Healthy and Safe Summer Eating

by Wendy Midgley MEd, RD, CDE & Deb Brothers-Klezmer BSN, RN-BC, CRRN, NCTMB 

“ We are living in a world where lemonade is made from artificial flavors  and furniture polish is made from real lemons.”   by Alfred E. Newman

Summer is often one long party, through Labor Day.  It is a time for traveling, cook-outs, family reunions, days at the beach, block parties, and high calorie drinks!   Our social gatherings seem to include more food than people!

Typical summer drinks include sugar-loaded sodas, fruit drinks, punches, frappes and milk shakes, iced tea and iced coffee, and oversized alcoholic concoctions.

 Calories in the following summer beverages: 12 oz regular sugar soda =150; 12 oz fruit punch =180-190; 12 oz sugared iced tea (Lipton) =105; Small iced coffee (Dunkin Donuts) with splash of cream, and 1 sugar = 80;  12 oz chocolate milkshake = 280-580 (calories vary depending on brand); 1 Grande black iced coffee, sweetened (Starbuck’s) = 90; 16 oz  Mango Smoothie (Burger King) = 330;   5 oz wine = ~125, 12 oz  regular beer = 150, 12 oz lite beer = 90-100 calories; 1 cup (8 oz) Sangria = 150; 1 shot or jigger (1.5 oz) liquor= ~110.  

Some alcoholic drinks have more calories than a dessert!!!   Example: 1 frozen Mudslide (1 cup or 8 oz.  size)  =  450 calories

      ***See RECIPES at close of article for healthy alternative drinks.***

FOOD SAFETY and FOOD CHOICES (quality and quantity) are equally important. 

Food-borne illnesses peak in summer.  Two main reasons: (1) harmful bacteria grow faster in warm, moist summer months, especially in 90-110 degree temperatures. (2) Safe food handling is often compromised–due to increased outdoor activities (picnics, barbecues, camping) where controlled cooking, refrigeration and washing are not as available.

Summer food safety tips include:  (1) Wash hands and surfaces often before handling food, and after using bathroom   (2) Keep food cold!  Foods especially susceptible to contamination are:  meats, chicken, turkey, fish, potato and egg salads mixed with mayonnaise, pasta salads.  Keep perishable foods in the refrigerator or in insulated coolers, packed in several inches of ice. (3) Thoroughly wash all plates, utensils and cutting boards, used for cutting raw meat and poultry. (4) Cook foods to proper temperatures to kill harmful bacteria.  (See advised  temperatures under Safe Grilling Tips) (5)  While traveling, bring safe drinking water and use disposable towelettes and paper towels for cleaning hands and surfaces. (6) For outdoor barbecues, picnics, camp cooking:  wrap raw meats carefully and keep separated from other foods in coolers (to avoid cross contamination); pack beverages in separate coolers; consider packing foods less susceptible to contamination, e.g.: fruits, vegetables, hard cheeses, canned meats, breads, peanut butter, crackers.   (7) If you buy foods to go: eat them within 2 hours.   (8) If food was left out for 2 hours, (or 1 hour when 90 degrees): toss it out!


Summer is also peak GRILLING season.  SAFE GRILLING is important not only for food safety reasons, but also for fire and injury prevention.

