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5 Tips for Healthy Eating on Summer Vacation

A summer getaway is time to relax, re-energize, see new sites and try new things—including food. But if you’re trying to control your weight, your holiday plans might make you anxious.

It can be easy to put your diet on vacation too, especially if you’re unable to plan your own meals. After all, what difference will a couple of weeks of overindulging make on the bathroom scale, right? For some people, a lot.

But you don’t need to you deprive yourself during your summer holiday.

Whether you’re planning a road trip, sightseeing in Europe, or spending time at the lake, the following five strategies will help you eat healthfully on vacation—without passing up special foods and summer treats.

Stick to a schedule. On vacation, it’s easy to lose your usual routine by sleeping in, snacking more often and eating meals at irregular intervals. But if you stick to a regular eating schedule, you won’t become overly hungry and you’ll be less tempted to eat high-calorie snacks between meals.

Eat every three hours—three meals plus one or two snacks—to keep your energy level stable and hunger at bay.

Be prepared. If traveling by plane, train or car, be prepared with healthy foods so you won’t have to buy whatever is available. Pack portable snacks such as fruit (fresh or dried), whole food energy bars, and homemade trail mix.

On a road trip, pack a cooler with raw vegetables and hummus, yogurt, healthy sandwiches and plenty of water to stay hydrated. If possible, visit a local grocery store to restock your cooler with daily snacks and lunches.

enjoying restaurant meal
Photo by Adobe Stock/abelena.

Order wisely. When at home you know exactly what you’re eating, but in restaurants you usually don’t have a clue. Not surprisingly, research suggests that the more often we eat out, the higher our daily intake of calories, fat and sodium.

Consuming extra calories on one given day won’t make you gain weight, but doing so for two weeks straight won’t do your waistline any favours.

If you will be eating most of your meals in restaurants, order simply prepared foods, such as baked, broiled or grilled meat, chicken and seafood with vegetables. Ask for sauces and condiments to be served on the side. Share an entrée or order two appetizers.

Limit liquid calories. Sipping on a cooler or marguerita won’t break your diet, but if you drink a few each day you’ll do more than weaken your resolve to eat healthfully. Consider that one vodka cooler can add as many as 350 calories and 8 teaspoons worth of sugar to your diet.

Summer cocktails that are easier on the waistline include light coolers (80 to 110 calories), light beer (95 calories), wine spritzers (50 to 75 calories) and cocktails made with calorie-free mix (70 calories). Non-alcoholic options include unsweetened iced tea and soda water with a splash of fruit juice.

Indulge, don’t overindulge. When it comes to splurging on treats, moderation is the key. Every city has unique foods and treats you shouldn’t pass up. Preventing holiday weight gain is about how much you eat, not what.

Your best strategy: Allow yourself one treat per day. If it’s only a taste you want, enjoy a small portion. There’s no rule that you have to finish it all.

Plant-Based Diets 101

You may have heard a friend or family member say they’ve experienced an improved sense of overall well-being since opting for a plant-based diet. As they tout benefits like increased energy, clearer minds and better sleep, you’ve probably wondered: is there any truth behind these claims?

In contrast to years past, medical professionals are beginning to recommend reducing the amount of meat and upping fruits and vegetables in your diet to promote better health. According to US News, these diets can help prevent chronic disease, lower blood pressure and decreased risk of heart disease. In addition to these long-term health benefits, you can reap immediate rewards in the form of clearer, healthier skin and weight loss, if needed.

Now that plant-based diets are growing in popularity and have been doctor-approved, where do you begin? We’ve outlined a few of the most common plant-based diets and tried to debunk some negative assumptions.

fresh fruits and vegetables in store
Photo by Adobe Stock/Mat Hayward.

4 Popular Plant-Based Diets

Vegetarianism

Following a vegetarian diet means eating no meat, including red meat, poultry or fish and seafood, and avoiding food products that contain by-products from these sources, such as lard. While that may sound very much like a vegan diet, they are a bit different.

Within itself, vegetarianism has two forms—lacto-ovo and lacto. Lacto-ovo vegetarians don’t eat meat, yet continue to include dairy products and eggs, which are commonly considered by-products. Lacto vegetarians go even further by excluding eggs, but still incorporating dairy into their diets.

