It’s hard to picture a sunny day on the dock without a beer in your hand and a bowl of chips in your lap. Cottage time is often when diets are relaxed, eating pleasures indulged, and stomachs left to hang out. But these unhealthy eating habits can leave you feeling sick and bloated—not ideal when your swan-like dive turns into a floundering belly flop. But fear not, “a healthy diet can be flexible to include treats and junk food, especially when at the cottage,” writes Andrea D’Ambrosio over email, a registered dietitian and the owner of Dietetic Directions in Kitchener, Ont.
If you’re having trouble keeping the cottage munchies under control, a great resource for healthy options is Canada’s food guide—Health Canada just released an updated version. The guide now stipulates that half your plate should be fruits and veggies, around seven to 10 servings a day (one serving is approximately half a cup of fresh fruit or vegetables); followed by six to eight servings of grain products (one serving is approximately half a bagel or half a cup of rice); then two to three servings of protein (one serving is approximately two eggs or two tablespoons of peanut butter); and two servings of milk or other calcium alternatives (one serving is approximately a cup of milk).
This may sound daunting, but it gives you a lot of room to be creative in the kitchen while avoiding what D’Ambrosio calls the “Junk Food Trap”: any readily available unhealthy snacks that come out during periods of travel or socializing. In order to avoid this, D’Ambrosio suggests bringing out cut-up veggies as snacks. If they’re pre-cut and accessible, they’re more likely to be eaten. “A client of mine started packing little baggies with snap peas, carrots, and cherry tomatoes and was surprised to find her kids mindlessly munching on these veggies to pass the time,” she writes.
Another D’Ambrosio suggestion is offering three healthy options for every one unhealthy option. “By offering healthier options in higher quantity and variety, you are increasing the likelihood of these foods being consumed,” she writes. You can also try adjusting the bowl size, offering healthy options in bigger bowls and the foods you want to limit in smaller bowls.
If you’re looking for healthy snack options, here are a few of D’Amrosio’s favourites:
- Whole grain crackers and cheese slices
- Hummus and pita wedges with fresh cut veggies
- Yogurt parfait with fruit and chia seeds
- Guacamole and black beans with carrot sticks
- Rosemary Roasted chickpeas
- Apple and ¼ cup of almonds
- Banana and peanut butter
While snacks are fun to munch on during down periods, it’s important to get the bulk of your nutrients through full meals. But these can be tough to pack for when headed to the cottage. So, it’s best to keep ingredients simple. D’Ambrosio recommends trying these meals:
- Fajitas with grilled chicken or shrimp, barbecued veggies, cheese and salsa with side salad
- Barbecued pizzas with favourite toppings and fresh veggies on the side
- Macaroni and cheese with hotdogs or veggie dogs
- Buddha Bowls filled with favourite ingredients and flavours
- Grilled Dijon chicken and swiss sandwiches
It helps to add a salad on the side, or even have it as a meal itself, in order to meet your daily vegetable quota. Here are a few of D’Ambrosio’s suggested recipes:
While these are all fantastic suggestions, there’s one cottage meal in particular that’s claimed D’Ambrosio’s heart. “Quite simple, a hamburger!” she writes. “A toasted bun is a must and then a giant salad on the side loaded with ‘goodies’ like strawberries, feta cheese, pumpkin seeds, and fresh herbs. I love a simple balsamic and olive oil dressing.”
So, if you find yourself with an insatiable appetite at the cottage this summer, try a few of these recipes to meet your suggested food guide quotas. And remember, junk food is alright as long as it’s eaten in moderation.