Memorial Day is over and summer is officially upon us! And this means sundresses, short shorts, and of course, bikinis.
A long time ago for a brief period, I actually had what’s called a “bikini body”–but then, I also abstained from all bread, gluten, and oil on top of already being vegan, and worked out like a demon. That lifestyle might be right for some, but I found it difficult to sustain–especially since I think of my body as more of a home than a shrine. My philosophy with food these days is pretty laissez-faire: I eat mostly homemade, whole, unprocessed vegan foods, always as much as I want. I also snack when I need to, and enjoy occasional “splurge” meals at restaurants, including fries and vegan cake.
Still, I do change my eating habits when the weather gets warmer, not only because I can’t wear my favorite grandpa sweaters anymore, but also because it feels so natural. Warm weather invites us to eat lighter and fresher, and in smaller amounts, just as much as it naturally compels us to rise a little earlier, get some sun, and be more active. Instead of seeing food as allowed v. restricted, choose what feels intuitively appealing, healthy, and natural. The following food swaps are simple tweaks to make lighter, summer eating easier. And yes, you will look awesome on the beach no matter what, but who doesn’t benefit from a little more confidence? Beer for Lemonade When it’s hot, beer is so crisp and refreshing–until a little while later, you feel sluggish, hot, and hung over. It’s not just about calories, but any carbonated drink will add to the bloated feeling. Make your own healthy lemonade with ice water, squeeze of fresh lemon juice. If you drink lemon water normally, you won’t need any sweetener, but you could also make it a summer treat by adding a teaspoon of natural sweetener like stevia.
Mojito for Cucumber Pear Juice Mojitos–a classic and delightful cocktail, but sugar and alcohol will drag you down. Instead, I like to make my own non-alcoholic cocktail with ice water, pear juice, and cucumber slices. Just mix together in a pitcher, garnish with mint leaves, and enjoy!
Ketchup for Fresh or Roasted Tomatoes I have nothing against ketchup normally. It is high in sugar but do I really care? (No). But during summertime, it’s nice to swap it out for fresh or roasted tomatoes. For your burger, add an extra slice of tomato and sprinkle with pink Himalayan salt and lemon juice to brighten the flavor. Or, roast grape tomatoes alongside your oven-baked fries. They turn all sweet and caramelized in the oven, with no added sugar.
Pasta for Kelp Noodles or Shiratake Noodles This swap is going to make you feel so much lighter! Use kelp or shiratake noodles anywhere you would use pasta. These are all-natural noodles made from kelp or tofu jelly (respectively). Each bag contains about 40-50 calories and are completely free of sugar or gluten.
Whole Wheat Wraps and Tortillas for Nori Sheets or Lettuce Leaves A large whole wheat wrap is around 300 calories–not outrageous, per se, but also not featherlight, either. Make inventive “sushi” by using nori sheets, or be inspired by Asian cuisine to wrap everything in lettuce.
Coffee for Water with ACV Am I actually suggesting this? Yes, and here’s why. Coffee itself might not be such a villain, but it plays a nice supporting role to all sorts of add-ons. Until a few years ago, I was drinking iced coffee almost every day during summer–and lots of artificial sugar along with it. When I quit the coffee habit, my wallet and my body felt happier. For that jolt of energy, try cold water with a splash of raw apple cider vinegar. This is especially a good pick-me-up right before going out for a run in the heat.
Corn Chips for Beet Chips Don’t get me wrong, I think guacamole and corn chips are one of the most delicious summer foods ever. But chips–loaded in salt, fat, and calories–often leave me feeling sluggish. Indulge your guacamole-tooth with Southwestern Beet Chips instead–and make sure to eat as much fresh salsa as guac! Warm Soups for Cold Cucumber Soup Hearty soups like minestrone and lentil are a go-to lunch. During summer, swap these filling options for a detoxifying cold cucumber soup. In a large bowl, add julienned cucumbers (seeded and peeled), 1 clove minced fresh garlic, some wakame (reconstituted and rinsed), ACV or rice wine vinegar, 1-2 stalks scallion chopped, and cold water. Add salt and/or soy sauce to taste. Chill in the fridge for at least a few hours. Garnish with red pepper flakes or toasted sesame seeds.
Dessert for Frozen Berries Instead of dessert, reach for frozen blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, etc. They are naturally sweet and have tons of antioxidants to repair your cells from sun damage!
Also in Summer: Vegan and Natural Sun Protection Essentials
Photo: Jake Britton via Flickr; Peaceful Dumpling; Mary Hood