Often, the search for weight-loss hacks begins right before summer arrives in anticipation of beach season. But warm weather months are also the perfect time to get started or revamp your weight-loss efforts. After all, summer is filled with mood-boosting sunny days, nutritious foods and plenty of opportunities to get outside for a fun workout.
Still, sticking to your healthy eating plan can seem difficult when summer barbecues and parties come along every weekend. Here, a few weight-loss tips you can use to stay on track — without missing out on any of the good times.
DRINK BEFORE YOU EAT
“Fluid needs go up during the hot summer months, especially if you’re outdoors and active,” says Torey Armul, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. However, this can often lead to mistaking thirst for hunger and eating when the body doesn’t need extra fuel, which isn’t helpful when you’re trying to watch your intake and lose weight. Drink two cups of water before every meal, says Armul. “This will keep you hydrated and less likely to overeat.” Phone alarms, calendar alerts or apps like MyFitnessPal can help you track your hydration throughout the day.
FILL UP ON FRESH FRUITS AND VEGGIES
At summer block parties and barbeques, don’t dwell on how to eat less — focus on eating more of the good stuff, say Armul. “Make half of every meal and snack a fruit or vegetable,” she suggests. Summer staples like berries, mangoes, peaches, corn, peppers and tomatoes are all rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber, which makes you feel full longer and helps keep cravings at bay, she says. What’s more, research shows upping your fiber intake can help you lose body fat, per a review in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
FOCUS ON COOL SUMMER FARE
Instead of bringing a heavy cream-laden casserole to your next potluck, be the guest who serves something light and healthy. “That way, you know there’s at least one nutritious choice available, and you won’t be tempted by unhealthy leftovers at home,” says Armul. Think: lentil and peach salad or a caprese salad, she suggests. These alternatives are cooler, use in-season foods and have more nutrients for fewer calories.
PACK YOUR OWN SNACK BAR
At the pool, ballgame or park, snacks from the concession stand are likely high in sodium and unhealthy saturated fat. Instead, save money and calories by “making it a habit to pack your own bag with healthier options like dried and fresh fruit and mixed nuts,” suggests Armul.
GO OUT FOR ICE CREAM
Instead of stocking up on pints at home, “allow yourself to go out for dessert [bonus points if you walk] as a special occasion,” says Armul. Should you stock up on sweets, keep portion size in check and think small. “We buy mini ice-cream cones and mini popsicles, and make mini-muffins at home for our toddlers. But it’s actually great portion control for adults, too,” says Armul.
KEEP LIBATIONS LIGHT
Just because you’re trying to lose weight doesn’t mean you have to skip the occasional happy hour, but the key is to stay hydrated and make healthy choices, says Armul. Before you head for the bar, drink a couple of cups of water and plan to rehydrate with a glass of H2O between alcoholic beverages, she suggests.
Before you order, know strawberry daiquiris, mai tais, tequila sunrises and Long Island iced teas can be sugar bombs (upwards of 300–400 calories) due to their juices and syrups, she says. For a healthier option, choose vodka soda with a splash of cranberry, a Moscow Mule with club soda, champagne spritzers or a Bloody Mary, suggests Armul.
BLACKOUT YOUR BEDROOM
One of the most important summer weight-loss hacks is honoring your need for quality sleep, no matter how busy you are. “Your social calendar may rev up this summer, but don’t sacrifice your sleep,” says Armul. Research shows sleep-deprived people eat about 385 extra calories per day, possibly because their leptin and ghrelin levels (hormones which control satiety and hunger) are disrupted, per a recent review published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Each night, keep distractions to a minimum (for example, put your phone on ‘do not disturb’ and cover your alarm clock light) and darken your bedroom with light-blocking shades since the daylight hours are longer, suggests Armul.