The summer season ushers in warmer weather, picnics, pool parties, family vacation and unfortunately tons of opportunities to sabotage your weight management efforts. Especially when you’re on vacation, it’s tempting to have hot dogs for dinner or ice cream for dessert every day of the week. With the right preparation, you can fight off those temptations and keep your diet in a healthy, balanced place.
If you’re packing your bags and getting ready to hit Interstate 40 for a trip to the mountains or to the beach, here are a few dinner ideas and healthy recipes you can take on your vacation.
3 Healthy Dinner Ideas for Your Summer Vacation
1. Cheesy Quinoa with Yellow Squash and Herbs and a Mixed Salad
This dinner idea uses a cheesy quinoa recipe as the main course. This dish should appeal to even kids who are in the picky-eating phase, plus it packs 7 grams of protein, an important component of feeling full for longer. You can find the cheesy quinoa recipe here. Make a mixed salad using the lettuce and vegetables you have available, and add it to the side for a full dinner.
2. Pasta Salad
After a day in the sun, a light-yet-filling dinner will be satisfying. With pasta salads, you can make a healthy dinner by boiling the pasta, adding in a protein such as chicken, tuna or steak, and including vegetables of your choosing. Great summer pasta salad ideas include Roasted Chicken and Bow Tie Pasta Salad. Plus, if you have leftovers, pasta salad makes for a great healthy lunch the next day, too. You can find 25 healthy pasta salad recipes here. Just remember, a little bit of pasta goes a long way! Be sure to utilize your measuring tools when serving up these delicious dishes to avoid going overboard. Consider using a whole grain variety of pasta for extra fiber and use extra vegetables to add bulk without a higher calorie cost.
3. Chicken Kabobs
With chicken kabobs, you can grill once while you’re on summer vacation and enjoy the flavorful food for days to come. An example would be Moroccan Grilled Chicken Kabobs. Grill these and add the various spices and flavor enhancers. Stretch your dollar and add variety by using this delicious grilled chicken to make homemade flatbread pizza or pita pocket sandwiches; in a pinch you can serve it along-side a heaping serving of salad and mixed veggies.
What to Consider for Healthy Recipes
When you’re drumming up healthy dinner recipes for your summer vacation consider the following to ensure your dish will be quick, easy, nutritious and pleasing to a wide-variety of palates:.
- Can you get it fresh? Summer is prime season for many fruits and vegetables, why not use this as a time to explore the bounty of options available specifically in your area? Buying fresh, local produce is a great way to support small farmers and your local economy. Fruits and vegetables consumed in-season are generally at their peak in regards to flavor and nutrition. They are full of powerful antioxidants which can prevent or delay cell damage and phytonutrients that help your body function optimally and prevent disease. . In North Carolina, June through August is the time to enjoy fresh beets, blueberries, blackberries, green onions, kale, peaches, squash and tomatoes. Whether you’re on vacation or at home, find a farm stand or market to buy fresh produce and support your local community at the same time.
- Can you make it in a batch? Batch cooking is one of the best ways to make healthy cooking easy. It cuts down on time it takes to prepare meals and gives you more time to spend with your family and friends, whether you’re on vacation or not. When looking for dinner ideas or healthy recipes, consider if the recipe would be ideal for making a large batch. Choose ingredients that reheat well or can be eaten hot or cold, such as chicken and high fiber vegetables like broccoli. You can also adjust the way you prepare a recipe for large batches. For example, if a recipe calls for salad dressing, store the dressing in a separate container and wait until you’re ready to eat it to toss it all together; this will ensure your lovely greens don’t become a soggy mess!
- What about recipes that can also double as healthy snacks? If you discover side dishes while looking for dinner ideas, make extra for snacks later on. Examples of side dishes/healthy snacks include roasted sweet potato wedges, bean salad, cucumber salad or oven-baked zucchini sticks.
- Is the recipe or meal composed of wholesome ingredients? Many recipes and foods claim to be “healthy” because they’re low in calories, fat or sugar, yet contain other additives such as high fructose corn syrup or saturated fat, which provide little-to-no nutritional value. Beware of prepackaged or processed foods that may be full of these unhealthy components.
- Does the recipe align with your health goals? “Healthy” can be a relative term depending on your goals. While we should all strive to consume a well-balanced diet, a proper diet for a pregnant woman or an athlete would vary greatly compared to an individual attempting to make weight changes or recovering from bariatric surgery. Be sure to take a look at recipes from the perspective of your own unique needs.
If you’re ready to take control of your health, why not make an appointment with one of our registered dietitians and find out how we can help you develop healthier eating habits.