Summertime in Michigan is finally here, calling us to magnificent coastlines, camping, concerts, art shows, fairs and festivals.
And the food. Oh yes, the food.
Outdoor events are the perfect venue to enjoy seasonal harvests, with creative recipes that make great use of apples, blueberries, cherries, cuisines and more.
And, depending on where you live, these events will highlight local fare as well as foods from around the world.
July features the National Cherry Festival in Traverse City, for instance, and there’s also the Grand Rapids Foodie Fest on Fourth of July weekend.
While some of the traditional, not-so-healthy foods at local events may be on your radar—a serving of ice cream or berry pie, perhaps—you can follow some smart tips to keep from overindulging.
You can set yourself up for success before you even head off to your destination.
For starters: Don’t arrive hungry. You’ll only feel the urge to indulge in sweets or high-fat items. Some other helpful advice:
- Visit an event’s website or social media site to see if the festival offers a list of food and beverage vendors. Know the rules for bringing your own food or drink, too, especially if you have medical needs or food allergies.
- Before you even leave the house, eat a healthy breakfast, snack or meal. This way, you won’t feel famished when you get there. If you arrive hungry, it can lead to eating quickly and overeating.
- Take time for physical activity that morning—either a brisk walk or a light run to burn calories. You’ll feel better about your health and it may inspire you to make healthier choices when you’re out and about.
- Check the weather forecast for heat and humidity—and plan to rehydrate frequently. Unless you can bring your own water, make sure you bring money to buy bottled water or a sports drink.
Take it in
When you arrive at an event—a small-town festival, for instance, where the aroma of fried foods and baked goods can quickly lure you in—slow down and take a moment to survey the atmosphere.
Don’t make a beeline for the food vendors. Focus your time on performances and activities, and then browse the food options.
No matter where you go, there’s likely to be some delicious foods that can provide great flavor and nutrition.
Here’s a good approach:
- Try cultural foods such as guacamole, bean burritos, souvlaki with tzatziki sauce or jerk and curry chicken.
- Give leaner protein options a try, such as turkey burgers, fish tacos or chicken kebobs.
- Seek out plant-based options, such as black bean or veggie burgers, as well as hummus, vegetable kabobs or gyros.
For snacks and desserts, you can also find healthier options that still say “yum”:
- Fresh-roasted nuts (almonds, cashews)
- Berries with a dollop—not a blanket—of fresh whipped cream
- Frozen yogurt in a cup, with chopped nuts
- Freshly sliced watermelon, honeydew or muskmelon
Be wary of foods that quickly eat up one day’s calories. Steer clear of items high in sodium, added sugars or saturated fat.
Be portion savvy, too. Consider splitting a dish and sharing it with a friend or family member.
Some examples of desserts to avoid: double- or triple-scoop ice cream, waffle cones, cotton candy, elephant ears and funnel cakes.
Meats and cheeses can be problematic, too. Avoid corn dogs with cheese sauces, burgers, chili cheese dogs, pizza or nachos with cheese.
Fried foods—an item found in abundance at fairs—should be avoided altogether. This includes fries, deep-fried “anything,” onion rings and mozzarella sticks.
Back on track
If you do end up eating more than you had planned, or if you eat something you feel like you shouldn’t have, don’t beat yourself up about it.
When you return home, make a deliberate effort to resume your healthy eating. Also, make sure you already have healthy foods in the fridge at home—it’ll set you up for success.
As you start the next day fresh, consider it a great opportunity to resume an exercise plan and make smart food choices moving forward.