Dietitian’s Dish – Healthy Summer Nutrition Swaps to Keep your Goals on Track

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lisa shettle

by Lisa Shettle, MS, RDN, CD-N

With summer comes ice cream in the warm evenings, hot dogs at barbecues and popsicles and cocktails by the pool. With all that fun, it can be easy to lose track of any nutrition goals you might have set for yourself. To help balance summer fun while maintaining healthy habits here are some healthy summer nutrition swaps:

Add Fresh Produce to Your Meal Plan

Summer is a great time to check out some local farmers markets and get fresh produce for new recipes. Visit a nearby farmers market for some in season produce or an orchard for a family friendly berry picking activity. Here is a link to Connecticut’s farmers markets.

Here are 2 easy recipes to try: 

Mediterranean Summer Tomatoes

Slice fresh tomatoes and arrange them in a serving dish. Sprinkle coarsely chopped shallots on top. Whisk ¼ cup olive oil and ¼ cup balsamic vinegar and then pour over the tomatoes. This can be a topping on a salad or your favorite grain.

Watermelon Cucumber Salad

  • Soak half of a thinly sliced red onion in cold water. 
  • Pat dry four cups of diced watermelon and one seeded and sliced cucumber and toss with a handful of thinly sliced mint. 
  • Drain the onion, squeeze dry and add to the salad along with some chopped cashews. 
  • Add ¼ cup olive oil and the juice of ½ lemon. 
  • Season with salt and toss. Top with crumbled goat cheese or feta cheese.

Ditch the ‘Beach Ready’ Diet Plans

Instead of depriving yourself, focus on having balanced meals and a balanced lifestyle. Aim to get at least 1-2 servings of a fruit and/or vegetable with every meal and add a variety of protein sources daily.

Pace Yourself at a Barbecue

Many people show up to a barbecue starving. Instead of skipping meals in advance, eat balanced meals throughout the day and come prepared with a dish to share that fits into your goals.

At any event, do an initial overview of what’s available and take a minute to decide what you want.  Pace yourself throughout the event and listen to your body cues. Sometimes it can be as simple as standing away from the food table to avoid overeating.

Stay Hydrated

It’s important to keep hydrated, especially during the heat of the summer. Calories from beverages can add up quickly so your best option is typically plain water or seltzer.  You can add slices of fruit for a bit more flavor. Keep a reusable bottle with you to stay hydrated throughout the day. 

Plan Ahead

Summer can be a busy time of year for most and it’s easy to rely on fast food restaurants for convenience. Before heading out, pack some healthier snacks in a cooler to avoid the drive through.  Some ideas include:

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables, washed, peeled, cut and ready to eat with prepacked individual servings of dips like guacamole, ranch or hummus
  • Yogurt cups or drinkable yogurt smoothies (check the label for added sugars)
  • Trail mix, seeds, nuts or nut butter packets
  • Low sodium jerky
  • Low-fat cheese sticks
  • Roasted chickpeas
  • Tuna or chicken salad
  • Sandwiches or wraps (to avoid soggy bread keep it simple with meat and cheese or pack toppings and individual condiments on the side and make when ready to eat)

To help you stay on track toward your goals, don’t forget these summer nutrition swaps—try some new recipes, be mindful of portion sizes, drink water, plan ahead while enjoying summer treats and making memories.


A registered dietitian nutritionist provides medical nutrition therapy and is your best source of reliable and evidence-based nutrition information. An RDN can also help you determine measurable and achievable goals within your individualized plan for your best health outcomes.  

BONUS: Services are covered by most health insurance plans!

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