12 Ways to Beat Summer Weight Gain
Why you get fat in the summer
We typically blame the winter holidays and rich comfort foods for winter weight gain. But summer foods can do just as much damage. Refreshing beverages and cold salads often contain surprisingly high amounts of fat and calories. "To stay in shape or even lose weight during the warm season, you need to follow two simple guidelines," says Brian Quebbemann, MD, a bariatric surgeon in Newport Beach, Calif. "First, there’s always a healthy option for the type of food you want. Second, it's not only what you choose to eat but how you prepare it that makes the big difference." To keep you on track to fit into that new bathing suit, experts chime in on the biggest caloric danger zones.
RELATED: How to Get a Flat Stomach at Any Age
Go easy on the sweet tea and lemonade
When you're thirsty, and water doesn't sound appealing, a cold glass of lemonade or sweetened ice tea seems like the perfect solution. But these drinks can be major sugar bombs, says Dr. Quebbemann. "Commercially sweetened iced tea has 80 calories per glass, lemonade has 99 calories, and most commercial fruit juices are about 80 calories per 8 ounces, which is roughly the same amount of calories as a regular cola." When you want to drink something sweet, dilute 100% fruit juice with equal parts water, suggests Dr. Quebbemann.
RELATED: 35 Summer Foods Under 90 Calories
Keep the fresh in fruit salad
Surprise! Fruit may seem like a good choice—and it is— but not your salad is filled with canned fruit soaked in syrup, loaded with whipped cream, and garnished with mini marshmallows, as it often is at summer picnics, says Dr. Quebbeman. "This is an incredibly heavy, high-calorie treat, and it's about as devastating to your weight control, and your health, as you can get." Cut calories by using fresh fruit rather than canned, light whipped cream or substitute plain yogurt, which provides added protein. Replace the marshmallows with banana or melon slices to add more sweetness.
Beware of barbecue burgers
A beef burger topped with cheese contains saturated fat along with high levels of calories and sodium, says Saba Sassouni, RD, a New York City-based dietitian. "Hold the cheese, top the burger with a fresh tomato slice, and have a piece of corn on the cob instead of a processed bun for starch," Sassouni suggests. And since most barbecue sauces are packed with sugar and run up to 50 calories a tablespoon, Dr. Quebbemann recommends making your own (we love this blueberry balsamic barbecue sauce recipe. Better yet? Nix the sauce altogether for a spice mix rub to add flavor without any additional calories.
Try this recipe: Blueberry-Balsamic Barbecue Sauce
RELATED: The Summer Shape-Up Meal Plan
Remember that calories count at carnivals
Hot dogs and funnel cakes can also make fairs and festivals a high-calorie bust. "Hot dogs are high in saturated fat, calories, preservatives, and loaded with sodium," says Sassouni. "If you desire a savory meal, go for the chicken or turkey gyro or chicken kebab options." Skip the beef and lamb versions and swap out the white sauce for hot sauce or eat it plain. Chick on a stick is also a healthier option. To settle a sweet tooth, ditch fried, sugar-topped funnel cakes and snack on kettle corn samples, instead, says Sassouni. (Just one sample, though.)
RELATED: 12 Swimsuit Season Diet Secrets
Limit fruity alcoholic adult beverages
Beware the umbrella drinks. "On average, a piña colada or Long Island iced tea can clock in at 600 to 800 calories," says Amy Goodson, RD, sports nutritionist for the Dallas Cowboys. "Plus, when you drink alcohol you typically care less about what you're eating. So add two, 600-calorie drinks to your happy hour chips and guacamole and you're close to 2,000 calories while the night is still young!" For lower-calorie alternatives, Goodson recommends mixing clear liquor with a calorie-free beverage.
