Somehow, summer and good eating just go together. It’s a time of cookouts, pool parties, camping trips, and memorable vacations full of tasty snacks and refreshing desserts. Unfortunately, many of the delicious foods we enjoy at this time of year are delicious but aren’t great for our health. Summer may be a time of fun and relaxation, but it doesn’t have to be a season when we abandon good eating habits.

Maintaining good dietary habits is important for everyone — children and adults alike — but healthy eating is particularly important for seniors. If necessary, enlist the help of a professional nutritionist to assist your senior loved one develop a plan that suits his or her needs. Thankfully, this type of coverage is often provided by Medicare Advantage plans, so check their policy for more information. There are always many online guides to help you out.

This summer, make a point of preparing meals that emphasize healthy, nutritious foods. That way, you’ll be fit as you transition into the fall and return to busy work and school schedules.

Heart-healthy barbecues

What would summer be without a big backyard barbecue with the whole family, friends, and a good chunk of the neighborhood? Yet many of the foods we associate with a barbecue are high in fat and salt and sugar content. It’s hard on your heart, blood pressure, cholesterol, and weight. Limit the condiments to mustard, relish, or ketchup, which are lower in calories than mayonnaise. Instead of potato salad, chips or cornbread, opt for healthier side dishes such as broccoli, hummus with carrots and celery, or a savory fruit salad. Stay away from salads slathered in mayonnaise and go with a green salad dressed in olive oil, vinegar and a touch of sesame oil. For dessert, get creative with sorbet instead of ice cream, pies or brownies.

Stay hydrated

Drink plenty of water this summer, especially if you plan on being active outdoors. Water’s great for your organs, facilitates weight loss, flushes out your system, and helps keep your appetite under control. Instead of sugary fruit drinks or caffeinated energy drinks keep the fridge stocked with bottles of water. There’s nothing quite like a cold bottle of water after tennis or a long run in the park, but if you’re not into spending money on bottled water, install a filtration system in the kitchen to ensure you’re getting the most out of drinking water. Mom and dad can model healthy behavior by reaching for water instead of an unhealthy alternative.

Summer produce

Summer’s the season of fresh produce and tasty fruit and vegetables at roadside stands, farms, and orchards. Take full advantage and stock up on the good stuff while it’s at its freshest. A fresh summer salad is always a tasty and healthy option, and there’s no lack of vegetable and/or fruit combinations you can try. Make a point of including a salad of some kind every day.

If you’re not into traditional lettuce salads, why not whip up a tomato, cucumber and onion mix or a spinach salad topped with chicken or a blueberry/strawberry combination? Avoid heavy, creamy dressings and go with an oil-based version instead, bearing in mind that olive oil has multiple health benefits and makes a great-tasting salad dressing.

Healthy snacking

Unhealthy snacking is one of the surest ways to undo a healthy diet and the effects of regular exercise. Combine creamy guacamole with yogurt or sauerkraut, which is rich in vitamins, for a healthy alternative to potato chips. And don’t dismiss the value of drinking water to keep from feeling hungry between meals. 

Eating healthy is a matter of establishing good habits and emphasizing healthful foods. Try substituting vegetables and fruit for sweet and sugary junk food snacks and hit your local farmers market regularly for the freshest food in town. You’ll look good and feel great.