We’re already halfway through the summer and many of us are deep into chowing down on the best summer eats like barbecue, ice cream and more. All of our warm-weather favorites are now a regular part of backyard or beach eating, and our healthy summer eating goals might be a distant memory.
Let's take a baby step back to better eating by making these easy and tasty swaps.
What you usually drink: A margarita, about 375 calories
Try: A 12-ounce beer, about 150 calories
When it comes to calories, a regular beer has about half the calories of a margarita (that’s in comparison to a standard 12-ounce glass — not a souvenir-sized goblet). Beer is also lower in total alcohol and sugar. And it’s a myth that drinking beer gives you a beer belly. Plus, the fizz allows you to drink slower and make one drink last longer. You can also add few ice cubes to the beer which reduces the carbonation but will keep it cool. One bottle of beer is built-in portion control for one standard serving of alcohol.
What you usually eat: Hamburger slider, about 170 calories
Try: Fried chicken wing, about 120 calories
For an indulgent appetizer, you’ll save about 50 calories with the chicken wing. And the wing has 20 percent more protein. You’ll also avoid the processed carbohydrates from the slider’s bun. Portion control matters: Stick with one wing and enjoy with some colorful, raw vegetables on the side.
What you usually eat: 10 popcorn shrimp, about 250 calories
Try: Two pigs-in-a-blanket, about 120 calories
Those bite-sized popcorn shrimp may be tiny, but those calories add up fast — with about 25 calories per bite, a serving weighs in at 250 calories. And it’s hard to stop that hand-to-mouth activity! Two mini pigs-in-a-blanket are about 60 calories each, and a two-piece serving is lower in fat, calories and sodium than the shrimp.
What you usually drink: Medium lemonade (20 ounces), around 220 calories
Try: Sweetened iced tea (20 ounces), around 110 calories
While both drinks have added sugar, the iced tea has about half the amount of sugar found in a lemonade. Stick with a small cup for further sugar and calorie savings, or share a medium drink with a friend. Sometimes the tea is so strong, you can also add extra ice, or even water, to cut the calories further.
What you usually eat: Chips and guacamole, around 250 calories
Try: Two bruschetta, about 100 calories
With a few dips of guacamole clocking in at about 150 calories, you'll be getting a heart-healthy, nutrient-rich boost from avocados — but with a handful of chips weighing in at about 100 calories, you also may be getting more calories than you want during snack time. Try a healthier party dish and make bruschetta, with a swipe of olive oil on a small piece of toasted bread, topped with a colorful (and nutrient-rich) blend of chopped tomatoes, basil and garlic.
What you usually drink: Aperol spritz, around 165 calories
Try: Bloody mary, around 130 calories
Not only lower in calories than its fizzy counterpart, the bloody mary has much less sugar. Plus, you’ll get the boost of one serving of fruit (tomatoes are a fruit, not a vegetable!). Stick with reduced-sodium mixers to keep the salt at a minimum and always double check the sugar content of any mixers, even tomato-based ones.
Madelyn Fernstrom, PhD is NBC News Health and Nutrition Editor. Follow her on Twitter.