HEALTHY EATING: Be smart about summer food


As summertime approaches, seasonal changes call for casual dress and laid-back dinners on the patio or porch. Foods lighten up, too, with restaurant menus featuring more salads, grilled entrees, cold soups, frozen drinks and fruit for dessert. The heat drives more diners to cool down with cold foods, and summer’s skin-baring fashions increase demand for diet-friendly dishes. The problem is that “light and easy” doesn’t always mean light in fat and calories.

Beware of salads
Registered dietitian Joanne Lichten (, author of “Dining Lean: How to Eat Healthy When You’re Not at Home” (Nutrifit Publishing, $19.95 paperback), warns that many entree salads aren’t a slam-dunk choice for summer dieters. “If you’re eating salads just to cut calories, stop and do the math. When you pile on the cheese, fried chicken, croutons and salad dressing, you’ve probably eaten more calories than a large burger and fries.”

Slimming menus

• Look for menus that take advantage of summer’s bountiful harvest of low-calorie, nutrient-rich produce, including tomatoes, cucumbers, arugula, spinach, sweet onions, peaches, strawberries and all kinds of other berries.
• Don’t be fooled by the fire. Grilled meats and fish are often slathered with butter or oil, so request that your order be brushed lightly with oil.
• Avoid cream-based cold soups and go for choices full of vegetables, such as gazpacho. Fruit soups from melon to strawberry are delicious and nutritious additions, too.
• Instead of ice cream, save hundreds of calories per serving by choosing sorbets made with fresh fruit or frozen confections made with low-fat or nonfat milk. Some frozen yogurt outlets make their products with skim milk, so there no fat in a serving. And watch out for empty calories in frozen ices, slushes and frozen “fruit” drinks made from colored, flavored sugar water. They may be nonfat, but they are pure sugar and therefore contain a lot of calories. Watch those road-trip treats: A 40-ounce fruit-flavored frozen slush drink at a convenience store can contain up to 500 calories. Have a frozen fruit pop instead.
• Think about your drink. Piña coladas may be popular poolside, but Lichten cautions that these high-calorie cocktails don’t belong anywhere near a bikini. “Instead of a piña colada, margarita or daiquiri (at 350-400 calories per 8 ounces), choose a light beer or wine spritzer (100 calories for 12 ounces) or wine, sangria or a rum and diet cola (80 calories for 4 ounces).

Carolyn O’Neil is a registered dietitian and co-author of “The Dish on Eating Healthy and Being Fabulous!” E-mail her at

One comment Add your comment


June 21st, 2009
6:14 pm

This information is really important. It’s not the lettuce making the salads unhealthy, it’s the dressing and the additions. So true.