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By Susan Greeley, MS, RDN

Don’t we all love long summer days? It seems everyone is more relaxed, and that’s exactly when many people find that they gain weight! After many years of conducting weight-loss programs with clients, the most consistent observation I’ve made is that people have the most weight to lose come September!

When your diet goes into “vacation mode”
This summer weight gain is not surprising, when you think about how our schedules often change during the summer months. One reason for summer weight gain may be the “structured days hypothesis,” or a lack of routine that is often triggered by vacation and then lasts throughout summer. This is particularly true if summer weekends are filled with more socializing, lounging at the shore, and what I call “vacation mode” eating that makes most of us let our guard down. When this lasts for two or more months, the result can be a big buzz kill!

How to avoid the sabotaging summer diet pitfalls
Here are some quick reminders on how to avoid summer weight gain by making simple swaps on the grill, on the boardwalk, and on vacation all summer long:

Don’t sip more calories. Iced teas and coffees or frozen blended beverages are favorites on long, hot summer days, and they often end up adding more calories than you realize without making you feel full. Since hydration is important, do drink cold, refreshing drinks, but go for those without added sugar and try adding fresh mint, lemon juice or fruits that can make any water more drinkable! The same risk of “hidden” calories applies to alcoholic beverages: set a limit for yourself on cocktails, beer and wine, and be sure to alternate alcoholic beverages with water or other non-alcoholic drinks to stay hydrated.

Bring the garden to the grill. When grilling, go for lots of summer’s garden vegetables, most of which are great grilled and drizzled with fresh herbs, olive oil and lemon juice. Filling up on a variety of fresh vegetables will also mean less room in the belly for burgers, sausages, and steak and hot dogs!

Let dessert bring out the “kiddie” in you. We all scream for ice cream, but what really makes you scream is when you see the calorie counts! Super-sized scoops can pack in hundreds of extra calories. What is one way you can still enjoy ice cream without sabotaging your waistline? Don’t be bashful about asking for a “kiddie cone,” or stick with 100% fresh fruit sorbets, many of which have no added sugar.

Set a goal for fall. Come September, there are plenty of races such as 5k’s, triathlons, or other activities that require staying fit and active through the summer. Sign yourself up now as a way to stay on track and be active all summer long!

Now that Memorial Day has officially kicked off the summer season, take time to be mindful about summer splurging so that you won’t be sabotaging your diet, waistline and health. Instead, use summer as a time to take a break from heavy eating and focus on enjoying more local, seasonal fresh foods, staying active outdoors and preventing summer weight gain blues!