Healthy Eating: 10 Ideas for Summer’s Harvest
Sunday, August 30, 2015
LifeTime WeightLoss in Becca Hurt, Healthy Cooking, Healthy Cooking, Lifestyle, Vegetables, fruit, healthy eating, produce, summer

It’s that time of year when there is so much to take advantage of - warmer weather, more sunlight, vacation days and great food. 

With the end of summer upon us - and Labor Day gatherings gearing up, what better time is there to stock up on the summer produce you know you like? It’s also the perfect time to try new foods in some of your meals, snacks and party dishes. 

Check out these 10 tasty ideas to implement with so many veggies and fruits at their peak this summer harvest season.

Expand your snack options.

With the abundance of produce items available at-the-ready during the summer and fall months, this is the best time of year to expand your horizons when it comes to what fresh, cold vegetables you include for your snacks and meals. 

Many of my clients’ typical snacks include baby carrots, cauliflower and broccoli. These are a great start but may get boring after a bit. 

Fun add-ins for your lunch bag could include jicama, sugar snap peas, beet slices, cucumber slices, bell-pepper slices, cherry tomatoes or any other harvest veggie that appeals to your senses! 

Try some delicious substitutes for high-carb standards.

When it comes to following a healthy way of eating - loading your plate up with all kinds of vegetables and quality protein - many who are new to this way of eating quickly realize, “What? What about my pastas, grains, breads, etc.?!” 

While some true whole grains like quinoa, wild rice, and amaranth may have a place in some nutrition plans, our focus should be on veggies as the biggest space-taker on our plates. 

Great options to try: mashed cauliflower in place of mashed potatoes OR cauliflower pizza crust in place of regular pizza crust, as well as root vegetables (e.g. turnips, parsnips, etc.) in place of white potatoes.  

A fun alternative to your traditional spaghetti is spaghetti squash! Once cooked, the yellow flesh of the squash does look quite a bit like spaghetti, and it has a rather mild flavor making adding spices, herbs, and sauces to it very easy. 

To prepare, pierce the squash with a fork a few times and roast it whole on a pan for 45-60 minutes (or until tender). Cut in half, remove the seeds, and then use a fork to scrape away the flesh, which should easily separate into strands. Serve with olive oil or butter, fresh herbs, sea salt and sautéed garlic!

Stuff, stuff and stuff!

A fun meal idea is “stuffed” vegetables! Stuffed peppers, for example, have been a good go-to dinner in my home for a few years now, but I was recently told about “stuffed” sweet potatoes. Sound good?

The idea behind stuffing various veggies is to cut the vegetable (e.g. bell-pepper) in half, de-seed if needed (for sweet potatoes obviously this wouldn’t apply), and “stuff” the inside of the veggie with a variety of other healthy and flavorful foods such as cooked ground beef, sautéed onion, mushrooms, tomatoes or cooked kale, and to top with herbs and a sprinkle of cheese (optional). 

It’s an easy meal to prep in as little as 15-20 minutes. Then just toss in the oven to bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes.

Dessert? Yes, please!

Summer and early fall are common times for parties, grill-outs, and get-togethers with family and friends. All too often at these functions there’s an abundance of food - and rarely a lack of desserts. 

What’s a person on a healthy way of eating plan supposed to do?! Enter: fruit

Most of us don’t consider the ratio of veggies to fruit we eat on a daily basis. Particularly if weight loss is one of our goals, we should shoot for 3:1 respectively. 

While fruit is packed with many essential vitamins, antioxidants and fiber, it is also naturally sweet and, therefore, higher in carbohydrates. To help satisfy a sweet tooth, instead of reaching for a brownie (or three), go for the fruit bowl as the healthy indulgence that it is.

Fresh berries and melons are awesome this time of year as are peaches! A friend recently introduced me to a new, great way to enjoy these tasty stone fruits. Simply cut 2 peaches in half (lengthwise) and de-pit. Scoop a dollop of butter into the peach and sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, and voila - a perfect dessert!

Herb’s the word.

One of my favorite things about summertime is my herb garden! With just a few dollars at your local farmer's market, you can buy your own herb plant of choice. (Cilantro, basil and mint are my must-haves.) 

