This healthy eating stuff isn’t supposed to be hard.

We have enough to worry about with bills, kids, deadlines, teeth brushing and oh yes, finding enough time to ‘stay connected’ on 10 different social media platforms from the isolation of our condos.

As your personal dietitian, I want you to ease up on the food stress. Food is for enjoying, nourishing, celebrating and fueling – not obsessing and fretting. All that stress might take a greater toll on your health than a bit of chips every now and then.

So in the spirit of taking the simple approach for summer, here are 5 simple ‘rules’ for 3 months of eating, drinking and being happy!

1. Eat food as close to nature as possible. That means….fresh fruits and vegetables, beans and grains in their whole form (like steel cut oats or whole quinoa, barley or rye instead of bread and pastries) etc. If you have to purchase food, its ingredients should look like a kitchen recipe, not a chemistry experiment.

2. Prepare food at home more often than you purchase it. I say ‘prepare’ because the cooking word freaks some people out. You don’t have to open a cookbook every time you want to cook. Tossing some fresh whole wheat pasta with olive oil, baby spinach and olives is cooking. And it is simple. When you prepare food at home, you know what goes into it. That’s a good thing.

3. Eat as many fruits and vegetables as humanly possible. There is no one group of foods that will save your nutritional soul like fresh produce. And there is no better time to access plenty of fresh produce than summer. Buy large…eat large. And should you wonder how much you are ‘supposed to’ eat – aim for at least 4 cups for women, 5 cups for men. Try new and awesome things. Some of my farmers market faves right now are the baby turnips (make a salad out of their tender greens too!); strawberries, kohlrabi (slice and eat instead of crackers with your favourite dips), purple carrots and baby spinach.

4. If you are going to drink alcohol, drink ‘clean’. I get it: nothing goes better with a summer day than a cold pint. Alcohol is really only a problem in excess; if you can keep it to 1-2 drinks a day, go for it. Even better if you can leave at least 4 days a week alcohol free to give the old liver a break. But if you are going to drink, make it count: beer, wine and spirits (neat or with club soda) are the way to go. No sugary (even fake sugar) sodas or ‘juices’ and if you are going to have a Pina Colada, make it yourself with real coconut cream and fresh pineapple – that mix you are being served in a restaurant is full of crap. Drink at least 2 cups of plain water for every drink you drink and if you accidentally overdo it, drink tons of water and have an Emergen-C before bed and upon rising. It will make you feel better, I promise!

5. Gather with friends and family as often as you can. Eat some good food while you’re at it. Summer is short; take full advantage. