Summer Menu Clean Up

Tips and tricks to enjoy your favorite summer dishes and stay on track all season long!

Jamie Staley, CPT, Pn1

Photo by Francesco Paggiaro on

With warmer weather arriving and Memorial Day weekend less than a week away, I think it’s safe to say summer is finally on the way!

I don’t know about you, but for me that means that I switch into “summer food” mode, which usually includes grilling, pasta salads, and a lot of fruit. However, summer can also mean a change to our eating habits by dining out more often, attending parties (graduations, showers, weddings, birthdays, Fourth of July celebrations), increased travel, occasional houseguests, and a multitude of other things.

So how to do you enjoy everything great about this season while still sticking to your health and fitness goals?

First, you need to clearly define what your goals are and why. I would argue, for most people, summer is not the time to start a new diet or a cutting phase. (Full transparency: my own weight-loss journey started on July 14th, 2016, but let me explain why this still makes sense for some people.)

The best time to start any new fitness or nutrition related goal is a combination of two things: when you’re ready and when you’re likely to succeed. Starting to count calories or watch your carb intake before arguable the busiest six to eight weeks of the year is not a likely combination for success. This can leave you feeling more frustrated and disheartened then when you began.


You could be heading into your perfect time. You could be ready and really likely to succeed in the summer. Your year could be structured different (example: teacher). In that case, GO FOR IT!

If you are heading into summer with the goal of maintaining your current healthy habits, or branching out into new ones, here are a few tips that may be helpful!

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#1: Lower calorie condiments and toppings

Ease off the heavy sauces and choose low or zero calorie substitutes like ketchup (without added sugar), yellow mustard, and dill relish. Switch to lower calorie mayo (you probably won’t notice the difference) when using as a condiment or for a base for a pasta salad dressing.

For burgers, use lettuce, tomato, sautéed mushrooms (without added oil or butter), and onion for toppings and skip the cheese.

Skipping the bun for your burger or dog can also be a nice way to balance out carbs from other components of the meal (like potato salad).

#2: Choose quality, lean meats

Make your burgers from as lean of ground beef as you can (I usually use a 93% lean variety). Be sure to adjust cooking methods and time, as leaner meat will dry out faster. Grass-fed beef is also a great option.

For leaner cuts of steak, choose sirloin tip side steak, top round steak, eye of round steak, bottom round steak, or top sirloin.

For hot dogs and brats, go with a turkey or chicken option or beef that is uncured. This will usually save on additives and bring the sodium content down, which can be incredibly high in heavily processed meats.

For all meats, choose local sources if able.

#3: Revamp your pasta salad

If there is one thing I love in this world, it is a giant dish of pasta salad with a dressing made of mayo and mustard, so I know what I’m asking you to do here.

However, if pasta salad is a summer staple in your home, here are some things that will lighten it up:

  • ditch the mayo dressing and use an Italian dressing instead (I like Bolthouse)
  • don’t hold back on the veggies (green pepper, tomato, cucumber, carrots, kale, broccoli, etc.) and make sure to dice everything in small pieces
  • swap your regular pasta for a chickpea pasta for added protein
  • use feta cheese instead of cheddar chunks
  • add lots of fresh herbs for amazing flavor (dill, cilantro, parsley, etc.)
#4: Stay hydrated

Instead of soda, sugary teas, or lemonades opt for:

  • unsweetened tea (zero calories)
  • water with flavor enhancer (liquid or drink mix packets around 5 calories each)
  • sparkling water (Waterloo, Zevia, etc.)
  • on hot days where you are very active, add electrolytes (Liquid I.V, Body Armour, etc.)

Watch alcohol intake and choose lower calorie substitutes when able!

#5: Introduce your veggies to your grill

If winter is for roasted veggies, summer is for grilling them! Be sure to go easy on the oil and butter and use plenty of seasonings and fresh herbs to bring out the best flavor.

Some of my favorites:

  • corn (on the cob)
  • asparagus
  • kebobs (peppers, onions, and mushrooms)
  • zucchini
  • summer squash (yellow squash)
  • eggplant
  • bell peppers
  • portabello mushrooms

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As with anything, remember that progress is gained or lost with what you do most of the time, not what you do some of the time.

You will not lose 5 pounds overnight by doing any of these things once.

You will not gain 5 pounds overnight by eating regular pasta salad once.

Choose the events that you will enjoy what you want. Also, choose the events that you can eat more aligned with your goals.

Here’s to a healthy summer!

How Can I Help?

If tackling your nutrition on your own feels too intimidating and confusing, I can help! I am a Level 1 Certified Nutrition Coach through Precision Nutrition, one of the most reputable nutrition companies in the world.

I will coach you through individualized action steps to meet your goals and help you formulate a plan for change that fits your life, instead of trying to make your life fit a plan. I’ll give you the accountability, real information, and guidance to make lasting nutritional change.

Send me an email at and let’s chat about your goals!

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