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Warmer weather means it's patio season

Editor's note: This column is one in a series as three RiverTown Multimedia reporters take part in the Slim Down with RiverTown weightloss challenge.

Springtime and warmer weather are supposed to induce greater motivation to get outside and exercise, especially in the bitterly cold Midwest where we have to take advantage of the weather when it's bearable.

Katie DavidsonAs it's begun to warm up, I've ditched the treadmill and enjoyed a few comfortable outdoor runs and bike rides, but I've also been drawn to patio happy hour specials, which aren't always helpful for hopeful dieters.

Sitting on my favorite bar patio, enjoying drinks and appetizers with my family and friends is one of my favorite things to do when the weather is cooperative, but while I indulge outside this spring and summer, I'm going to try and stick to a few simple rules to keep my diet in check.

• Move on foot

It's so easy to complain about the cold in the never-ending Midwest winters we endure every year, but it's just as easy to not take advantage of the warm weather once it's here. This spring and summer, I want to walk to as many places as possible, including my favorite patios. Not only will this allow me to get a quick exercise in before consuming some calories at my neighborhood restaurants, but it'll also allow me more time to catch up with friends or family than driving to and from restaurants would. Plus, if you're planning on consuming any alcoholic beverages, leaving the car keys at home is always a safer bet.

2. Share meals

Excited to try a new restaurant's happy hour menu? Split something with a friend. Not only will you save some money, but you'll also feel like you've made a healthier choice during your walk home.

3. Don't drink your calories

Those over the age of 21 know that ending a warm work day with a cool drink in hand is hard to top. Just be careful of how much sugar goes into your favorite summer drink. Match every drink you have with a glass of water, and if you find something healthier you might enjoy that's not on the happy hour menu, spend a couple of extra bucks and do what will make you feel better.

4. Stand at a table

Standing at a high-top isn't an option at all bars and restaurants, but when it is, get up and stretch out those legs. Chances are you will have been sitting at a desk all day, anyways.

5. Don't be afraid to break the rules

As I've mentioned in my previous columns, the No. 1 rule to have while dieting is to be comfortable with breaking the rules once in a while. A friend calls and wants to try a bar on the other side of town? Don't worry about getting there on time on foot. Can't agree on an appetizer to split? Order something on your own (you can always bring home leftovers). Sugary drink calling your name? Try it! One won't hurt you. No options to stand at the bar? Sit down, relax and enjoy the warm weather.

Yes, we still need to be diligent about our diets as we greet the warmer weather, but dieting shouldn't keep us from partaking in our favorite outdoor activities, either.

Tip of the week from Vibrant Health

Healthy Snacks

By Debra Sanders, RD, CD, CDE 

For almost anyone trying to watch their weight, choosing healthy snacks can be a challenge.

Even though snacking has developed a "bad image," snacks can be an important part of your diet.

They can provide energy in the middle of the day or when you exercise. A healthy snack between meals can also decrease your hunger and keep you from overeating at meal time.

There are many snacks to choose from, and certainly not all snacks are healthy or help you manage your weight. Try to limit the unhealthy snacks you bring into the house. If they are not available, you will not be able to snack mindlessly.

Source: www.medlineplus.gov

Visit www.SlimDownWithRiverTown.com each Monday to see a weekly video.

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