In fact, while you may think of summer as a time for calorie-burning outdoor fun, research suggests otherwise. When temperatures soar, experts say levels of physical activity tend to plummet. Pair that with the beers at backyard barbecues and the mid-afternoon ice cream cones, and body weight inevitably creeps up.
But summer doesn’t have to be a desert barren of weight loss foods. There are a number of easy tweaks you can make to your diet that can improve your health and keep the summer pounds at bay — while you enjoy some of your warm weather favorites. Yes, even beer. Use these tricks, and you and your family can enjoy every lazy, hazy, dog day of the season — and still lose weight.
Buy the Spicy Salsa
Filling up on spicy food when you’re already sweating may sound counterintuitive, but scientists present a solid case for how culinary heat can help us beat the heat — and the bulge. They call it "gustatory facial sweating.” It’s a phenomenon that suggests spicy foods trigger special nerve receptors in our mouths and thermosensors in our stomachs that cause us to sweat — the body’s way of releasing heat via evaporative cooling. You’ll get the same heat-up-cool-down effect from a hot cup of tea, but spicy summer foods have the added benefit of being rich in capsaicin, a fat-burning compound found in chili peppers.
Rethink Your Coffee Order
It may be too hot for a steamy latte, but resist the urge to cool down with a flab-uccino—er, frozen, blended coffee beverage. In many instances, the cool equivalent of a hot espresso drink is far more caloric. Consider this typical Starbucks order: A tall, nonfat Vanilla Latte will cost you 150 calories; but a tall, nonfat, no-whip Vanilla Frappuccino clocks in at 200 calories (it also serves up an additional 19 grams of sugar). That’s enough of a daily increase in calories to gain more than 1.25 pounds in three short months! Stay on track with your weight-loss goals this summer by sticking to iced coffee drinks instead. A tall, nonfat Iced Vanilla Latte at Starbucks is only 120 calories. And an Iced Coffee with nonfat milk and a shot of vanilla is a virtuous 80 calories.
Grow an Herb Garden
A DIY herb box is one of the most delicious ways to bring tons of fresh flavor to summer fare for minimal calories. And research suggests herbing-up with the aromatics can indeed help slim you down. One study in the journal Flavour found participants ate significantly less of a strongly-scented dish than an equicaloric, mildly scented version. Researchers suggest this sensory illusion triggers the release of satiety hormones, so you don’t over-indulge in something rich. And other research by the University of Utah suggests the simple act of tending to a herb box may keep the weight off. Female gardeners are, on average, 11 pounds lighter than their non-gardening peers while green-thumbed men are 16 pounds leaner, according to the study. Be sure to include parsley in your summer garden (or window box!). As a natural diuretic that helps flush excess water from the body, the herb is particularly beach-body friendly.
Sip on a [virgin] Bloody Mary
Tomato juice, as it’s loaded with lycopene and carotenoids, may be the best summer beverage for a hot beach bod and youthful glowing skin, new research suggests. Women who drank a small glass of tomato juice every day for eight weeks lost nearly an inch off their waistlines, independent of any other changes to diet or exercise, a recent trial published in the journal Nutrition found. Rehydrating after a day in the sun with a vegetable drink rich in carotenoids could also slash oxidation products–the main culprits of visible sun damage–50 percent more effectively than sodas, according to a separate two-week study.
Get Your Burger Drunk
Throwing back a bottle of beer — into a marinade — may eliminate harmful chemicals that form when grilling meat at high temperatures, researchers say. In fact, marinating meat with beer for four hours lowered the levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) by as much as 68 percent in a recent study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. PAHs are known carcinogens and classified “endocrine disruptors” that have been linked to obesity. Interestingly, the darker beers were the most powerful, but even a non-alcoholic variety reduced chemical formation by 25 percent. Previous research showed a red wine marinade to have a similar effect. Researchers say the antioxidant-rich marinades act like a barrier between the meat and cancer-causing compounds. Cheers!
Snack on Self-tanner
A faux sun-tan that can also help you lose weight? It’s true. People who ate more portions of brightly-colored produce had a healthier and more sun-kissed complexion than those who didn’t consume as much, a study in the Journal Evolution and Human Behaviour found. The faux glow is the result of disease-fighting compounds called carotenoids that give some fruit and veg their brilliant red-orange hue. Some of the best summer sources of the sunless stuff like carrots, bell peppers, and cantaloupe also happen to be particularly low-calorie, so you can snack to your heart’s (and belly’s!) content while you get your glow on.
Drown Out the Pounds
Water is like fat-burning fuel: It’s what your metabolism requires to function optimally, especially in the summer heat when we tend to lose water faster than normal. In fact, numerous studies have linked proper hydration — between half an ounce and an ounce of water for each pound you weigh — to improved weight loss. In fact, one study in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found drinking water (17 ounces) could increase fat-burning by 30 percent. Dehydration, on the other hand, slows calorie-burning. Make a summertime fetish of toting around a water bottle. Throw in a sliced lemon for good measure. Limonene, a compound found in the peel, is a great natural detoxifier, as it helps the liver to flush excess toxins from the system.