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Hot Nutrition Tips for the Dog Days of Summer

Summer is a season of challenges and opportunities for people trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle. In particular, the home stretch before fall is when lethargy really sets in. With weeks and weeks of cookouts and vacation behind you, with likely a few more ahead, the liquid and sugar calories may have started to take their toll.

On the positive side, the longer days offer more opportunities to exercise outside, assuming the pavement won't melt your sneakers. In addition, there are wide varieties of healthy, locally grown produce readily available in stores or farmer's markets that are perfect for light, refreshing meals. Around the end of summer is also the time your body starts feeling like it's ready for some cleansing foods after a season a little too much fun in the sun.

Despite all this, numerous dietary distractions wave furiously during these lazy, hazy days. They can slowly and subtly erode even the best intentions, especially when you are away from home.

With that in mind, here are a few useful summer nutrition tips to help you cope with these challenges. Take advantage of opportunities you hadn't thought of, or maybe didn't even know existed.

Unchain Your Salad

Summer usually means more travel and more dining away from home. Although a salad might seem to be the most sensible choice on the menu, many restaurant salads are actually dietary disasters in disguise. Use particular caution when ordering at popular chain-restaurants. Many of the seemingly “healthy” creations you’ll find at these locations pack over 1000 calories and huge amounts of fat.

It's probably no surprise that salads like Wendy's Spicy Chicken Salad clocks in at almost 800 calories, 51 grams of fat and, not to mention your entire daily intake of sodium. What may surprise you is that even many non-fried, non-meat covered salads aren't so good either. Caprese salad, for example, can have 250 calories, 18 grams of fat and 9 grams of carbs. A fruit and veggie-packed Waldorf Salad, which features baby greens, grapes, celery, chicken breast, apple, etc., can clock in at 1,230 calories and 87 grams of fat when ordering the meal size version somewhere like California Pizza Kitchen.

> See a list of the 10 most unhealthy restaurant salads here.

No Guessing On Dressing

In addition to weighing down their salads with unhealthy choices like fried chicken and candied nuts, many dining out locations increase the calorie count by topping the whole concoction with a salad dressing loaded down with sugars and fats. Several popular dressings can take a healthy salad and turn it into a food with more calories and fat than a regular cheeseburger.

Protect yourself by ordering the salad dressing on the side or or by bringing your own.

If you want to know exactly what's in it, making your own healthy salad dressing is a great option. There are plenty of incredible recipes available on the web, like greek yogurt ranch and lemon vinaigrette. Check out a few healthy salad dressing recipes here.

You Scream, I Scream

Yes, we all scream for ice cream when the summer sun seems to make the air sizzle but choosing options with fewer calories and less sugar will have less impact on your waistline. It also goes without saying that, if nothing else, avoid adding sugary toppings/sprinkles. Four tablespoons of that colorful candy confetti adds up to about 220 calories!

There are plenty of delicious (and healthier) ice cream alternatives. Surprisingly, though, some traditional ice creams stand out as a reasonable option in the freezer. Learn more here about the most fattening ice cream flavors you should avoid.

Eva Hill via HuffPost

Great Ice Cream Alternatives

Health(ier) Traditional Ice Creams

You don't necessarily have to avoid regular ice cream altogether, but if you don't, stick with one of these designed with the health-conscious consumer in mind.

Lemon 'Aid'

Quenching your thirst with a tall, cold glass of lemonade can certainly be refreshing when you’re in the middle of a long road trip but, in some cases, you might be getting more than you bargained for. Many types of lemonade contain about the same amount of sugar as a regular soda. If you’re looking to avoid this overload of empty calories, order a glass of ice water with lemon wedges. Squeeze the juice of the wedges into the water and add some non-calorie sweetener for a tangy, refreshing, low-calorie drink.

For an additional full-flavored protein boost that's not boosted in calories, pack a few individual serving packets of WonderSlim Tangy Orange mix. With 12 grams of protein per serving and only 60 calories, you’ll not only quench your thirst but calm your cravings for unhealthy treats.

Alter Your Exercise Routine

For a variety of reasons, even the most dedicated fitness fiends can end up with a gym-less summer. To ensure continued progress, you'll need to get creative and stay on top of keeping motivated.

There are a wide variety of outdoor vacation activities that double as terrific exercise, like beach jogging, hiking, stand up paddleboarding, or swimming. Take advantage of your vacation surroundings and branch out with something new. Here are a few ideas on what to do and how to do it safely.

Even for those of us not fortunate enough to get much time away for vacation, being near the gym on sweltering day after day doesn't mean making it there. The best approach is to keep the calorie burn going in any way possible. There are a host of ideal workouts that can be done with just your body, no dumbbells needed. Learn more about these exercises at "Tips for staying fit during the gym-less summer".

Hopefully you can try some of the above exercise and diet tips to make the best, healthiest choices during the steamiest part of summer. Before we know it, it will be January and we'll all be waiting to start working out again "once it warms up"!