Just pot them once you get them home, place in an area with a lot of sun, and water regularly. Before you know it, you’ll be sure to have herbs to last through fall - and right into the holidays! 

Herbs and spices are often overlooked when you’re doing your own cooking at home, but they’re an easy and fast way to add another dimension of flavor (not to mention nutrition) to meals and really make dishes come to life. 

Who loves Chipotle’s rice? Ever notice the green specks in it? That’s cilantro, the herb that offers amazing taste that leaves you wanting more. With your own herb stash, you can make your own healthier version at home. 

A few other great ideas to try include basil and balsamic vinegar with fresh tomatoes for a tasty snack or appetizer, oregano or parsley with your chicken breasts, and chives or rosemary with your steak at dinner.

Toss em’ on the grill.

This should go without saying, but take advantage of the glorious weather while you can and get outside to grill

There isn’t anything better than a home-cooked meal on the grill and dining on the back patio. While the tried-and-true options are always great like grass-fed burgers, think outside the box and get creative.

Some of my current favorites include asparagus, eggplant slices, corn on the cob (grill with husk still intact), and sausage and vegetable packets. (Combine smoked sausage cut into pieces with sliced zucchini, parsnips, and bell-peppers with some olive oil wrapped in tin-foil.) Toss other veggies in olive oil before grilling and set directly on wracks or into a pan.

Zest up your H2O!

During these warmer months, ensuring adequate water intake is crucial. To help you get in the ounces you need, try adding some extra flavor. It may be just the thing you need to keep you refilling up your glass.

While citrus fruits are always a tasty go-to (lemons, limes, oranges), any fruit could be used to infuse your water. Wash the fruit, prepare as necessary (i.e. cut off the stems, dice, etc.), and add to a pitcher of water to store in the fridge or directly in your travel water bottle. 

Fruit isn’t the only flavor to add either. Herbs and vegetables are other awesome additions! Get creative with your water combinations - mint and mango, watermelon and cucumber, or even cucumber jalapeño mint or grapefruit and rosemary!

Make a dip!

When my clients struggle to fit in their daily 9-11 servings of veggies and fruits, I tell them they don’t have to avoid dips. In fact, many of the vital nutrients we get when we consume vegetables require fat in order to be absorbed (e.g. vitamins A, D, E and K). 

Guacamole and hummus are two great options for healthy dips that are loaded with healthy fats and pair well with countless veggies. 

To mix up your own guac in less than 5 minutes, cut 2 avocados in half, and scoop them out into a medium-size bowl. (Leave the seed in it to help prevent the avocado from turning brown). Mash well with a fork, and mix in 2 tablespoons salsa, juice from half a lime, and a dash of salt and pepper to taste. 

Use summer harvest time as a fun outing and/or learning opportunity.

Aside from the fun of eating all of the fresh vegetables and fruit that are currently in season, use this time of year as an excuse to try something new! 

Never been to your local farmers’ market? Make a point to check it out with a friend. Meeting local farmers in your area or state is always a fascinating and even humbling experience as you hear the heart of what others do to offer you the food they do. It can feel like an honor to support their livelihood. 

Other fun activities involving fresh produce could include visiting a pumpkin patch, apple orchard, corn maze or vineyard. This time of year many of these places hold special events or educational sessions as well. They’re fun for both kids and adults and may even offer you inspiration for starting your own vegetable garden next season!

Freeze for later!

Summer comes and goes in the blink of an eye, and before we know it many of our favorite foods in season now will be full price at the grocery store again while farmer’s markets will be closed until spring. 

Now is the time to stock up on all of the fresh, local produce you enjoy - not only for weekly meals but for later in the year as well. Berries, beans, and zucchini are just a few examples of great foods that you can harvest now and freeze for later use

Taking just a couple of extra hours for shopping and prepping now can help you enjoy the best and healthiest of the summer season for many months to come.

Thanks for reading. Not only is the end of summer good for savering produce, but also an ample time to amp up your nutrition game and consider a nutrition plan that supports detoxification.  Join our FREE online training from Life Time Weight Loss:  Learn the RIGHT Way to Detox.  Starts Sept 14th JOIN HERE.  Thanks for reading

In health, Becca Hurt, MS, RD, Assistant Program Manager of Life Time Weight Loss

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