3 expert tips from a dietitian to improve your health and fitness

(BPT) - Warm weather is quickly approaching, and there's no better time to kick off a new wellness routine as you prepare for three months of fun in the sun. Improve your lifestyle just in time for summer by making smarter choices and simple swaps when it comes to snacking, meals and fitness habits.

To help you get started, registered dietitian Kristin Kirkpatrick, M.S., who has partnered with and endorsed the Quest brand, offers a few practical suggestions on ways to continue enjoying the flavors you love while also sticking to your overall wellness goals.

1. Start swapping your snacks now

Making a few simple swaps that are easy to incorporate into your daily routine will make a big difference come summer.

"Chips and guacamole may seem like the perfect warm-weather pairing, but those high-carb dippers can add up fast, possibly making energy levels tank," said Kirkpatrick.

Instead, keep the healthy fat that guacamole provides, but swap out the dipper. For example, the new Quest Hot & Spicy Protein Chips pack plenty of the flavor and crunch that you want in a snack, without a ton of carbs. They can even add to your protein content for the day, with 19 grams of protein per bag.

2. Take advantage of seasonal produce

Summer is the perfect time to enjoy all the bounty that nature has to offer. Salads are the perfect meal when tasty, fresh local produce becomes widely available and backyard gardens start producing.

“If your salads were getting a little ho-hum over the winter, now’s the time to spruce them up and get creative by experimenting with a wider variety of fresh ingredients,” Kirkpatrick noted. “Get the whole family involved by growing an edible garden together or visiting your local farmers market for inspiration.”

Swap the romaine you used all winter for arugula, and switch out the dried cranberries you were piling on for hempseed or shredded radishes. Soon you’ll be able to mix in even more fresh colors and flavors with ripe blueberries or strawberries. Consider adding more herbs to your salads, too. Search for fresh basil and mint at your farmers market or grow some of your own!

“Get a protein boost by adding chicken and shrimp fresh off the grill, or hard-boiled eggs and garbanzo beans when you need something quick,” says Kirkpatrick.

3. Make simple lifestyle changes

Better health can start today by following new wellness routines. Start by eating more colorful veggies and fruits every day (so you're getting more phytonutrients), focus on better sleep — aim for seven hours a night — and start moving more whenever possible.

The warmer weather and extended daylight hours provide the ideal opportunity to fit more activity into each day. Start today and get your fitness level up by signing up for a short race, or spend time swimming, cycling or walking outdoors with friends and family.

"The best thing about the warmer months is that you don't have to spend all your time cooped up in the gym to improve your fitness," added Kirkpatrick. "Spending more time outdoors, whether you're playing with the kids or working in the yard, will help you become more active."

Visit QuestNutrition.com for more snacking options as you enjoy the warm weather.

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