 SAFE GRILLING TIPS include:  (1) Keep your grill—gas or charcoal- in good working order.  CLEAN IT!  (2)  Grills should be used in well-ventilated areas at least 10-15 feet away from buildings and trees to prevent fires. (3)  When cooking, use special grilling utensils such as long tongs that keep you at a safe distance from fumes and fire. (4) Refrigerate (or put on ice in coolers) all meats, poultry, and fish as soon as you purchase them.   (5) Thaw frozen meat, poultry or fish properly before cooking.  Best way to thaw:  in refrigerator for 1-2 days or in Microwave just before use. (6)  Marinate meats poultry, fish prior to cooking (even for just 10 minutes). Marinades bring out flavor, preserve moisture, and may help reduce the formation of harmful chemicals.  Best marinades are thin vinegar and citrus types and fresh herb rubs of rosemary, mint, basil, tarragon, and sage.  Don’t use sugars!!!   Thick marinades tend to promote charring. If using thick ones, apply at the last minutes.  (7) Cook all meats, poultry, fish  thoroughly.  Choose lean cuts; trim all visible fat. Cook chicken and ground meats within 1-2 days of purchase.  Steak and ribs can be kept ~3-5 days of purchase, if well refrigerated. Simmering or pan-searing foods indoors prior to grilling can cut down grill time.  Consider cooking your foods on aluminum foil—punched with holes–to keep smoke from the food.    Cook on grill at low to medium temperatures to assure they are thoroughly cooked.  If too hot a flame—it is easy to burn the outside, with the inside still undone.  Avoid hot open flames– which may cause harmful chemicals to form.   (8) Don’t eat charred parts of meat because more chemical contaminants may be contained here. (9) Cooking Temperatures for Safe Eating: Steaks, ribs, chops are safe to eat when they reach 145 degrees internally. ground meat–160 degrees. chicken and turkey 170-180 degrees. (10) Try cooking more fruits, veggies and veggies burgers, tofu (vs animal proteins) to promote a lower chance of bacterial contamination and fewer cancer causing chemicals.  (11) Beware of cross-contamination. Always use clean utensils and platters to serve grilled food. Never reuse items that come in contact with raw meat, poultry, or seafood

22 KEYS to follow for healthy Summer eating:

 1.  Eat regular, balanced meals: STARTING with BREAKFAST.  Include a good protein source at each meal, for example:   lean animal protein like turkey, chicken, fish,  lean meats, as well as protein-rich eggs and low-fat dairy.  Include nuts and seeds, or soy products like edamame and tofu.  

Turkey  is high in tryptophan, an amino acid that the body uses to create the mood-regulating neurotransmitters: serotonin and melatonin.   Other sources of tryptophan include: pineapple, cottage cheese, lobster, soy products like tofu and edamame. 

2Eat something healthy every 3-4 hours.  It could be something simple like a fruit or 10-12 nuts.  (But do NOT eat for 3 hours before bedtime–in order to avoid indigestion and gastric reflux.)

3.  Avoid grains totally 1-3 times per week. (especially white rice and wheat products–which contain glutens.)  Better grains to eat:  quinoa, brown rice, wild rice, buckwheat.   1 serving = 1/2 cup cooked grain.  Or if you need something starchy:  try something like 1/2 a small sweet potato, or 1/2 cup green peas, or 1/2 cup chickpeas or lentils.

4. Eat like a vegetarian 1-2 times per week with lots of green leafy vegetables.  Try raw veggie drinks–made up of a mixture of green vegetables and a few pieces of fresh fruits. (Use a high quality blender,  or a higher grade food processor like a Vitamix or Blend Tech.)   Choose non-animal proteins: such as nuts, seeds, nut and seed butters, tofu, edamame, protein powder shakes of hempseed or pea protein; tempeh, quinoa, organic spinach and kale,  and legumes (beans and lentils).

5.  Practice Food Rotation in all your food groups–to ensure a variety of nutrients consumed and to lessen food sensitivity potential.  Enjoy the wide array of colorful fruits and vegetables available at local farm stands!

6.  Watch your portions, for example:  1/2 cup frozen  yogurt = the size of a standard lightbulb.   3 oz lean meat = a standard deck of cards;  2 Tablespoons peanut butter = a golf ball.  Set yourself “a calorie budget” and stick to it!  For portion size guidelines, go to:

7.  Limit sugars and syrups.   Even healthier syrups like agave syrup and agave nectar have calories.  Added sugars have many names, such as:  white sugar, brown sugar, cane sugar, turbinado sugar, evaporated cane sugar,  raw sugar, corn syrup and corn syrup solids, high fructose corn syrup, maltose syrup, maple syrup, pancake syrup, fructose sweetener, liquid fructose, honey, molasses, anhydrous dextrose and crystalline dextrose When we consume something sweet (including artificial sweeteners), the brain sends a message that something sweet is on the way; our body expects “a sugar rush” and then releases insulin into the blood stream.  A sugar rush destabilizes our moods in addition to providing unnecessary calories.  Researchers theorize that insulin “sticks around” and makes us hungry. 

