Simple Swaps for Summer Weight Loss

Instantly upgrade frozen treats, backyard BBQ foods, and summer salads by making small changes that will save you big on calories and fat

By: Hollis Templeton 

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

simple swaps for summer weight loss intro

No matter how high the mercury climbs, don’t let a carefree summer attitude (bye-bye blow dryer and ironing board) extend to your eating habits. Cookouts, campfires, and boardwalks can be hangouts for calorie bombs like ice cream, pie, and mayo-heavy salads. Give in to temptation (“But I’m on vacation!”) too often and you can kiss your beach body good-bye. Here, dietitians share 10 ways to slash calories and fat from summer’s tastiest treats to help you indulge without going overboard.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Instead of a Hamburger…

Brush a Portobello mushroom with olive oil, toss it onto the grill, and then eat it on a bun, suggests Monica Reinagel, author of Nutrition Diva’s Secrets for a Healthy Diet: What to Eat, What to Avoid, and What to Stop Worrying About. The mushroom’s meaty taste and texture won’t leave you longing for beef. Plus, you’ll save 225 calories and 13 g of fat.

Tip: Grilling veggies instead of meat cuts way down on cancer-causing compounds called heterocyclic amines. Get nine more tips for smart summer cooking.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Instead of Crispy Chicken…

Add protein to a summer salad by topping it with grilled chicken breast and you’ll slash roughly 140 calories, 18 g of fat, and 3.5 g of saturated fat for a 4-ounce portion, says Alyse Levine, RD, of Los Angeles-based nutrition practice Nutritionbite. Go a step further and brush chicken with Italian dressing (42 calories, 210 mg of sodium, 1 g of sugar per serving) instead of barbeque sauce (53 calories, 400 mg of sodium, 9 g of sugar) or teriyaki sauce (42 calories, 1,400 mg of sodium, 5 g of sugar) before tossing it onto the grill, suggests Reinagel.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Instead of Croutons…

Sprinkle raw or dry-roasted sunflower seeds on top of a salad to get a healthy crunch with a lot more protein, vitamins, and minerals, suggests Levine. This swap will also save you between 30 and 50 calories per serving. Cut an additional 30 to 80 calories by using a salad spray, balsamic vinegar, or fresh lemon juice instead of regular salad dressing. Substitute processed Cheddar for Parmesan cheese, suggests Levine. Parmesan is lower in saturated fat and has a stronger flavor, which means you can use less.

Tip: Sunflower seeds are a smart swap for peanuts at the ballpark. They’re lower in calories and fat and take more time to shell.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Instead of Macaroni Salad…

Pick coleslaw and slash 100 calories and 7 g of fat per serving. Bonus: Cabbage contains cancer-fighting compounds called indoles, which you won’t find in elbow macaroni, says Reinagel.

Tip: Opt for red cabbage and you’ll get 85% of your daily vitamin C intake for only 11 cents per serving. Stock up on eight fresh foods that are surprisingly cheap.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Instead of Store-Bought Mayo…

Make your own and you’ll add healthy fat to your favorite summer side, says Christine Avanti, celebrity nutritionist, chef, and author of Skinny Chicks Don’t Eat Salads. She suggests this recipe: Place yolks from two cage-free, omega-3-enriched eggs, 1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, and 2 teaspoons white vinegar into a medium bowl. Drop by drop, add 1 cup light olive oil (extra-virgin is too strong) while whisking all the ingredients together. As the mixture thickens, add oil faster. Store in the fridge for up to 5 days. Save calories without sacrificing taste by using half homemade mayo (110 calories per tablespoon) and half nonfat plain Greek yogurt in mayo-based salads, says Avanti.

More: These seven condiment swaps will help you slim down STAT.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Instead of Creamy Dips…

Munch on hummus, veggies, and pita bread while you wait for the grill to fire up, suggests Levine. This healthy appetizer swap for spinach-artichoke, crab, or bean dip will save you 100 to 200 calories—and room for the main course.

Survey: Is your body ready for a dip in the pool? Take our survey and share your thoughts on everything from tan lines and tankinis to lifeguards and love handles.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Instead of Caramel Corn…

Pick up a bag of kettle corn when you’re craving a sweet and salty snack on the boardwalk or at the fair. You’ll save 70 calories and 2.5 g of fat per cup, says Reinagel.

More: Deep-fried beer, corn dog pizza, Texas fried Frito pie—your jaw will drop when you see these 10 state fair food nightmares!

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Instead of Ice Cream…

Enjoy a scoop of fruit sorbet and you’ll save 125 calories and 10 g of saturated fat, says Levine. Or head to the kitchen to make grown-up water ice, like this watermelon coconut granita, suggests Avanti. One serving is only 70 calories, and research suggests that the fatty acids in coconut milk can help speed up metabolism and promote weight loss. Avanti suggests using leftover watermelon to make watermelon coconut creamsicles, an all-natural 70-calorie treat your kids will love.

Video: Burn off dessert calories without leaving home with this simple strength-training routine for the living room.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Instead of Peach Pie…

Eat grilled peaches and save 300 calories and 12 g of fat, suggests Reinagel. Or opt for cobbler. Avanti’s peach, bing cherry, and blueberry cobbler weighs in at only 146 calories per 1/2 cup.

Search: The worst pies for your waistline

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Instead of a S’more…

Roast two marshmallows and enjoy them sans chocolate and graham crackers, suggests Reinagel. You’ll cut 120 calories, 8 g of sugar, and 6 g of fat, all while doubling up on the best part of the classic campfire snack.

More: Keep the summer slim-down tips coming by signing up for our weekly newsletter!

Copyright© 2014 Rodale Inc. "Fitbie" is a registered trademark of Rodale, Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction, transmission or display is permitted without the written permission of Rodale, Inc.