It’s the August long weekend and here in the Okanagan that means camping trips, backyard barbecues, picnics, and organizing guest rooms for family and friends to come and stay. And, of course, food is a big part of all of these. In addition to the fresh, local produce our Valley is known for, ice cream, wine tastings, and s’mores also often become regular fare throughout the summer. In order to keep tasty summer treats on the menu and pounds off your waist, try any one or all of these six simple summer food hacks and swaps.
1. Make your own ice cream and frozen treats. Blending frozen, sliced bananas with cocoa powder and a little stevia or maple syrup makes a great chocolate ice cream.
Swirl in some peanut butter and you’ve got a real taste treat. Or blend up almond or coconut milk with fresh local berries, a dollop of Greek yogurt and freeze in a popsicle mould for healthy, delicious popsicles.
Throw in a scoop of vanilla protein powder to either recipe and your kids can literally have ice cream for breakfast and popsicles for lunch when it’s too hot to cook. Not only is this healthy, and saves you money, it’s something you and your kids can do together.
2. Eat before wine tasting. Scheduling your wine tasting to directly follow a meal. When you fuel up with clean healthy proteins like chicken, fish or grass fed beef, good fats such as avocado or olive oil and choose loads of leafy greens and vegetables as your carb, you body is better able to metabolize the alcohol and prevent fat storage.
3. Pack it right. Whenever we head out on the boat, out for a hike or out of town to go camping, what we eat is determined by what we bring with us. I’m not suggesting we ditch all the traditional camping and picnic-type foods, but there are definitely ways to make them healthier. Ditch the traditional, vacuumed sealed “tubes of mystery meat” you’ll find in the grocery store in favour of a gluten free, 100 per cent real meat smokie you’ll find at your local speciality meat shops. The elk or turkey smokies from Johnny’s Meats here in Rutland are my favourite.
4. Drink lots of water. When we’re a quart low so to speak, the body sometimes sends us a hunger signal rather than a thirst signal, causing a person to eat when they really should be drinking. Staying hydrated will quench those signals and you won’t be as likely to eat the extra calories.
5. Celebrate with a fruit cake. And no, not the kind topped with marzipan and famous for being re-gifted. Watermelon, pineapple, cantaloupe, honeydew, can all be used to create a “cake” that’s refreshing, delicious and helps you burn fat. Simply remove the rind or skin from your chosen fruit (I like watermelon) and shape fruit to resemble a round layer cake.
Slice as if it were a cake, pat sections dry and put back together. Open a can (you may need more than one) of chilled, 100 per cent pure coconut milk and scoop out the “butter.” Whip with a little vanilla and use it to “frost” the watermelon cake. Decorate the top with fresh berries, sides with slivered almonds and serve. Fresh, sweet and creamy, perfect for that backyard BBQ or when family comes to visit. It’s also a fantastic swap for strawberry shortcake.
6. S’mores. What can I say, if you’re a camper, s’mores are just part of the deal. The simplest way to decrease sugar and add a few nutrients to these iconic camping morsels is to swap out the marshmallow for a chunk of banana and opt for a chunk of organic dark chocolate over milk chocolate.
I know some people who even make their own gluten-free oatmeal cookies to replace the graham cracker as well for a total gourmet version.
Let’s face it, summer gatherings are all about the food. And with so many opportunities to get together, having a few food strategies in place will help you keep off those extra pounds that you may not otherwise notice until fall.
This summer, why not try a few of these suggestions or create some of your own healthy hacks for your family? And do consider sharing yours.
Feel free to email me your favourite hacks and swaps at and I will post them for other to enjoy as well.
Tania Gustafson is a nutritionist and fitness coach. On the web: fuelignitethrive.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Tune in to her “For the Health of It” podcast every Saturday at 8 a.m. on OkanaganValleyRadio.com