It’s the last weekend of the summer. Not officially, but Labor Day weekend always feels like that. School is starting, it’s getting cooler in the evenings, and the summer is winding down.  This weekend, while you are closing out the season of picnics and outdoor fun, keep in mind that jumping from party to party can take a toll on your energy and your waistline. Creamy coleslaw and potato salad, beef patties on white bread and topped with cheese, and nitrate-laden hot dogs are not exactly foods that will help you keep your figure or protect your body.   Additionally, picnics, parties and warm nights seem to beg for ice cream and other sweets – challenging anyone trying to keep to a healthier regime.

If you want to close out the summer with healthy habits stick to the seasonal, fresh fruits and vegetables that this time of the zucchiniyear provides! Berries, lettuces, greens, peaches, peas, green beans and zucchini are just a few of the many delicious foods nature provides for us during the summer months. These foods give you energy without making you feel heavy or weighed down.

If you are headed to a party or a picnic, ask to bring a dish or two that you know you will want to eat and will help steer you away from the temptations.

Here are a few simple and inexpensive options to bring to the party:

** Make a fruit salad with seasonal, organic fruits like strawberries, blueberries and peaches.  There is nothing like an in-season, local peach (Check out my post on peaches!). The sweetness, softness and juiciness IS summer! Toss the fruit together with fresh lemon juice to keep the peaches from browning and to add some tartness. It’s festive, fun and flavorful!

** Bring along a vegetable dish or appetizer. If you know there will be a grill (and likely there will be), tell your hosts you will bring asparagus, skewered veggies like peppers, mushrooms & squash, or corn on the cob.  Simply toss with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper and grill until they are tender. Add fresh lemon juice to brighten it up and bring out the flavors!

** Bring the chips and dip. You can go for lower fat, organic and baked chips, along with organic salsa without preservatives or additives. Take it one step further and make your OWN salsa with tomatoes, tomatillos, jalapenos, garlic, basil, red onion and mango for sweetness!  You can control the heat and fresh means more antioxidants and nutrients! Here’s a tip: Use heirloom tomatoes in salsa. The result is a sweeter taste with endless flavor!

** Quench everyone’s thirst with healthy cocktails!  Make a batch of coconut-pineapple smoothie in advance with fresh pineapple, coconut milk, ice and coconut Coco Pineapple smoothie - Copywater. Guests can add in rum if they’d like or drink it as a mocktail. Another idea is to make a refreshing and energizing mixture of honeydew melon, cucumber and fresh mint. This is cooling, relaxing and would also be tasty with a shot of vodka or tequila (drinker’s choice).

And if you decide to just go with the flow and eat what’s there, then keep these tips in mind for a healthier mouthful.

  1. Avoid char on your meats. It may look appetizing, but the char contains carcinogens (cancer causing substances).
  2. Dress up your burger or hot dog with tomatoes, sauerkraut, pickles, cucumbers, mixed green lettuces, etc. The more vegetables you add on top, the healthier your burger will be. You will also be filling up on fiber and nutrients, and feel more satisfied.
  3. Remember that cocktails, fun party drinks, beers and wines contain a lot of calories and sugar, so go easy and drink a lot of water too!

Cheers to the end of summer!