastes of summer are abundant — fresh herbs are blooming, our gardens are at the peak of their ripeness, and there is just something about being outdoors surrounded by your very own slice of Americana grilling up veggies & proteins … most likely sipping on an adult beverage of choice … that screams freedom & exudes joy. However, with the days now growing shorter and the weather cooling (sort of) — the melancholy vibe of an idealized summer coming to an end is beautifully balanced with the “Thank the Lord” feeling of kiddos returning to school and all of us getting back to a standard schedule. Most of my nutrition clients are excited for this – as summer can lead to a slew of indulgences that come with barbeques and holidays. And for the record – slew is defined as a slide violently or uncontrollably in a particular direction…which pretty much sums it up for a few of us, doesn’t it? So, enter your friendly neighborhood dietitian with some quick tips to ensure our transition back to normalcy can include some potentially healthful habits you’ve picked up over the summer! Below is my survival guide for healthy transitions:
Keep The Plate Method in mind
Inevitably we may feel the need to slide back into old habits of eating out for a quick lunch/dinner option or fall victim to frightening potlucks including au gratin instant potatoes, hot dogs and not a green in sight. Keeping The Plate Method in mind – which involves utilizing a smaller 9’’ plate, filling 50% of that plate with non-starchy vegetables, 25% with your carb of choice and 25% with a protein will ensure you aren’t going unnecessarily overboard in food areas that can create setbacks or result to eating a box of mac n’ cheese for dinner. This has become a “shotgun” approach to help the general public reduce calories from fat & refined carbohydrates and focus on nutritive dense foods that provide energy and help with fat/protein metabolism…you know, weight loss and muscle building! It also becomes an intrinsic way to ensure we are getting all macronutrients (protein, carb, fat) at each meal. Utilizing pre-packaged convenience foods from quality, highly reputable stores like Whole Foods & Trader Joes can also make for easy meal options. There are a variety of quality chicken, beef, and fish options that are microwavable along with quick cooking grains like rice, farro & barley that can be relied on for easy meal creation. Add your favorite veggie or side salad and you have yourself a well balanced meal! Check out more about the approach here at www.myplate.gov
Shoot for consistency
If you are like a majority of the people I know – you struggle with time management. Let’s face it, hitting the snooze button in the morning is pretty easy when we weren’t diligent with our bedtime the night before and are sleep deprived. Warning, unsolicited life advice — snoozing is already starting your day off with procrastination — kick that habit fast! So, what typically happens is we load up on caffeine, neglect refueling our body from the long fast we just experienced and sabotage our metabolism from the get-go … setting ourselves up for that afternoon crash. Make breakfast a non-negotiable and set yourself up for success by planning ahead. Frittata loaded with eggs & egg whites, veggies and some potato is something we can make ahead and grab on the run. Smoothies made the night prior with protein powder, smoothie greens (arugula, kale, spinach or beet greens) and chia/flax can be another healthful option on-the-go. Also, don’t forget to utilize those tasty leftovers from last night’s dinner to save some time — purchasing a 3-compartment tupperware/container from Amazon or any local home goods store can help turn intimidating meal-planning and prep into a breeze. Doubling recipes you are already putting the effort into making can save money, time and support the effort you’ve been putting in!
Being prepared when those cravings arrive is crucial. Also, we should already be accounting for mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks — which is helpful surrounding workouts and supporting a high level metabolism and appropriate recovery. Shelf stable items requiring no refrigeration are my go-tos so I can always have them on me. Here are a few things I like to keep handy:
Fresh & dried fruit
Raw baby bell peppers
Rx or Justin’s single serve nut butters
Epic or Country Archer single serve jerky
Adequate water intake is absolutely vital for essential life processes. After only a few days of focusing on improving this – inflammation surrounding joints can decrease, calories are processed more efficiently and digestion improves. On the cellular level – our bodies can do what they were meant to do and we end up feeling more vibrant and energetic. There is simply no easier way to improve your health than to ensure we are taking in enough water. Making this as easy as possible then becomes the challenge – so I always encourage my clients to have access to a water bottle with a straw. Funny how simply removing the process of taking off a lid or flipping up a cap can greatly increase your likelihood of consuming more! Treat yourself with a Yeti that has interchangeable lids or keep it cheap at Marshall’s or HomeGoods. Spice it up with fresh fruit/herbs (orange slices, lemon, limes, mint, watermelon, cucumber) which will leave you wanting more!
Plan for Activity
I thrive and flounder by my google calendar. Sadly, even my wife has control of it so I know where to be at all times. One of the best pieces of advice I have ever received was to schedule at home/free time surrounding business or working hours with a purpose. Just like you have that recurring 3pm meeting or after school practice Monday & Thursday for your child — fitness should become that other non-negotiable. Built into your schedule, it becomes impossible to bypass it for something else so you can continue to make it a high priority. Daily or weekly S.M.A.R.T goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic & Time Oriented) make it much easier to make this happen. Vague intention will get you nowhere. For example – saying “I want to make it to the gym more this week; I’m aiming for 23 times” is much different than committing to “I am going to the gym Monday at 3:30 pm and Wednesday/Friday at 5:30 pm this week”. The specificity and realistic approach to this goal is much more achievable and will result in more consistency, especially when compounded day-to-day and week-to-week.
Andrew Arra is the Dietitian for Friendship Fitness & heads the nutrition team.