As you plan the summer barbecue with your social bubble during the COVID-19 pandemic, an Ottawa nutritionist recommends five healthy swaps for your favourite summer treats.
Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer recently expressed concerns over higher consumption of alcohol and junk food by Canadians during the pandemic. Dr. Theresa Tam said, “While social interactions and activities might look different right now, Canadians should be actively looking for safe ways to socialize, engage in physical activity and make healthy choices.”
Nutritionist Rachel Caven of Caven Nutrition tells CTVNewsOttawa.ca that as bar and restaurant patios open and social activities resume, “there’s more opportunity” to be eating sweet treats and unhealthy meals.
While the treats and meals may be tasty at the time, Caven says if you “eat too much sugar, it’s going to spike your blood sugar,” and result in a “crazy cycle” of eating sugar, crashing and then craving sugar to bring you back up.
Rachel Caven of Caven Nutrition shares with CTVNewsOttawa.ca five healthy swaps for your favourite summer treats.
Iced coffee instead of a fancy coffee drink
Caven says fancy iced coffee drinks from coffee shops can easily have over 20 grams of fat and 60 grams of sugar.
“That’s the equivalent of two cans of pop,” said Caven about an Iced Capp or a Caramel Frappuccino.
“The worst part is that these drinks do not fill you up at all. Never drink your calories.”
Caven says an iced coffee has 15 calories, zero grams of fat and zero grams of sugar.
Tip: Caven recommends asking for an unsweetened iced coffee because some coffee shops add syrup or sweetener to iced coffee. You can add a pack of sugar or sweetener on your own if you need a little sweetness.
Popsicles or Freezies instead of ice cream
Caven says while it is great to have a sweet treat occasionally, if it is a regular occurrence you can “save a lot of extra sugar by choosing Popsicles or freezies” instead of ice cream.
While the proper serving size for ice cream is usually half-a-cup, Caven notes an ice cream shop will serve it in a bigger cone or bowl.
Caven says a freezie or Popsicle comes in a pre-portioned container/package and it is easier to watch the sugar intake.
Tip: Caven recommends making your own Popsicles at home with fresh fruit, yogurt, juice or coconut milk
Fruit instead of chips, chocolate, junk food
While it is easy to snack on chips at a barbecue and at the cottage, Caven says, “In the summer months nature has given us its own amazing snacks.”
Caven says that while chips can cause dehydration, fresh fruit is full of vitamins, minerals and water.
“Take advantage of our very short growing season and snack on fresh fruit. You and your guests will love the flavour of fresh, local fruit. Does it get any better than fresh strawberries?” said Caven.
As a bonus, Caven notes you’ll be supporting local businesses and farmers by buying local fruit.
What is in season?
- Spring: Strawberries, cherries
- Summer: Blueberries, raspberries, cantaloupe, watermelon
- Late summer-fall: Apples, peaches, pears, plums
BBQ shish kabobs instead of hot dogs
Hot dogs are a popular staple at summer barbecues. Caven says while having hot dogs occasionally is fine, they usually contain a preservative, which is a known carcinogen.
Caven recommends instead of hot dogs, serve shish kabobs, “it can be really fun and easy dinner and it’s so much healthier.”
The ingredients for shish kabobs:
Protein: Chicken, beef, salmon, shrimp, tofu
Veggies: Red, yellow and orange peppers, onions, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms
Soak shish-kabob skewers in water for one hour beforehand
Alternate adding protein and veggies to the skewers or allow your guests and kids to make their own.
Grill on the barbecue for 10-15 minutes, turning every two-three minutes, until the meat is cooked throughout.
Mixed green salad, instead of potato or pasta salad
Caven says one of the best ways to stay healthy over the summer is to add a salad to at least one meal every day.
“It’s so easy to get greens this time of year,” said Caven, noting local greens and produce are fresh and easily accessible.
Caven recommends avoiding salad in a bag because local greens and produce are readily available, and try to experiment with different salad recipes through the summer.
“Your summer goal – eating more salad!”