The heat drives more diners to cool down with cold foods, and summer’s skin-baring fashions increase demand for waistline-friendly dishes and drinks.
Many restaurant salads aren’t the summer slimmers they may seem. Dietitian Jo Lichten, author of “Dining Lean — How to Eat Healthy When You’re Not at Home” (Nutrifit Publishing, 2007, www.drjo.com), says take a good look at what is tossed into entree salads. “If you’re eating salads just to cut calories, stop and do the math. When you pile on the cheese, fried chicken, croutons, taco chips and salad dressing, you’ve probably eaten more calories than a large burger and fries.”
Remember that the principal ingredients in a salad are supposed to be fresh, raw vegetables, which are low in calories and a good source of fiber to keep you feeling full. Pick veggies in lots of different colors to contribute a wide variety of nutrients to your diet. The fluid in fruits and vegetables helps keep you hydrated in the summer heat. Add a total of 3 to 4 ounces of lean proteins such as boiled egg, grilled chicken or steak, steamed shrimp, seared tuna or deli-sliced roast beef, turkey or ham. Accessorize with a few nuts or small amount of grated Parmesan or crumbled goat cheese.
Look for menus that take advantage of summer’s bountiful harvest of low-calorie, nutrient-rich produce, including tomatoes, cucumbers, arugula, spinach, sweet onions, peaches, basil, strawberries and all kinds of other berries. Did you know that the vitamin C in produce is essential for building collagen for healthy skin? But don’t forget the sunscreen.
Don’t be fooled by the fire. Grilled meats and fish are often slathered with butter or oil, so request that your order be brushed lightly with oil. Enjoy steak sauce and barbecue sauce — most brands have fewer than 20 calories per tablespoon. The “fire” in Mexican or Thai foods, from fresh chiles used in recipes, comes from the powerful antioxidant compound called capsaicin. Research shows it actually boosts the metabolic rate a bit, so it may help you burn a few more calories. If it’s so hot it makes you sweat, you’ve found a dish to help cool your body in the summer heat.
Avoid cream-based cold soups, and go for bowls chock-full of vegetables such as gazpacho. Fruit soups, from melon to strawberry, are delicious and nutritious summer menu additions, too.
Cocktail calorie cautions: Pina coladas may be popular poolside, but Lichten cautions that these high-calorie cocktails don’t belong anywhere near a bikini. “Instead of a pina colada, margarita or daiquiri [at 350-400 calories per 8 ounces], choose a light beer or wine spritzer [100 calories per 12 ounces] or wine, sangria, or a rum and diet cola [80 calories per 4 ounces].” For less than 100 calories per 8 ounces, choose a summer cocktail of vodka and soda with a spritz of fruit juice. Increasingly more available are the new “skinny” mixers for margaritas made with noncaloric sweeteners such as Splenda or stevia. Margarita mixes, often super-sugary slurries that make for a soft drink-type beverage, are on the outs. In favor, por favor, are bar mixes made with fresh-squeezed lime juice and a hint of artificial sweetener to add a little sweet to the sour.