Try these vegetarian recipes:
“Pulled Pork” Sandwich
Roasted Chickpea Tacos
3 Vegetarian Breakfast Recipes

Veganism

Vegans exclude all animal products and by-products from their diet, as well as all other areas of life. Although strict vegetarianism—the description above—does sound like veganism, someone following this diet doesn’t necessarily avoid non-food products that may contain animal by-products, such as clothing and personal care products. Veganism, while a dietary choice, tends to be much more of a lifestyle than vegetarianism.

Try these vegan recipes:
Plant-Based Pudding Parfait
Vegan Ratatouille
Thai Spring Rolls

Other –tarian Diets

In recent years, pesco-vegetarianism and semi-vegetarianism have become quite popular. Rebranding with much easier and useful names, we now know these dieters as pescatarians and flexitarians, respectively. Neither diet is fully plant-based, however, both limit the amount, and possibly the types, of meat eaten.

Learn more about these diets in Discover Your Nutritional Style and Save Money on Meat.

variety of legumes and beans
Photo by Adobe Stock/haveseen.

Common Misconceptions

Plant-based diets are too expensive. Many people think that choosing a plant-based diet will result in higher grocery bills or be impossible on a budget, but these diets actually tend to be cheaper. More and more stores offer non-meat products, such as tofu, and these specialty items can come with a “higher” price point. However, the cost of a block of tofu isn’t more than you’re likely pay for lunch meat.

It’s nutrient deficient. While this is certainly possible, most people adhering to a plant-based diet get all the vitamins, minerals and essential nutrients they need without ever having a deficiency.  With the exception of B12, which will need to be supplemented, choosing a whole-food, plant-based diet is perfectly safe and healthy.

Whether you want to avoid factory farms, prevent the risk of chronic disease or simply clean up your eating habits, plant-based diets are good for you and the environment.

Summer’s Bounty: 4 Fresh Fruits to Eat Now

Forget the bananas and oranges. Pass on the imported berries, too. At least for the next two months.

Now is the time of year we’re able to enjoy in-season, locally-grown fruit picked at its peak of ripeness, providing maximum flavour and nutrition.

If your diet lacks fruit, here are a few incentives to up your game. Eating more fruit has been tied to a lower risk of heart attack, stroke and type 2 diabetes. Berries, especially blueberries and strawberries, may also help guard against Alzheimer’s disease.

Most of us could stand to eat more fruit. As a dietitian who evaluates people’s diets, I often find that fruit is a forgotten component in busy people’s diets.

Here are four in-season, nutrition powerhouses to include in your summer diet. But don’t wait. They won’t be around for long.

fresh summer fruit
Photo by Adobe Stock/pilipphoto.

Blackberries. Their dark colour signals their exceptionally high concentration of anthocyanins, powerful antioxidants associated with heart health and improved cognitive function. They’re also a decent source of fibre (8 g per cup), bone-strengthening vitamin K, vitamin C and folate.

How to enjoy: Add fresh blackberries yogurt parfaits, toss them into leafy green salads or mix them (mashed or pureed) into a vinaigrette salad dressing.

Cantaloupe. This is one fruit you’ll want to include in your post workout snack. Thanks to its hefty water content—90 percent—cantaloupe helps hydrate the body.

It also delivers plenty of potassium, a mineral that gets sweated away during exercise. One cup of cantaloupe chunks provides 427 mg of potassium, equivalent to what’s found in a medium banana.

How to enjoy: Top fish and shrimp tacos with a salsa made with diced cantaloupe, minced onion and cilantro. Fill the cavity of half a cantaloupe with Greek yogurt for breakfast or a snack. Add balls of cantaloupe to a pitcher of water to infuse flavour.

Cherries. Dark sweet cherries are a good source of disease-fighting anthocyanins, providing roughly one-third of the amount found in blackberries. One cup of cherries with pits (about 17) also supplies 3 g of satiating fibre along with potassium, vitamin C and lutein, a phytochemical that protects our eyes from free radical damage.

How to enjoy: Eat them fresh out of your hand for dessert or a snack (the best!). Pit them (a cherry pitter works best) to add to fruit crumbles and berry pies. Freeze pitted cherries to blend later into smoothies or mix into muffin batter.

Watermelon. Made up of 91 percent water, watermelon helps quench your thirst on a hot summer day. Preliminary research, published in 2013, also suggests that watermelon can reduce post-exercise muscle soreness thanks to L-citrulline, an amino acid that’s used to relax blood vessels.

