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Your Health Blog

    Clean Eating in the Summer

    Dr. Emily Krajec Family Medicine, Deaconess Clinic Princeton 08/11/2015

    Summer months naturally lend themselves to clean eating. It’s important to know how to take advantage of this. Summer also brings cookouts, traveling, and family vacations. It is possible to continue clean eating by remembering a few tips and tricks.
    A Quick Review of Clean Eating Principles:
    • Choosing foods that are as close to their natural state as possible is the basis of eating clean. Clean eating stresses avoiding processed foods, refined grains and sugar, trans/saturated fats and others.
    • This is a way of eating that is sustainable over your entire life. It is a well-rounded, balanced diet that does not exclude any food group or require you to use unfamiliar, hard-to-find ingredients. 
    • Clean eating has so many benefits. In addition to weight loss, it has been shown to improve your immune system, sleep, and energy levels. It may help improve mood, improve mental clarity, and even improve the health of your hair and skin.
    • For more about the basics of clean eating, please visit my earlier blog here.
    Farmers Markets
    Summer months are full of fresh fruits and vegetables. Fresh/local produce is easier to find and cheaper—and it tastes better!--so take advantage of this. Produce can be found not only at grocery stores but farmers markets or roadside stands. Here’s a list of some local/regional farmers markets:
    • The Downtown Evansville Farmers Market – each Friday through October 2, from 8:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m., and Tuesdays from 3:00 – 6:00 p.m. located on 2nd Street in Evansville, between Vine and Sycamore. Deaconess has a booth there each Friday with shopping bags, recipes and health information.
    •  Franklin Street Bazaar – Saturdays through October, West Branch Library park, 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
    • Historic Newburgh Farmers Market – downtown Newburgh, Saturdays 8:00 a.m. – noon.
    Other farmers markets, including those in New Harmony, Princeton, Vincennes and others, can be found at
    Also, my family enjoys various “pick your own” farms. We like picking blueberries and strawberries. You can find area “you pick” farms at Many local orchards and family farms have retail farm markets as well—another great place to buy local foods that were just harvested!
    Freezing Produce
    This is also a great time to explore new ways to prepare and cook your favorite vegetables. 
    If you can, try to stock up and freeze or can so that you have nutritious local produce all winter.
    Most fruits freeze very well! I recently picked several gallons of blueberries from a local patch. For blueberries, you freeze them first on a cookie sheet, then once frozen place them in freezer bags or vacuum sealed bags. We love blueberries and I use them in many things but in the winter they are hard to find and VERY expensive. My favorites to freeze are blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries. 
    My favorite vegetables to freeze include zucchini (shredded first), corn (removed from cob), and green beans. Many vegetables can be canned; you do want to watch what you add during the canning process, but for the most part it’s still a great option. This all takes time, but will save money and it’s so nice having these options in the cold winter months. There are lots of informational websites about canning and food storage, as well as videos on YouTube, books at the library….however you learn best, there’s a resource out there for you.
    Clean Eating Recipes
    I have several sources I like for clean eating recipes. They include the following:
    • Pinterest - search “clean eating.” I’ve found so many fantastic recipes.
    • I follow and find lots of great tips and recipes there.
    • Million Hearts is a site of heart-healthy recipes that are usually pretty “clean,” especially the salads and vegetable dishes. You can search by ingredients you’d like to use, by category, etc.
    Here’s a current favorite recipe at our house right now.  It’s so refreshing on a hot summer day.
    Banana “Ice Cream” Recipe
    Use 4-5 over ripe bananas
    Peel and freeze in gallon freezer bag.
    Remove from bag and place in blender or food processor.
    Usually need to blend for 3-4 minutes until it becomes rich, silky and creamy.
    If too thick, you can add small amount of almond milk.
    Can add while blending: natural peanut butter, cocoa powder, vanilla
    Top with fresh fruit such as blueberries or strawberries, nuts, shredded coconut, etc!
    Cookout Tips
    Summer is a time of cookouts and family gatherings. Some tips to consider:
    • For the most part, grilled meat is a good clean option. Our favorites include grilled chicken, fish, and pork. Use fresh seasonings and watch adding extra sauces.
    • For sides, some are clean while others can be quite unhealthy. When hosting or going to a BBQ, contribute a healthy clean side.
    • When making your plate, fill it up with vegetables or clean sides first. Then go back and get a reasonable portion of your favorite side, whether it be potato salad, pasta salad, etc. With clean eating, I encourage patients to aim for a 80/20 rule--clean eating 80% of the time. Doing this allows you to not feel deprived or frustrated that you can never have something that you love. 
    • Finally, watch desserts at a BBQ. I usually try to simply cut up a watermelon or make a fresh fruit salad which is perfect for summer. If your kids (or you) love ice cream, there are some great clean eating ice cream recipes (like the frozen bananas recipe above) and other frozen fruits- check them out on Pinterest-- just type in “clean eating ice cream.”
    Healthy Summer Snacks
    Summer can be a busy time from traveling to kids activities, such as baseball games and concession stands rarely offer clean options. Try to think ahead and have some clean snacks prepared to take with you.
    When you buy fresh veggies or fruit, most types can be cleaned and cut up, then put into smaller containers. This makes it so much easier to grab when going out the door.
    Some of my favorite are small bags of unsalted nuts, Lara Bars, fresh fruit, or fresh veggies. My kids’ favorites this summer include air popped popcorn and strawberries for my 4 year old and Cheerios and bananas for my 1 year old (Cheerios are one the most clean premade cereals). Stay hydrated with water!  
    Meal Planning
    With any time of the year, planning is still important in the summer. Each week, plan for the following week’s meals. This makes the temptation to run out and get fast food for dinner much less likely.
    Also, many kids are home in the summer. Make sure there are healthy, clean options for them for breakfast, lunch, and snacks. I clean and cut up fruit and veggies and put it on my bottom shelf of the refrigerator so my 4 year old can help herself when she is hungry for a snack.
    Clean Eating When Traveling
    Family vacations are a part of summer. It’s important to enjoy yourself and some of your favorite foods but not throw everything out the window as far as clean eating. Again, pack snacks while traveling to and from your destination to avoid the unhealthy rest stop/gas station/airport options.
    While eating out, remember the clean eating rules of avoiding processed foods and knowing what you are eating. Try to pick options from the menu where you “know” what is in it. Watch for added sauces and sides, and ask the restaurant to leave something off or substitute something for you. 
    It’s ok to splurge some, again the 80/20 rule, but plan ahead. If you know that you are going to your favorite restaurant for dinner and this is going to be splurge of the day, really aim for a clean breakfast and lunch. If you do this during your vacation, you will come home feeling good and without any added pounds.
    When on your vacation, stay active! Fight those splurges with some extra walking or exercise.
    For more information about my practice.
    I’m currently accepting patients of all ages at my practice here at Deaconess Clinic Princeton.
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