RELATED: 6 Warm-Weather Low-Calorie Cocktails
Watch for beach food truck traps
When a food truck is your only lunch option when lying on the beach, you'll need to choose wisely to avoid the most fattening items. "Stay away from the pre-cooked, reheated, frozen, processed, and dried out fried foods that they offer. This includes pizza, nachos, cheese fries, and chicken fingers," says Sassouni. Many trucks have grills, so ask if they can make grilled chicken, and add a salad with vinaigrette. "Choosing these options could save you over 200 calories and over 20 grams of saturated fat."
RELATED: 9 Mouthwatering Barbecue Recipes
Keep happy hour bar food healthy
Skip the fries, burgers, nachos, and wings and other "finger foods" at the bar. "Most bars now have salads that you can add lean protein to such as grilled chicken, shrimp, and fish," says Sassouni. "Or go with a grilled chicken sandwich without mayonnaise. Ask for pickles or a side salad on the side instead of fries." Portobello mushroom or fish burgers, seared tuna salads and even sushi can often be found on bar menus. "You won"t avoid sodium but choosing these options will cut overall calories and fat," Sassouni adds.
Don't be fooled by frozen yogurt
Frozen yogurt has many people fooled into thinking it's a healthy food, says Dr. Quebbmann. "You may think that somehow yogurt is yogurt, but you'd be wrong," he explains. "Frozen yogurt typically has tons of added sugar and can even have more calories than ice cream." While frozen yogurt contains some protein, it's often over 400 calories per cup and can contain as much as 26 grams of fat. "Furthermore, the probiotic benefit from natural yogurt with active cultures is essentially missing," Dr. Quebbmann says. If you indulge, have just a small scoop—same as you would with ice cream.
RELATED: 8 Frozen Treats Under 80 Calories
Go easy on the toppings
Ending the day with a dish of ice cream can put your daily calorie intake far over the top, especially if you choose a variety with added mix-ins. A small size of Cold Stone Creamery's Mud Pie Mojo, for example, contains coffee ice cream with bits of Oreo cookie, peanut butter, roasted almonds and fudge, and adds up to more than 600 calories and 45 grams of fat. Swap it for Cold Stone’s Raspberry sorbet at 150 calories for the small version. "Get a cone, the lowest calorie option," says Dr. Quebbmann. "Moderation is key."
Mind your chips and dip
It's easy to lose track of how many chips you've eaten, and the fat and calories add up quickly—especially when you dunk them into creamy dip, says Michele Dudash, RD, author of Clean Eating for Busy Families. "An ounce of potato chips contains 150 calories, and it's easy to mindlessly eat two to three times this amount." Add a dip such as a creamy French onion at 60 calories per two tablespoons, and you're also adding a few grams of saturated fat with really no beneficial nutrients, says Dudash. Stick with crudité and hummus or a yogurt-based dip instead.
Portion pulled pork and ribs
These popular barbecue meats wreck your bathing suit body with saturated fat from the ribs and additional sugar from the sauce. "One country-style rib with 3 ounces of meat (a large one) racks up 235 calories and 5 grams of saturated fat," says Dudash. Barbecue sauce on 3/4 cup of pulled pork adds up to 315 calories and 28 grams of sugar. "Add a bun and this sandwich alone totals around 500 calories," Dudash notes. A skinless chicken breast, on the other hand, offers up 27 grams of protein at only 142 calories and three fat grams. Add a small amount of barbecue sauce and you still come out ahead.
RELATED: How to Grill Ribs
Keep summer salads light
Salads can be a great, low-calorie food choice—or a major calorie bomb. Cold, creamy pasta salads may be one of the worst calorie offenders. Sbarro's pasta primavera salad, for example, clocks in at 666 calories per serving and 17 grams of fat. "Plus, they're typically made with refined (white) flour pasta, which lacks fiber," says Dudash. Green salads can also ruin your bathing suit body if you overdo the toppings and dressing. "Many people load up on salad greens and then pile on the dressing," says Dr. Quebbmann. Four tablespoons of dressing can have nearly 400 calories, mostly fat. Buy low-fat dressing or, if you make your own, substitute Greek yogurt for the mayo, he suggests.
To get our top stories delivered to your inbox, sign up for the Healthy Living newsletter