This quintessential summer fruit is also packed with lycopene, a phytochemical that’s studied for its potential role to protect against heart disease and certain cancers.

How to enjoy: Add diced watermelon to a spinach salad topped with crumbled feta cheese and drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette. For a post workout drink, blend 2 to 3 cups of watermelon chunks until smooth (strain if desired).

The Science Behind Health-Food Trends: Bone Broth

Just in case it wasn’t clear, bone broth isn’t anything new: Chefs and cooks across the globe have been using otherwise wasted bits of vegetables, livestock and wild game to create nutritious broths for centuries. Yet, more modern claims about bone broth’s cure-all abilities, such as its anti-aging properties, seem far-fetched to scientists.

Although bone broth does contain gelatin and collagen, both of which are found in beauty supplements, there is currently little evidence to support the idea that bone broth will improve skin, hair and nail health. Paired with the numerous recipes for making bone broth, different types of bones used and various cooking methods, it’s hard to say with any certainty that all bone broths are created equal.

jars of homemade bone broth
Photo by Adobe Stock/casanisa.

As delicious and simple as these broths are to make, it appears that their healing properties may be limited. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t worthy of being added to a well-balanced, wholesome diet. So, what can bone broth do for your health?

Support Healthy Immune Function

Bone broth—especially one made with chicken bones—may boost the immune system. A study published in Chest, found that participants with upper respiratory infections saw a reduction in inflammation after eating chicken soup.  Your grandma wasn’t feeding you an old-wives tale, after all.

Post-Workout Rehydration & Healing

The LA Lakers include bone broth as part of the team’s dietary plan. Why? The broth alone, or soups made using it, can rehydrate the body and replace sodium lost through exercise. The amino acids present in bone broth also aid in rebuilding muscle, which may improve the recovery time needed in-between workouts.

While bone broth certainly isn’t unhealthful, relying on it—or any health-food trend—to treat a litany of ailments is likely to leave you still looking for answers. The best way to enjoy the benefits of these foods is by creating a nutritious, well-balanced that includes them and to educate yourself on what they can truly help combat.

If you’d like to add bone broth to your diet, try this easy-to-make recipe as a base for soups or a cooking liquid for grains and beans.

Pinterest Inspiration: 4 St. Patrick’s Day Treats

Legend has it that wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day makes you invisible and allows you to bypass the leprechaun’s pinches. Green is also in Ireland’s tri-color flag and has been used in the flags of Irish revolutionaries throughout history; Ireland’s lush landscape is green; and many believe that St. Patrick utilized the (green) shamrock as a symbol of the holy trinity. All of these facts play a role in why green is the color of choice on this festive holiday.

In the US, the Chicago River is dyed green, as are many foods — from beer to eggs. Although the history behind green food isn’t as fun as we’ve made it, keep things light and continue the tradition with these simple St. Patrick’s Day treat recipes.

DIY shamrock shake

Homemade Shamrock Shake

Skip the trip to McDonald’s and save a little money. Make your own St. Patrick’s Day shake with this recipe. Sure, buying the beloved Shamrock Shake is easy, but making them at home guarantees quality ingredients. Plus, fresh mint is sure to add even more flavor than any syrup ever could. Via Wholefully.

lime bars

Lime Bars

If you’re a fan of lemon bars, lime bars will not disappoint. Their light green color makes them a great choice for St. Patrick’s Day, but they’re an equally yummy dessert throughout the year for citrus lovers. Via Yummy Healthy Easy.

mint chocolate chip baked doughnuts

Mint Chocolate Chip Doughnuts

Mint and chocolate pairs together so well! Topped with a chocolate glaze and sprinkled with chocolate chips, these baked doughnuts are less guilt-laden than deep fried versions. Fried doughnuts and other fried foods are usually made with partially hydrogenated oils which contain high levels of trans fats.  Via Sugar, Spice and Family Life.

green rice krispie treats

Lucky Charms Rice Krispie Treats

Rice Krispie treats are easy-to-make and always taste good. This twist on the original recipe adds a little whimsy and St. Patrick’s Day charm to the classic dessert bar. Via Classy Clutter.

