By: Rebecca Stack Shenkman, MPH, RD, LDN; Clinical Dietitian, Bryn Mawr Hospital
Greek Yogurt: With its thick and creamy texture, Greek yogurt has quickly become a go-to healthy choice for many people. Thanks to its high protein content – a six-ounce serving of nonfat Greek yogurt has, on average, 15 grams of protein, five grams more than traditional nonfat plain yogurt – it helps satisfy hunger without adding empty calories. Look for the fat-free or low-fat varieties, as full-fat Greek yogurt can be high in saturated fat from the whole milk base.
Serving suggestion: Put a single-serving container of Greek yogurt in the freezer and eat as a dessert substitute for ice cream, or use as a base for smoothies or dips. Plain Greek yogurt can also be a substitute for sour cream.
Gazpacho: This low-calorie, tomato-based cold soup is refreshing during the summer months and is a natural source of vitamins A, C, and E, phosphorus, iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, copper, potassium and sodium. It also contains a good source of carotenoids, which are known to have antioxidant functions that help prevent premature aging and damage from environmental toxins.
Serving suggestion: Serve gazpacho with fresh crusted bread topped with a slice of mozzarella cheese to make a complete, low-calorie, vitamin-packed meal.
Eggs: Eggs are the complete package; they contain, on average, seven grams of protein and contain all nine essential amino acids. Eggs are one of the only foods containing naturally occurring Vitamin D, and the yolk contains choline, a nutrient essential in the regulation of the brain, nervous system and cardiovascular system. Those with heart disease, diabetes, or high cholesterol should limit their egg consumption and opt for small or medium-sized eggs versus the jumbo, large or extra large, as these have more cholesterol.
Serving suggestion: Whip up a quick and easy breakfast by placing four egg whites into a microwave-safe bowl, microwave for two to three minutes, and top with your favorite salsa, low fat cheese, or slice of avocado for a breakfast that is rich in proteins and nutrients and won’t leave you craving a mid-morning snack.
Kefir: Kefir is a fermented milk drink made from Kefir grains which are incorporated into cow, goat, sheep, coconut, rice or soy milk. It is a cultured, enzyme-rich food which has a yogurt-like texture and is credited with many health benefits, including providing beneficial bacteria and yeast, vitamins and minerals, and complete proteins. Kefir is also a great source of probiotics, bacteria which help promote a favorable gastrointestinal environment.
Serving suggestion: Kefir can be a healthy substitute for yogurt and milk in summer smoothies, so try fresh fruit flavors of Kefir instead of milk. For less sugar and calories, use basic plain Kefir.
Berries: Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries are versatile, delicious, and packed with water for rehydration, potassium, fiber, Vitamin C and cancer-fighting antioxidants. Berries are typically the freshest during summer, so there’s no reason not to get your fill.
To extend the life of your produce, hold off on washing berries until you are ready to use them. Otherwise, they may get soggy and rotten more quickly. As you buy, stay away from packages of berries that look mushy or moldy.
Serving suggestion: Berries are a great topping to summer desserts, like ice creams, pies, and cakes.
Cucumbers: Known as a cooling food, cucumbers are packed with Vitamins A and C and folic acid. This vegetable’s hard outer skin is particularly rich in fiber and minerals, including magnesium and potassium. They also contain ascorbic and caffeic acids, which help prevent water retention, and a trace mineral called silica, credited for helping strengthen connective tissue, the reason cucumbers are placed on the eyes to prevent swelling.
To prevent cucumbers from becoming soggy, keep them cool in the refrigerator and out of direct sunlight.
Serving suggestion: Try to use cucumbers in summer recipes like cold cucumber soup, pasta salad, or in side salads during a meal.
Watermelon: From the seeds to the flesh, every part of this delicious fruit is edible. Watermelon is 92 percent water and contains Vitamin C, beta-carotene and lycopene. One cup of this fruit contains 21 percent of your daily value of Vitamin C and 18 percent of your daily value of Vitamin A. Studies have shown that regular consumption of watermelon juice increases blood concentrations of the antioxidants beta-carotene and lycopene, which may help protect against heart disease and certain cancers such as prostate, bladder, and cervical cancer.
To extend the shelf life and health benefits of your watermelon, store at room temperature, just under 70 degrees.
Serving suggestion: Watermelon can be served alone or in a colorful fruit salad, but try a new use for the favorite fruit with this recipe for Grilled Spicy Watermelon.
Visit our website for more information on nutrition services offered at Main Line Health, and for additional summer recipe ideas.