Five keys to eating healthy this summer

Putting healthy eating on the back burner during the summer months is a mistake. It’s easy to be tantalized by burgers and dogs while visiting friends and family, or even hit that fast food joint while out on the road.

As with most things, moderation is key. There are ways to stay healthy while enjoying some of summer’s finest. Here’s how you do it.

1. Bake foods. Don't fry them.

The science is compelling to move away from fried foods. Eating them just once per week increases the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and even heart failure. As the amount and frequency of eating fried food increases, so does the risk. Choose baked alternatives daily that have the same satisfying crunch with half the calories and even less fat.

2. Choose clean poultry, meat and seafood instead of those raised with antibiotics

Leading health experts agree that intensive use of antibiotics in animal agriculture and aquaculture is a key culprit in the rise of antibiotic-resistant infections in humans. We serve our patients animal and seafood proteins free of antibiotics, and choose only hormone-free milk. At the supermarket, look for foods labeled “organic” or “no antibiotics.”

3. Buy local or seasonal as much as possible

When grown and processed close to home, crops are picked at their peak of ripeness versus being harvested early in order to be processed, shipped and distributed over long distances. With shorter time to travel, locally and regionally grown food has fresher, better tasting flavor and is more likely to maintain the maximum nutrient value that is so important to patient healing.

4. Choose fresh, not frozen food

While there are no significant differences in nutrient levels between fresh and frozen packaged foods, fresh is always best to maximize flavor and texture. If you are buying frozen, avoid anything with ice crystals or freezer burn, which typically means a product has been thawed and refrozen. Many of our chefs and registered dietitians maintain robust gardens at our hospitals so we can serve seasonal fresh herbs and produce.

5. Focus on real flavors, not flavorings

Flavorings are added to food products to enhance flavor — think salt, monosodium glutamate (MSG) and artificial flavors. At Northwell Health, we’re focused on removing these additives and reducing our use of salt to preserve the health of our patients and communities. Instead, we use fresh herbs and spices along with healthy food preparation techniques to celebrate the real flavors of foods. Citrus and fresh herbs are a great sodium-free way to enhance flavor and make food delicious.

Bruno Tison is vice president of food services and the corporate chef for Northwell Health's Office of Patient and Customer Experience. He joined Northwell in 2017 after more than 30 years as the executive chef of the Plaza Hotel in New York City. Most recently, he led the culinary team at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn and Spa in California to the prestigious Michelin Star recognition for three straight years.

Nutrition is one way Northwell puts patients first.