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5 Smart and Delicious Food Swaps for a Healthier Summer


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As spring comes into full swing and the weather gets warmer, many of us begin changing the way we eat. We look forward to meals outside and picnics in the park or at the beach and to longer days and celebrations of graduations, weddings, birthdays, and holidays. With busier schedules, many of us don’t have time to make healthy eating habits a priority.

As we head into warmer weather and a new season, many of us go into our closets to swap out winter clothes for lighter, airier options. The same should go for our food. It’s time to swap out some of our winter pantry staples for spring and summer favorites that allow us to eat the flavors of the season. 

Swapping in new food each season not only adds variety and expands your palate, but it also creates convenience that will allow you to stay on track despite your full planner. 

Your “pantry” includes your cabinets, fridge, and freezer. A well-stocked pantry makes it easier to make healthy choices while also feeling like you’re eating a diverse selection of seasonal foods. There are five key items I swap into my pantry each spring and summer—just as surely as I trade my snow boots for flip flops. 

Swap Out: Pasta/Swap In: Lettuce Greens

Spring brings lettuce greens like gem lettuce and arugula into season. Lettuce is a perfect base in any weather, but in spring and summer, it’s not just about the veggies but about the fruits that accompany it, too. If you’re looking for a side dish for your backyard party or picnic, try a watermelon salad with arugula, tomatoes, and feta. It’s unexpected, perfectly light for summer, and sure to be a hit.

Swap Out: Sweet Snacks/Swap In: Stone Fruits

Tasty treats like apricots, peaches, cherries, and plums are in season and perfect as a standalone snack. Papaya and mango are great to add to salsa and salads. A Thai green papaya salad is a great well-rounded option, with green beans, cherry tomatoes, Thai chile, cilantro, and onions, topped with sugar, shrimp for protein, and a sprinkle of peanuts. Incorporating fruits into recipes like a green papaya salad can serve to really break up your day. Naturally sweet flavors complement fresh herbs and vegetables and excite the taste buds more than the average Greek or Caesar salad. I also love to place a bowl of stone fruit on the table where it’s easy to grab and adds a pop of color to the kitchen.

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Swap Out: Juice and Flavored Water/Swap In: Fresh Herbs

Fresh herbs are abundant this season, whether at the market or in your own backyard or window garden. But get creative with them to maximize their use beyond your meals and infuse your beverages instead. Consider adding a bit of lemon thyme or lemon verbena to give a bit of flavor to your water or iced tea. You can even prepare a pitcher of hibiscus tea and enjoy it throughout the course of the week. Bonus: Hydration is key in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. If you are not a fan of water, infused water or iced herbal tea can make it more fun to stay hydrated.

Swap Out: Basic Spices/Swap In: International Flavors

Trying different spice blends and rubs from around the world is an easy way to switch up your menu and reap some health benefits. With all the fresh veggies available in spring and summer, the simple addition of unexpected flavor profiles like harissa spice blend or jerk seasoning can create a completely new meal fast. Spices can elevate your mid-week one-pan sheet meal with some Caribbean or Mediterranean vibes. Plus, incorporating spices into your diet is a proven way to boost your metabolism. 

Swap Out: Mayonnaise or Ice Cream/Swap In: Greek Yogurt

Creamy Greek yogurt is versatile and can help create quick parfait or salad dressing. It is great all day, from breakfast to dessert. If you’re in the mood for something sweet, you can layer Greek yogurt with grilled stone fruit, some homemade granola or cocoa nibs, and fresh herbs. If you’re a savory person, make tzatziki, and serve it with some grilled chicken or salmon.

Swapping in new items for your pantry can help you maintain a healthy lifestyle and meet your goals. For some, it might feel as if the pandemic hit the pause button on any progress you made in the kitchen. As we’ve transitioned to a remote-working culture, all of our lifestyles have changed. According to a Robert Half survey, nearly 7 in 10 professionals (68 percent) who transitioned to a remote setup as a result of the pandemic said they work on the weekend, and 45 percent of remote employees reported regularly putting in more than eight hours a day. More hours logged might mean we’ve sacrificed the time for healthy eating. 

Snacking on highly refined foods can cause sugar spikes and increased fat buildup in the bloodstream. This dietary inflammation explains why our bodies, brains, and metabolisms feel more sluggish after thoughtless snacking. Data from the COVID Symptom Study suggests that the lockdown really has had a negative impact on our eating habits with 31 percent of Americans reporting weight gain and poor snacking habits. In crisis, we often eat to cope or take up mindless snacking and eating to fill time. 

Having a holistic approach to food, it’s important to stress that your food journey is exactly that—a journey that is ongoing—and it’s never too late to make changes. The goal is to find sustainable changes that you can incorporate into your routines for the long term. These five easy swaps will take the effort out of nutritious eating.

Looking to adopt more healthy strategies in time for summer? Check out 6 Apps to Help You Build Better Habits and What You Need to Know About Intermittent Fasting.

About The Author
Mercedes Vargas

Sofia Health expert Mercedes Vargas is a holistic chef and integrative health coach who helps clients make empowered food choices and learn to simplify their cooking routines. She is Nutritious Life Certified and an IIN Integrative Health Coach. She has a BA in psychology from Columbia University and degrees in Culinary Arts and Culinary Management at the Institute of Culinary Education. Follow her on Instagram at @eatingempowered.mercedes.