8.  Don’t eat your carbohydrates “NAKED!”  Combine them with proteins, vegetables, fiber and healthy fats.  Doing so will slow down the rate of sugar absorption and require less insulin, i.e. you will be eating a  LOW GLYCEMIC LOAD.  Low glycemic load helps with weight loss, health weight management and in avoiding diabetes.  It is a good approach for overall health.

9.  Avoid toxic, highly processed foods that contain  BPAs (Bisphenol A) in many canned foods and drinking cups; GMOs, (genetically modified organisms–which exist in  many commonly eaten foods),  food dyes, nitrates, preservatives such as BHA and BHT; artificial sweeteners, especially aspartame.  

10.  Eat healthy fats such as olive oil and olives (high in monounsaturated fats), nuts and seeds, flaxseed, avocado,  canola oil.  Avoid highly saturated fats such as palm oil and coconut oil.  Avoid synthetic fats like trans fats, hydrogenated fats, and shortening like Crisco.   NOTE:  THe government allows products to read: No Trans fats when there is less than 0.5 mg.  

Choose light salad dressings of olive oil and vinegar (or lemon or lime juice), and fresh herbs.   Citrus and raspberry vinaigrettes are very refreshing in Summer.  Try brushing vegetables lightly with olive oil and fresh herbs when grilling.

11.  Avoid the salt shaker.  Table salt is sodium chloride. The sodium part of salt is associated with high blood pressure and fluid retention.  Sodium chloride salts also  includes natural sea salt and Celtic salt.  Other sources: monosodiumglutamate (MSG),  sodium benzoate, and numerous sodium additives and preservatives in foods.  Use FRESH HERBS for flavorings.   Read labels for sodium content.  Watch total SODIUM INTAKE.    Daily sodium recommendations:   1500-2300 mg/day.  If you stick with mainly fresh foods, healthy oils, and use fresh herbs (avoiding packages and cans)—your sodium intake will stay in range.  

12. Include more high potassium foods. (Potassium is an important electrolyte for proper heart functioning.)  High potassium foods include many vegetables and fruits,  such as kale, avocado, banana, apricots, plain low-fat yogurt, a variety of fresh fish,  fresh orange juice, citrus fruits, cantaloupe, tomatoes, watercress, green leafy vegetables, sunflower seeds,  lentils, potatoes, and whole grains.  These are all low in sodium  and high in potassium. Bananas are also high in tryptophan.

13.  Eat everything in moderation-especially at special Summer gatherings and barbecues.  Upon arriving at an event,  FIRST: survey the buffet or picnic table and imagine your best choices.  SECONDPRE-PLAN your PLATE before filling it up!!!  Take your plate and follow through with your intentions!  Research from Cornell University shows that individuals who pre-plate their food eat approximately 14% less than those that take smaller portions and return for seconds or thirds. Pre-plate your meals, deserts, and snacks –either mentally,  or on paper,  to prevent overindulging

14.  Take a SMALLER  plate at a buffet or barbecue—(and at every meal!!)  Put the healthy choices on your plate first.  Include low carbohydrate vegetables and salad greens. (for example: romaine, arugula, spinach, kale, cabbage, green beans, yellow wax beans,  asparagus, cucumbers, tomato wedges, celery, all colors of peppers.)

15Stay well-hydrated, drinking 6-8 cups water per day.  Fluids may also be obtained from green leafy vegetables, fruits, soups, yogurt, yogurt drinks, fruit and veggie smoothies, tea, and some coffee.  (See smoothie recipes at the close of the article.)  Limit caffeine drinks to 2 per day.

16First thing in the morning upon waking, on an empty stomach: drink 1 cup hot water with the juice of one lemon.  Optional:  add 1 pinch of cayenne pepper.  The lemon stimulates your digestion and the cayenne pepper enhances circulation and blood flow.

17.  Chew well.  Digestion begins in the mouth, not the stomach.  Chew your food completely until it is small  enough to be swallowed with ease. GENERAL RULE:  If you can tell what kind of food you are eating from the texture of the food in your mouth (not the taste) you have not chewed it enough.

