Y'all- summer is flying by! Now that we’re about halfway through, it might be a good time to reassess your health goals for the summer months. Have you been staying on track and taking initiative to improve your heart health, as well as your overall physical condition? Maybe you have, maybe you haven’t, or maybe you’re somewhere in the middle like me- where you’ve definitely been doing good things, but ice cream is still your BFF when you get home on these hot July days.
Whether it’s been a bit more of a struggle because you’ve been on the road traveling, or you’re just plain exhausted from the heat and keeping up with all of your summer activities (or planning a wedding after a recent engagement like me, woo-hoo!), I’ve got a few tips to help you check in and shape up your summer!
Cheyenne's recent surprise proposal from Titus!
Turn to natural sweets instead of processed sugars. Yep, this means taking a little break from our old pal, ice cream. But if you go about it in the right way, you probably won’t miss it at all! Because I tend to reach for something cool and creamy as a treat in the summer months, I try to replace ice cream with a fruit/yogurt smoothie, a homemade popsicle, or frozen berries or grapes! These alternatives are both quick and refreshing- and you’ll still satisfy your sweet tooth.
- Tip: If you’re not all about the sweets, but like some extra flavor in your life, try adding blueberries, strawberries, kiwis, cucumbers, or mint to your ice cube tray before you pop it in the freezer. This way, when you chill out, you’ll already have a flavor infusion ready to go for your drink!
- One of my summertime favorites is grilled veggies. You name it- asparagus, corn, zucchini, squash, peppers, tomatoes- they’re all good in my books! Grilling these babies up and serving them on kabobs (either with meat or all veggie!)adds a fun and healthy twist to your dinner, and these veggies give you a great boost of natural vitamins A, C, E, and K.
Make a grocery list. I know; it’s so much easier to just run into the store after work and grab something real quick- but when we do that, we often fall short of our nutrition goals and end up spending more time in the frozen food aisle than we do the fresh produce section. I’ve found that by taking five minutes at the beginning of the week to prepare an idea of what I’d like to eat and what I need to buy from the store to make that happen, I am able to stay aligned with my goals much more successfully. If you buy fruits and veggies, you’ll find yourself reaching for them more and more throughout the week as your nutritional habits improve.
- Tip: You can greatly reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease by consuming foods that aren’t processed, and can be purchased in their natural form. Try adding some of these to your next grocery list: fish (think salmon, herring, trout, or tuna; they’re high in omega-3s!), healthy nuts (try almonds or walnuts- avoid those with a lot of extra seasonings or sugar coatings!), berries (blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries are great sources of fiber!), chia seeds, green veggies (I highly suggest grilling spinach or kale as the base for your next meal, and broccoli is high in potassium and calcium as well!) and seasonal fruits (oranges, watermelon, mangos, pineapples, and cantaloupes are some of my go-to’s!)
- Less alcohol, more water. I think this one pretty much speaks for itself. It’s not bad to indulge once in a while, but don’t get carried away just because it’s summer and you’re on vacation. Sorry- someone had to say it!
- If you need a treat, lean toward dark chocolate. Remember, too much is still too much, but dark chocolate is significantly better for your heart health than milk chocolate. In fact, in moderated amounts (1-2 oz), it can even be good for your heart! The higher the content of cocoa, the greater the amount of protein and the lesser amount of sugar you are consuming in your sweet treat. This one can take a little getting used to for some of us, but hey, chocolate is chocolate, right?
Get moving. You know what they say, (and by they, I mean the AHA), 30 minutes a day! Take advantage of beautiful summer sunsets and go for a walk around the block, or choose to leave for work early tomorrow morning and take the stairs rather than the elevator. If you’re on vacation, take advantage of your hotel’s gym facilities or have fun playing in the pool! Some airports even have yoga and meditation rooms (I’m dying to try one next time I fly!) You can make memories while caring for your heart- and it doesn’t have to be troublesome or an interruption to your relaxation or routine. Small steps are big steps, friends!
- Tip: Take your dog for a walk. Both your pooch and your heart will be much happier and healthier afterward- it’s the little things in life!
Cheyenne and Bentley James
- Pack a snack. If you’re on a road trip this summer, save money and sodium intake by packing something from the grocery list I mentioned above, rather than running into the gas station at every stop. Those mini charcuterie boards that you can find at the grocery store (with crackers, cheeses, meats, and sometimes dark chocolate) are a great healthy option for road trip snacks. I’ve been trying it this summer after a friend suggested it to me, and I really enjoy it!
- Practice gratitude. A healthy mindset will lead to a healthy heart, and that’s a win-win!
My favorite part about most of these tips is they are quick and family friendly! However, I know that we all still live life on the go and indulge in fast food from time to time. As consumers, we have to pay close attention to the nutritional value of menu items even when they are promoted as "healthy". 95% of kids meals offered at fast food chains in the U.S. fail to meet the basic nutritional standards of the U.S. Department of Agriculture! In response, the American Heart Association is launching a campaign called “Serve Kids Better” in order to urge major restaurants such as Burger King, IHOP, and Applebees to raise their standards in serving our nation’s children. The healthier our kiddos eat, and the more regularly they play and exercise, the better they are able to perform in school- and that should be one of our top priorities! You can add your voice in just moments, right here!
If you’re interested in reading more about how we can serve kids better, read my blog from March linked here!
It’s never too late to get back on the right track. I hope this helps you shape up your summer!