07/01/2013 08:17 am ET Updated Aug 31, 2013

Don't Let Summer Sabotage Your Diet


Summertime is when the livin' is easy... and the pounds just peel off, right? Wrong! That's not the case for many who take a summer "vacation" from healthy eating and wind up heavier on Labor Day than they were on Memorial Day.

Here are three ways summer may sabotage your diet and slim solutions for each:

Summer Saboteur #1: Ice Cream and other Frozen Treats

Nothing screams summer more than ice cream and frozen desserts. According to a HighBeam Business report, Americans enjoy about 25 pounds of ice cream and other frozen desserts per person annually. But all those treats come at a calorie price: According to USDA analyses, a cup of premium ice cream often has more than 500 calories and is loaded with added sugars and saturated fat. For comparison, a cup of frozen soft-serve yogurt has about 230 calories.

Slim Solution:

Limit frozen treats to no more than a couple times a week and keep servings in check. Choose regular (non-premium options) and vanilla is always lower in calories than chocolate or other flavors with mix-ins. Look for frozen desserts that are "whipped" or "slow-churned" varieties as they will have fewer calories per serving compared to their non-whipped counterparts. Another option is to try lower-calorie, portion-controlled novelties like 100 percent fruit pops, lighter ice cream sandwiches and fudge bars. Many have 100-150 calories per serving.

Summer Saboteur #2: Summertime Sips

It's hot, so you hydrate. Keeping your body well hydrated is important when the temperature rises, but calorie-free water should be your first choice.

If you're reaching for a cold one, like sodas, slurpees, smoothies or strawberry daiquiris, the Lycra in your bathing suit may be a little s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d out by the end of the summer. Liquid calories trip up your brain's hunger and satiety regulators, making it harder to control your calorie intake. And alcoholic beverages are even worse because they're a triple threat. They pack in a lot of calories, alcohol stimulates appetite while it decreases inhibitions and activates the food reward areas of your brain.

Slim Solution:

Limit liquid calories to no more than 150 per day, and if you're going to drink an alcoholic beverage, choose one of the lowest-calorie options like ultra light beer, wine spritzers, distilled spirits mixed with club soda or other calorie-free beverages.

Summer Saboteur #3: Cranking Up the AC

When it's hazy, hot and humid, what do you do? Crank up the AC? If so, you may be turning down your metabolism while you turn up your appetite. Researchers from Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University and reported in the journal Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition found that air conditioning may have a role in the obesity epidemic. They suggest that as more and more homes starting using air conditioning, obesity rates also rose simultaneously. In the late 1970s, fewer than 25 percent of homes in the U.S. had AC compared to more than 45 percent in 1998. The researchers also cite research showing that when the body is exposed to heat and humidity, appetite decreases, and people naturally eat less. At the same time, when you're hot to the point of sweating, your metabolism works extra hard to help cool your core temperature.

Slim Solution:

Hair aside, getting a little hot and sweaty won't hurt you. Just think: Sweat is fat crying. To keep it safe, stay well hydrated with water or calorie-free beverages.

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