18Frozen Treats are part of Summer fun.  Eat them in moderation and ENJOY!  Easy HEALTHY Frozen Fruit Treats:  Place 10 grapes and 5 raspberries in a ziplock bag and freeze. If possible use organic fruit  For a more sophisticated version of frozen fruit-place grapes, berries, and fresh pineapple chunks on a bamboo skewer and freeze in skewers in airtight containers.  For a dipping sauce: mix together 1/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt and 2 teaspoons locally grown honey

If you are being called to “real” ice cream or frozen yogurt:   stick with a child’s portion, and choose a flavor without mix-ins, or just choose a fresh fruit topping and be done!

19.  Practice MINDFULNESS.  Remember to DIRECT your AWARENESS to all aspects of food and eating,  on a moment-to-moment basis.

20. FOOD and Traveling TIPS:  It is important to put some thought into food choices while traveling.   It can be challenging.  Typical travel foods include: “fast foods, ” micro-wave ready service station options, chips and pretzels, candy, crackers, sodas, and “supersized” deals.   These foods almost always offer little to no nutritional value.   Eating “junk food” and fast foods for a couple of days can leave you feeling fatigued, crabby,  with abdominal symptoms and low energy,  and a few pounds heavier.   With some preparation, willpower and mindfulness– you can navigate your way around most of the junk food. You’ll feel healthier,  more alert,  have more energy,  and more fun.

21. Remember to move, smile, be active, exercise, and BREATHE.  WALK–or at least stand and stretch after each meal.     

22.  Forks,  fingers,and feet are key players on your health team. The position they take is influenced by the choices you make.   CHOOSE WELL with forks and fingers.  Move those feet!  

  “We don’t want to EAT hot fudge sundaes, as much as we want our lives to BE hot fudge sundaes.  We want to come home to ourselves.”   by Geneen Roth

Have a great Summer and enjoy the following recipes!

The Wellness Shifter Ladies!!!

Wendy and Deb


  • Sassy Water 
    Ingredients:  8.5 cups water, 1 teaspoon grated ginger, 1 medium cucumber, sliced thin; 1 medium lemon, sliced thin; 12 leaves spearmint

      Directions:  (1) mix all ingredients in a pitcher  (2) refrigerate overnight  (3) strain water  (4) drink all  8.5 cups during the day  (5) REALLY GOOD!

  • Natural Ginger Ale  (from The Thrive Diet by Brendan Brazier)  This beverage is  alkaline and anti-inflammatory.

Ingredients:  1 lemon, 2 cups water or mineral water, 1 Tablespoon agave nectar, 1/2 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger, Sea salt to taste (can omit)

Directions:  (1) Squeeze the juice of the lemon into a blender. (2) Add water, agave nectar, ginger and sea salt.  (3) Blend.  (4) Keep refrigerated up to 2 weeks.

  • Dr. Oz Green Drink

Ingredients: 1 lemon,  1/2 cup parsley, 1 chopped celery stalk, 2 big handfuls of spinach, kale, or combination, 1/2 inch or teaspoon of ginger root, 1 medium cucumber, 2 green apples, ice cubes optional

 Directions: (1) In a juicer or blender, put all the ingredients except the ice cubes. (2) Serve in your favorite martini glass, or whatever you want! (

3) Add the optional ice cubes at this point now that it’s finished.

* There are many variations of green drinks. Check out:

  • Melon Smoothie 

Ingredients:  1/4 cantaloupe-peeled, seeded,and cubed; 1/4 honeydew-peeled, seeded,and cubed, 1 lime (squeeze the juice), 2 teaspoons Truvia

Directions:  (1) Combine all ingredients in a blender, and blend until smooth. (2) Pour, serve,enjoy!

  • Hot Chocolate Popsicles 

Ingredients: 2 cups organic milk or milk alternative, 1 baking square of semi-sweet chocolate, 2 tbsp. organic cocoa, 2 tbsp. locally grown honey, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Directions: (1) Place the milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat and allow to simmer until warm.  (2) After three or four minutes– add the chocolate and allow to melt. (3) Then add cocoa, honey, and cinnamon, and use a whisk to combine well.  (4) Remove the cocoa from the stove and cool completely.  (5) Pour into a glass bottle and store in the fridge.  When you are ready, pour into popsicle molds.


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