Summer-Conscious Dinners

Related To:


Food Stylist: Stephana Bottom Prop Stylist: Pam Morris

Food Stylist: Stephana Bottom Prop Stylist: Pam Morris

It's no surprise we all find ourselves a bit more health conscious in the summer. Short, cold days and comfy sweatshirts are forgotten as we find ourselves decked out in shorts, skirts, skimpy dresses and bathing suits, enjoying about 14 hours of sunlight. As the clothes get smaller, our desire to look good in them gets bigger. Being conscious of the meals you make at home, and order out, can truly help you feel fabulous, no matter how much fabric you wear.

Think Green All the Time
Going green isn’t just about protecting the planet; it’s also about supporting your health and well-being. Whether you shop at a massive grocery chain or local farmers’ market, there are plenty of "green things" to choose from. Dark green, leafy vegetables offer a bounty of antioxidants, phytonutrients (beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin), vitamins (C, E and K, and many of the B vitamins), minerals (iron, calcium, potassium and magnesium) and fiber. They’re also brimming with water, important for keeping you hydrated and for reducing bloat.

Now for the Other Colors
Colorful food is nutritious food (as long as the color comes naturally!). If your plate looks like a rainbow, you're doing great. Consider orange bell peppers, peaches, nectarines and carrots, yellow squash and bell peppers, red tomatoes, peppers and berries, and blue and purple berries and plums. All of these fruits and vegetables provide powerful cell-protective antioxidants, potent vitamins (A and its precursor beta-carotene, vitamin C and folate), fiber and water.

Build a Better Meal
Just as you build a sandcastle from the bottom up, plan your meals the same way. Whether you’re in your own kitchen, a friend’s kitchen or at a restaurant, consider how to make your meal super summer-friendly. Start with the vegetables and fruits mentioned above. Once you have the rainbow on your plate, add nutrient-dense grains and protein that pack in vitamins, minerals and fiber — not fat and empty calories. Choose grains that satisfy and are devoid of refined and processed grains, such as quinoa, brown rice, amaranth, millet, wild rice, buckwheat, spelt and bulgur wheat. For protein, choose skinless chicken and turkey, fish, shellfish, pork loin and sirloin. To pack in flavor without fat, use the grill or broiler to create the perfect caramelized exterior and tender interior.

Swap Out Sodium
Although sodium plays an important role in several of our body’s functions, most of us consume much more than we need, largely due to processed foods (in fact, 75 percent of the salt we consume is from processed and prepared foods, not the salt shaker). This is important year round, but when it’s bathing suit season, we seem to pay more attention in an effort to avoid bloating. Whenever possible, prepare your own meals and make sure the ingredients are full of water (fruits and vegetables). Add little to no added salt at the table, and season just to taste while cooking. If you can, avoid canned and bottled ingredients with high sodium contents (you need just about 1,500-2,300 milligrams per day, so do the math as you read labels). Thankfully, many of our favorite sauces, dressings and condiments are available in reduced-sodium versions.

For fabulous summer-friendly recipes, check out what’s cooking at and Food Network's Healthy Eats blog.

For great picnic-worthy salads, take your pick from these 20 Healthy Picnic Salads.

For incredibly satisfying main dish salads, read How to Build a Healthy Salad.

And for fresh and delicious, all-around fantastic summer recipes, check out the Fresh, Healthy Summer Recipes photo gallery, which includes Ellie Krieger's colorful Grilled Ratatouille Salad pictured above.

Keep Reading

Next Up

Be a Healthier Summer Party Host

Host a cookout with fresh, lower-calorie versions of cookout favorites.

How to Eat to Fuel Your Workout

Get the most out of your workout by knowing what to eat when.

How Much Water Do You Need to Drink Each Day?

Find out if you're drinking enough water and staying hydrated during the summer months with these tips from Food Network.

Skinny Cocktails

Simple swaps to lighten up your cocktails

7 Tips for Healthy & Delicious Burgers

You can have your beef and eat it too. With these seven tips, find out how to trim calories while getting big flavor from your burger.

Why You Need Vitamin D

The sunshine vitamin is important for all aspects of your health. Find out what it does, how much you need and how to get enough.

Food Network Magazine: Aug/Sept 2009 Recipe Index

Find easy recipes for appetizers, main dishes, sides and desserts from Food Network Magazine.

Essential Picnic Checklist

Follow this outdoor dining checklist and you'll be the best-prepared picnicker at the beach or park.

Barbecue Party Calculator

Hosting a get-together this summer? Whether you're doing an informal outdoor barbecue or an evening cocktail party, we've got you covered on how to best calculate the amount of food and drinks you'll need to plan the right size soiree.

Food Network Magazine: June/July 2009 Recipe Index

Find easy recipes for appetizers, main dishes, sides and desserts from Food Network Magazine.