A guide to having a healthy and happy summer

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Elwin Oreaon, Axel Monjaras and Jonathan Lopez, all 13, front to back, paddle a canoe on the Jordan River in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Sept.  7, 2017.

Elwin Oreaon, Axel Monjaras and Jonathan Lopez, all 13, front to back, paddle a canoe on the Jordan River in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017. | Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

When the sun is out, the barbecues start. As temperatures heat up and summer begins, spending more time outside and eating healthier can be part of your summer goals.

If that’s the case, here are some suggestions of places where you can make small changes to have a happy and healthy summer.


Eating healthy at barbecues

Whether it’s a Fourth of July barbecue or just grilling food because it’s the weekend, summer barbecues are full of good food. Barbecues are actually an ideal way to eat healthy if you do it well.

Using the grill to cook lots of fresh vegetables and serving them up with lean meat or fish can be a healthy summer meal.

If you want to eat a little healthier at a barbecue, here are some tips.

  1. Start with vegetables. Be the person who brings the vegetable platter to the barbecue or grill up some vegetables if you’re hosting. Start off the meal by eating some vegetables to set a good tone for eating. A good rule of thumb is to fill half your plate with vegetables to start out.

  2. Be judicious about your sides. Potato salad, pasta salad, chips and dip as well as creamy coleslaw are some typical sides on a barbecue. Eating healthier doesn’t mean you have to completely forego these sides — pick the one you like and make it a quarter of your plate. It’s important to still eat delicious and tasty food while eating healthy.

  3. Aim for a lean protein. Grilled meat, fish and vegetables are generally better for you than fried alternatives. Picking lean meat or fish can be a good option when barbecued. It’s also worthwhile to consider picking up some whole wheat buns if you’re going to have hamburgers or hot dogs. It may take a little while to get used to the taste difference, but it can be an alternative to going without a bun.

  4. Look out for the sauces. Some sauces may be higher in sugar than you think. Looking at the nutrition facts of sauces and seeing what’s in them, as well as how many calories, sugar and fat they contain, can help you make informed decisions about the best sauce to use. Instead of using sauce to flavor your food, you can use fresh herbs and spices before you even start grilling.

  5. Grill your dessert. Grilled fruit kabobs or grilled peaches can be a great way to end a summer barbecue with a sweet note. You can serve them with dollops of plain Greek yogurt, a drizzle of honey and some nuts to add variety and texture.

  6. Think about liquid calories. There are simple solutions to make healthier versions of your favorite summer drinks. Cut your juice or lemonade in half by filling a glass half with it and half with plain seltzer water, and all of a sudden, you have a refreshing, sparkling summer drink. Consider putting fresh fruit and herbs in it to increase the wow factor.


What are good foods to eat in the summer?

Apples, apricots, avocados, bananas, beets, bell peppers, blackberries, blueberries, cantaloupe, carrots, celery, cherries, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, garlic, green beans, herbs, honeydew melon, lemons, lima beans, limes, mangoes, okra, peaches, plums, raspberries, strawberries, summer squash, tomatillos, tomatoes, watermelon and zucchini are all in season during the summer, according to the US Department of Agriculture’s Seasonal Produce Guide.

Eating fruits and vegetables with a high water content like cucumbers, tomatoes, watermelon and others can help with summer hydration.

How to eat healthy during the summer

  • Eat lots of produce. A good amount of produce in the summer tends to be less expensive since it’s in season. Centering your meals on produce by making things like grilled vegetable kabobs or corn salad with grilled fish or a caprese salad with whole wheat vegetable flatbread can be a good way to eat healthy.

  • Find a pattern. Protein, vegetables, fruit and starch/grain are simple formulas that you use for meal plans. Then, you can have meals like a Greek salad with baked chickpeas and grilled peaches, or fish, rice and spinach strawberry salad. Thinking of a pattern that works well for your dietary needs and following it in the summer can help with healthy eating.

  • Pick your food. Even if you can’t grow your own food in a backyard garden, consider going to a farm that allows you to pick some produce or a farmer’s market and design your meals around the fresh produce you see.


Developing an exercise routine in the summer

As the weather warms up, there are more opportunities to be in nature comfortably and to plan activities. Here are some examples of activities that you can do outside in the summer, which also double as exercise.

  • Hiking. Hiking in the summer is a great way to spend the day. There are a couple of steps you can take to prepare. Consider drinking some water the day before and the morning of your hike and bring water on your hike. Due to the sun’s rays, it may be a good idea to bring sunscreen and apply it periodically. Wear weather-appropriate clothing. While shorts may seem like a great idea in the morning, if your hike involves walking through any brush, they may not seem like a good idea while on the hike. The same goes for shoes — keeping your feet covered when on the trail can be a protective measure.

  • Go for a walk. Walking briskly is a simple way to get moving. The summer opens up a lot of possibilities of places to walk. Outdoor window shopping or a nature trail are a couple of places you could consider going for a walk. A walk around the neighborhood as the evening is cooling down can be relaxing as well.

  • Play a sport. Kicking around a soccer ball or playing catch with a baseball is a great way to stay active. If you’re solo, you can find a wall (make sure it’s okay to do this before you start) and kick a soccer ball against it or throw a big rubber ball against it. There are also games with basketballs and footballs that can work for smaller groups as well.

  • Take your workout outside. If your typical workout is something like yoga or HIIT or another activity that you can take outside, consider trying it. You may have to put on some sunscreen and hydrate more, but this can be a good way to get some vitamin D.

  • Go swimming (and actually swim). A lazy day at the beach or pool is a fun way to spend a summer day. To make it a little more active, it might be a good idea to swim for a while. Swimming is a low-impact exercise, which means it places less stress on your joints — it can be a great way to start an exercise routine.

  • Go kayaking or canoeing. Renting or buying a kayak or canoe and then going to a lake can be a relaxing way to see some scenery, enjoy nature and still be active. It’s another low-impact exercise and it can also be a meditative one.

  • Go for a bike ride. Make sure you have the proper gear and your bike is in good condition, and then consider going for a bike ride during the summer. To make it more enjoyable, find a good bike trail that has beautiful scenery or an interesting path. As with any exercise, it’s a good idea to ensure you have adequate hydration.

  • Build a water obstacle course in your backyard. Cooling down in the summer heat while still enjoying the outdoor weather is a win-win. Pinterest has plenty of ideas for how you can DIY an obstacle course in your backyard. To make it especially fun for the summer, consider adding some water elements into the course.

  • Revisit old games like capture the flag and tag. If there’s a big group of people in an open space at something like a family reunion or a barbecue, it could be fun to revisit the games you used to play when you were a kid, like capture the flag and tag. Having the whole family playing games together can be a nostalgic bonding experience.

  • Rock climbing or rafting. With the proper gear and a guide if you need it, rock climbing and rafting are two fun summer activities that can help get you outside.


The case for quiet time outside

Over 2 in 5 US adults are deficient in vitamin D, according to Health Match. A simple way to get more vitamin D is to spend more time outside (wearing sunscreen). Quiet time outside can have some other benefits as well.

A 2022 study showed prolonged use of cellphones had a negative impact on the health of university students. Other research has shown using your cellphone less led to positive mood changes. Spending time outside without using a phone and instead doing an activity like journaling or meditation can be positive.