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Eat This Not That: Simple, Healthy Food Swaps for Summer


A man tending to the grill.

Summer is a season full of delicious food. On one end of the spectrum, there are hot dogs, hamburgers, and ice cream cones, and on the other, you'll find fresh fruit, grilled vegetables, and mixed salads. Both extremes have their place, but it can still be helpful to have a few healthy food swaps up your sleeve. These diabetes-friendly alternatives can help you navigate the best of what summer has to offer—and keep your blood sugar on track at the same time.


Instead of: Macaroni salad


Try: Cucumber salad


With 37 grams of carbohydrates and 440 calories per cup, a scoop of macaroni salad can quickly undo your healthy eating efforts. Cucumber salad, on the other hand, boasts only 40 calories and 10 grams of carbohydrate per cup.


Instead of: Sweet tea


Try: Fruit sweetened iced tea


When it's not full of added sugar, iced tea can be a great diabetes-friendly drink. For a light, fruity lower-sugar alternative, try this "sangria-style" tea. Simply brew and cool 1 quart of black tea and add 1 cup of chopped fresh fruit, like plums, nectarines, and peaches. Then chill, strain, and serve over ice.


Instead of: Baked beans


Try: Black bean and pineapple salad


One cup of baked beans packs a hefty 54 grams of carbohydrate and 20 grams of sugar. Keep the protein goodness and lose the extra carbs by making your own bean salad. For a better-for-you bean dish, combine 1 can of rinsed and drained low sodium black beans, 1 cup of diced pineapple, 1 diced red bell pepper, and cilantro, lime juice, and olive oil to taste.


Instead of: A baked potato


Try: Corn on the cob


Summertime barbecues can be overflowing with starchy sides like baked potatoes, French fries, and potato salad. A better bet? Corn on the cob. It's lighter in calories and carbs than a baked potato, and it has a lower glycemic index, so its carbohydrates are less likely to spike your blood sugar.


Instead of: A hamburger


Try: A tuna burger


Next time you're flipping patties, add some tuna burgers to the mix. Their meaty taste and texture are guaranteed to satisfy even the most die-hard burger lovers. With less saturated fat than a hamburger and plenty of beneficial omega-3 fats, they're also a heart-healthy option.


Instead of: A hot dog


Try: A chicken taco


Did you know that people who eat lots of processed meat, like hot dogs, may be more likely to develop type 2 diabetes? Additionally, hot dogs have a high fat content—just one frank can get up to 80 percent of its calories from fat, and nearly half of that might be saturated. A grilled chicken taco is a leaner option that's every bit as tasty.


Instead of: A Popsicle


Try: A frozen berry skewer


Just because you're keeping an eye on carbs doesn't mean you have to miss out on dessert. Frozen berries are not only a better option for controlling blood sugar, they've also been linked to better heart health. Transform plump ripe strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries into a cool summertime treat by threading them onto skewers and freezing them overnight for a healthy dessert you can feel good about.


Whether you'll be at the pool, the ballpark, or the beach this summer, these healthy food swaps can help you celebrate the season deliciously.


By Karen Ansel, MS, RDN





USDA National Nutrient Database, Macaroni Salad


USDA National Nutrient Database, Cucumber Salad


USDA National Nutrient Database, Baked Beans


USDA National Nutrient Database, Raw Yellow Corn


USDA National Nutrient Database, Baked Potato


Harvard Health Publishing, Glycemic index for 60+ foods


Harvard School of Public Health, Eating processed meats, but not unprocessed red meats, may raise risk of heart disease and diabetes


USDA National Nutrient Database, Beef Frankfurter


Harvard Heart Health, Eat blueberries and strawberries three times per week


USDA National Nutrient Database, Tuna


USDA National Nutrient Database, Ground Beef


These articles are not a substitute for medical advice, and are not intended to treat or cure any disease. Advances in medicine may cause this information to become outdated, invalid, or subject to debate. Professional opinions and interpretations of scientific literature may vary. Consult your healthcare professional before making changes to your diet, exercise, or medication regime.