Summer Foods for Weight Loss: Getting the Full Spectrum of Color, Variety and Fun!

By  June 15, 2011

Losing weight means losing more than just pounds. For some people, it also means losing the ability to eat your favorite foods. That’s why when it comes to food choices, people often want to hear what they can have rather than what they cannot have. Additions are easier to swallow than deletions! As a result, I like to offer people what I like to call “food continuums,” meaning that one choice can be substituted with a whole variety of different options, depending on how far they want to go. One of the ways to gauge the choices along this spectrum is by color. Americans eat what I like to call the “brown, yellow, and white foods diet.” If we can shift out of the land of lackluster and head into the hues, we’ll be in for a bright, colorful summer ahead!

Let’s take a look at two “brown” foods that people really like to indulge in during the sultry, summer months and recommend some delicious and healthful alternatives:

Colas
It is common for people to quench their thirst with a soft drink on a warm summer day. However, as I talk about in my upcoming book, An A-to-Z Guide to Food Additives, soft drinks don’t give you anything nutritionally. Not one little thing. In fact, they aren’t even neutral—they are simply a combination of additives that can be collectively coined as “anti-nutritional,” (i.e. substances that robs the body of vital nutrients). Though you may get that initial quick bubbly buzz of a carbonated drink, over a short time your energy actually deflates. Studies have shown that increasing consumption of soft drinks results in increased weight gain over time, in addition to higher risk for developing type 2 Diabetes. Here are some options to add in rather than having colas that “take out”:

•    100% Fruit or Vegetable Juices: Choose natural juices without added sugar. Some juices, like those from apple and grapefruit, have a minimal impact on your blood sugar (i.e. low on the glycemic index), so they will keep your hunger levels stable throughout the day and make you less prone to cravings. Try different “colors” of juices so that you get a complete array of healthy plant compounds. Blueberry juice will give you the blue-red compounds to guard the brain and help keep you sharp, while tomato juice provides you with lycopene, a compound that protects the heart and prostate. Even better is to have fun and create your own combination of different juices with a juicer or blender. One of my favorites is green apples, ginger, and lemon—a tart, satisfying combination for a sizzling summer afternoon!

•    Green Tea With Lemon: Green tea contains a number of interesting actives which have health-promoting effects. One of its compounds, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), appears to be an important constituent to help people lose weight by burning fat more efficiently. I recommend keeping a pitcher of homemade green tea in your refrigerator or at room temperature, available at all times so you can conveniently drink it all day. Add some lemon slices to for more flavor and even a little stevia, an herbal sweetener that has no effect on your blood sugar, to sweeten it slightly. Just think—you will be helping your metabolism with every sip!

•    Water, With a Twist: One of the drinks we can’t seem to get enough of in the summer is water. We are typically sweating it out, often not remembering to replenish our stores. Water is the ultimate hydration and there’s nothing like a cool glass of water on a hot summer day. If the idea of plain water strikes you as boring, try adding slices of cucumber, strawberry, and oranges to infuse your water with a fresh, fruity flavor that will instantly transport you to the tropics!

Hamburgers
Another example of a brown summer food—hamburgers. Of course, many people’s fond memories of summer may include the smell of hamburgers on the grill. However, the downside of hamburgers is that they are loaded with fat. A small hamburger the size of the palm of your hand (about 3 oz.) contains close to 30% of your allowed fat intake (based on a 2000 cal diet), and a good chunk of that fat is saturated (about 40 percent). Add to the mix that you are also getting close to 25 percent of your allowed cholesterol intake with this one patty alone, and maybe hamburgers aren’t sounding that good anymore. Luckily, there are ways to make them healthy and plenty of other choices on the continuum:

•    Beef Up Your Burger: If you are going to make it a hamburger cookout, then go all out and get the finest quality of meat; organic lean beef may be your best bet. Researchers at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center found that overweight men had lower LDL-cholesterol when fed an organic beef meal compared to a fast-food beef meal (Bray et al., Ann Nutr Metab, 2007). Once you have your organic beef, include flaxseeds, onions, and diced garlic into the patty to make it even more heart healthy and satiating. Finally, dress up your fabulous creation with lots of dark, leafy lettuce and tomato—you won’t even miss the bun!

•    Go With the Flow: Instead of the boring brown of burgers, swim with the silver and orange of salmon. Salmon on the grill can be quite satisfying, especially when you top it with some mango and red pepper salsa! Transitioning on the eating continuum from beef to fish opens you up to receiving a sea of healthy protein and generous quantities of heart-healthy, anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats. One 3-oz. serving of cooked sockeye salmon serves up about 1 gram of EPA and DHA, the fish oils that everyone (including the American Heart Association) is talking about. Getting more of these cooling, flowing fats is also be important for quelling the low-grade inflammation that often accompanies excess weight.

•    Veg Out: Many people are turning to a vegetarian diet because of the many health benefits, including weight loss, and also to reduce the burden on the planet. There are several options to stir your creative juices and make your mouth water when it comes to veggie burgers such as those made from black beans, soy, and/or lentils. You can even try grilling a portabella mushroom as an alternative! Remember that most of these veggie patties are high in fiber (typically about 5 grams), and fiber is the wonder ingredient for weight loss as it helps fill you up and keep your blood sugar stable.

~Deanna Minich, PhD, CN

Deanna Minich, PhD, CN, is a nutritionist who sees more to food than calories and macronutrients. She helps guide others in using foods and eating as tools for personal growth and nourishment for the soul. She has written three books on nutrition, on topics ranging from food additives to dietary supplements and even to the connection of food to spirituality. Her latest book, Chakra Foods for Optimum Health: A Guide to the Foods that can Improve Your Energy, Inspire Creative Changes, Open Your Heart, and Heal Body, Mind, and Spirit, invites you to open your heart, unravel your intuition, and take a journey to inner and outer bliss with every bite you take!

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