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Eating to Ease Anxiety: A Summer Cookout

A simple meal plan that’s good for both our physical and mental health!

It’s summer here in New England. Lots of sun and fun for most people. But not for me. Because I have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in the summer. I know most people have SAD in the winter, but not me. I admit all this sun and fun makes me anxious.

So, this year, I’m working hard to do everything I can think of to keep myself calm and centered. I’m focusing on being grateful, drinking more water, choosing foods I know help ease anxiety. And I’m working hard to avoid consuming things I know can make anxiety worse. Things like:

  • alcohol

  • added sugars

  • refined carbohydrates

  • caffeine (OK I’m still drinking tea. I love tea. And I’m thinking maybe I’ll work on that next year…)

But I love to eat, and this summer I’m determined to focus on what I can eat, not what I can’t. I’m determined to live my best life, and that includes taking part in all of summer’s celebrations. No suffering, no feeling sorry for myself.

And wherever you are in the world, whatever you’re going through right now, I invite you to join me in the decision to choose foods that will both keep us healthy physically and soothe our anxiety.

I know it sounds complicated, but the truth is making some simple substitutions and small changes can make a world of difference.

Here are some suggestions of how you can, with a few substitutions and changes, put together a delicious, anxiety-free cookout you can enjoy yourself or share with your guests.

A Simple Summer Meal Plan


Instead of serving the usual iced tea, lemonade, or wine cooler, why not offer your guests a beautiful summery mixture of cranberry juice (or pomegranate juice) and sparkling water? I like cranberry juice with cranberry lime sparkling water but choose what you like. Serve over ice and garnish with fresh lemon and/or lime slices.

Or you can set out pitchers of water infused with combinations such as:

  • orange and blueberries

  • cucumber and mint

  • sliced apple and cinnamon stick

  • orange and lime

Not do these combinations look beautiful, they taste great.


Instead of the usual chips and dips, or pigs in a blanket, set out bowls of hummus and guacamole along with whole grain tortilla chips and veggie sticks for dipping.

Or you can offer your guests:

  • shrimp with cocktail sauce that’s been made with low sugar ketchup

  • deviled eggs that have been made with mayonnaise with olive oil

From the Grill

Shish kabobs are the perfect choice for the main course. You can choose any combination of vegetables and meat, fish, or poultry you like. And you can custom build each skewer to meet your guests’ needs.

For vegetarians, you can assemble skewers using just the veggies. For meat eaters, you can add extra chunks of meat, or fish or poultry to their skewers. I like to use two pieces of vegetables to every chunk of meat/fish, but you get to make this any way you want! Once you’ve assembled the skewers, brush them with olive oil and season to taste. And put them on the grill.

When they’re fully cooked serve the shish kabob over a bed of brown rice or cous-cous.

Side Dishes

For side dishes you can offer:

  • tossed green salad with an oil and vinegar dressing,

  • three-bean-salad

  • baked beans

  • corn on the cob


A healthy dessert can be as simple as:

  • watermelon wedges

  • a tray of sliced fresh summer fruit

  • my all-time favorite fruit dessert this time of year is frozen grapes. I put them in the freezer and snack on them all summer long. They’re delicious and kids love them.

So, there you have it. An easy, breezy summer meal that will help calm your anxiety.

And if you’re interested in learning more about what to eat to bring a sense of calm into your life, I invite you to listen to my latest podcast episode, The 3 Rules for Eating to Ease Anxiety. You can find Episode 45 here on this site or in your favorite podcast app.

Stay cool out there!


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