3 Delicious Fermented Foods You Can Make at Home

Loaded with essential nutrients and probiotics, fermented foods are an effective way to boost healthy gut bacteria, immune function and much more. Fermentation has been around for centuries, and it remains one of the best ways to keep fresh, crisp vegetables in our diet during the winter months. Although spring is right around the corner, these easy-to-make ferments can be made all year long to help reduce food waste and, hopefully, your household budget (bye-bye expensive supplements!).

jars of fermented foods
Photo by Fotolia/Melica.

Kombucha

The exact origin of this fermented tea beverage is unknown, but it makes a great substitution for sugary sodas and juices. Although this ferment is made with sugar, the final product contains a minimal amount since the sugar becomes food for the live culture (SCOBY). At this time, little research has been conducted to prove the health benefits of kombucha, but many believe it has immune-boosting properties.

Try Our Recipe: Basic Kombucha

Sauerkraut

Research has shown that, when fermented, cabbage contains strains of antifungal compounds that fight vaginal and intestinal infections of Candida fungi. Other studies suggest that the probiotics found in sauerkraut may increase the effects of antioxidants, protect against breast cancer, and combat Salmonella and Shigellaharmful bacteria that can cause food poisoning, diarrhea and stomach cramps.

Try Our Recipe: Simple Sauerkraut

Pickled Veggies

Lactic-acid fermentation is the simplest way to preserve your excess garden harvest or farmers market produce. When fermented, vegetables retain their essential vitamins, minerals and enzymes. After the fermentation process, these nutrients are actually enhanced, leaving you with the tasty, super-nutritious result.

Try Our Recipe: Fermented Veggie Condiments

Local, seasonal foods are always your best option, so why not preserve them now and savor them when fall and winter roll back around! Making your own fermented foods will guarantee their quality and allow you and your family to have access to fresh, nutritious vegetables throughout the year. If you really get into it, you’re likely to discover even more benefits of food preservation!

Gluten-free Zucchini Feta Pie Recipe

Indulge in a gluten free version of a traditional Greek zucchini feta cheese pie, promised to satisfy the most refined taste buds! This crustless pie will change your mind about gluten free baking. The aromas of herbs, freshness of zucchinis and briny flavor of feta cheese,all blend beautifully together and make you savor each bite! Taste of Greek summer in your plate.

Gluten-Free Zucchini Feta Pie

Makes 8 servings. Total cooking time: 40-50 minutes

Ingredients

• Half a pound zucchini

• 2 medium yellow onions,finely chopped

• 2 spring onions,finely chopped

• 1/3 cup fresh parsley,finely chopped

• 1/3 cup fresh dill, finely chopped

• 1 tablespoon fresh thyme

• 1 cup feta cheese,crumbled

• 3 eggs,room temperature

• 1 cup gluten free bread crumbs

• 1 cup greek yogurt

• 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

• 1/2 teaspoon salt

• 1/3 teaspoon pepper

• 2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions:

1. Preheat oven at 350 F. Prepare a 9 x 9 inch baking pan by lining with parchment paper leaving excess hanging over two sides of the pan.

2. Grate zucchini and place a handful of the grated zucchini in the center of a kitchen cloth,close it and tighten it up to get rid of the juices.

3. In a heavy pot,under medium heat, add olive oil and saute yellow onions for 3-4 minutes until softened and become translucent.

4. Add in fresh spring onions and shredded zucchinis. Saute until zucchinis shrink, for approximately 3-4 minutes.

5. Add herbs,salt pepper and nutmeg,stir well and remove from heat.

6. In a medium bowl, beat eggs,add feta cheese,yogurt and bread crumbs until mixture is thoroughly incorporated. If mixture is very thick,add 1 or 2 tablespoons of milk.

7. Pour yogurt-egg batter into zucchini mixture and mix vigorously until well blended.

8. Sprinkle some breadcrumbs on the bottom of the pan.

9. Pour batter into the baking pan and sprinkle some more bread crumbs on the top.

10. Bake for 35-40 minutes. Let it cooled down for 10 minutes before slice it. Enjoy it warm or at room temperature.

Tips:

• You can sprinkle some shredded parmesan cheese on top before baking.
• Top it with some sour cream or yogurt and diced tomatoes.


Rita Anastasiou is a Las Vegas-based food blogger who writes the blog My gf home bakery. A celiac patient for more than 11 years and the mom of a 4-year-old peanut-allergic daughter, Rita is a Greek cook by trade. Her mission is to prove to the world that special diets need not be boring or restrictive.