4 Easy-Breezy Summer Health Hacks

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Ah, summer. Who doesn’t love the arrival of long sunny days, extra social time, outdoor activities and, yes, fun summer food? I am looking forward to it all! But what about all the healthy habits I’ve worked on this year? Tossing them out the now-open window for three months won’t exactly do my health any favors. Still, I don’t want to infringe on my precious summer days with a bunch of eating and exercise rules. My solution?  Incorporate a few simple health hacks into my life. That way, I get to maintain (or even level up) my health without bringing down my sunny summer vibes.

At social events, make every other beverage water

Most of us should drink more water anyhow. And since most of us sweat more during the summer, replacing that fluid is especially important. Alternating water with non-water beverages at cookouts, beach get-togethers, and other social occasions has another big benefit too. You’ll be consuming fewer caloric beverages—including alcohol. Sure, it seems like a cold beer or spiked seltzer is hydrating. But the fact is that consuming alcoholic beverages on hot days can be a risk for serious dehydration. If you want to, bring some non-alcoholic beverages to the party—others are likely to be thankful for the option, too. And check out Guiding Stars’ new beverage algorithm—many non-alcoholic beverages now have star ratings. You can even check the star ratings before you pop into the store using the Food Finder tool

Make your own ice pops

Homemade ice pops are an easy-to-make, refreshing treat that can also provide a serving of fruit in a fun form. They also don’t cost much, especially if you’re using in-season fruit that’s on special sale. I recommend buying an inexpensive ice pop mold. Then you can make six or eight or more at a time, and your pops will look more professional. I was happy with the two shapes of molds I bought last summer, if only for the fun factor. As an added bonus, many molds also come with reusable sticks.

When preparing your own pops, choose perfectly ripe (even slightly overripe) fruit. Doing so means you can go light on added sweetener and still end up with a tasty ice pop. Also keep in mind that when the fruit mixture freezes, the intensity of the taste diminishes. Totally eliminating sweeteners or fruit juice will result in a pop that doesn’t taste sweet. If you choose honey, maple syrup, agave, or jam instead of granulated sugar, remember that they all contain sugars too. For a nice alternative to a standard ice pop, try these Frozen Banana Pops or Pina Colada Pudding Pops.

Use your slow cooker for summer meal prep

Sweltering summer days are perfect for using your slow cooker. For one, it doesn’t heat up the kitchen. Meal prep is also easier when you cook one or two items for use throughout the week—a perfect use for a slow cooker. And it’s a big bonus not having to hang around the house while you’re cooking. Go be outside instead!

Try slow cooker entrees such as beans and chicken sausage, chicken fajita meat, and pulled pork. These all provide plenty of options for multiple meals. And if you have a rice cooker,  it can work for you all summer long too. When you have rice and other grains ready to go, meal prep is even easier. Just make sure you keep food safety in mind—handling big batches of foods safely is important no matter the season.

Join a CSA for a steady supply of farm-fresh produce

Fresh, local fruits and vegetables are definitely one of the highlights of the season. And getting all that goodness into your regular diet goes a long way toward keeping your summer nutrition on point. One great way to do so is through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), which connects consumers with local farms. (CSAs are also sometimes available from fish and meat purveyors as well.) You can purchase a “share” of a CSA, or a partial share for the season. In exchange, a box of locally grown food is provided for you regularly throughout the season. 
The benefits of a CSA? Well, aside from growing your own veggies and supporting a local farm, you can’t beat a CSA for freshness. Not sure if you’ll like everything in your CSA box? That’s ok, most CSA shares contain an ample amount of a wide variety of produce—there’s something for everyone. And having a CSA share will encourage you to try new foods. You’ll also learn to stretch your culinary skills, since you’ll likely get items more than once during the season. Luckily, the internet is bursting with recipes for everything from artichokes to zucchini. Challenge yourself to try some new ones!