Summertime is full of opportunities to sample great food: backyard barbecues, Fourth of July parties, or just relaxing days at the beach with a cooler of our favorite snacks.
There are truly some foods that seem especially delicious during the summer months and lately many restaurant chains have been seizing this opportunity to sell sell sell us our summer faves.
And though many tasty summer treats do contain health benefits, some of the most heavily marketed ‘healthy’ food items are actually sugar or calorie packed pitfalls in disguise.
I asked clinical nutritionist Stella Metsovas to help separate fact from fiction as far as which popular food items we can feel good about eating this summer and which snacks we may want to enjoy in moderation or avoid altogether.
If I had to select the worst aspect of the Westernized diet, it would be sugar—and frozen yogurt is loaded with sugars at over 20 grams of processed sugars found in just ½ cup. They provide dismal nutritional value (if any), and might be prone to bacterial contamination. In addition, the reputation of being healthful and containing live active cultures (probiotics) is debatable. Claiming a product is healthy—especially when it contains processed sugars and uses claims for digestive health—is shocking to say the least. Processed sugars disrupt the delicate and every-so-important digestive environment; there are no ‘ifs’ about that.
There’s a Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde connotation when it comes to smoothies; some can be extremely healthy, while others are loaded with sugars (some in excess of 80-100 grams). I advise adding a protein powder and some fat (like coconut oil or flax oil) to create more balance within the smoothie. If you want an A+ on your smoothie, skim on any concentrated fruit juice, and add the following ingredients: coconut, kale, spinach, whey protein concentrate, and chia or hemp seeds.
Homemade lemonade is one of my favorite childhood memories. Most recipes call for simple syrup to enhance the tartness of the lemon—a winning combination for the palate—not so much for the waistline. There’s really no ‘healthy’ recipe for lemonade in my eyes. I’m 100% against using artificial sugars like Sucralose or aspartame and prefer to use ½ of the call for real sugar in lemonade. Enjoy this treat as you would a dessert.
There is such thing as overdoing the servings of fresh fruit you consume daily—in fact, most people are going overboard. Fresh fruit is considered healthy—loaded with vitamins and minerals—in addition to naturally occurring sugars. We’ve become more sedentary than our ancestors and need to be very mindful of creating disproportions with our macronutrients. Carbohydrates, fats and proteins should be balanced according to your activity levels (i.e., sedentary individuals require far less carbohydrates than an active person).
Frozen coffee drinks
Combining sugar with caffeine is sure to impact a healthy functioning individual by impairing insulin levels. Creating imbalances between insulin/glucose levels is the beginning of an unhealthy, physiological cascade. My advice: create a custom blend with coffee, milk (I use coconut milk) and ice with no added sugar or ‘coffee mix.’
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Danielle Miller is a freelance writer and editor from the Boston area. She is a publishing project manager and has written articles on health and relationship-related topics for various outlets for several years. She is also a book editor, working mainly on books relating to science, technology, and user experience.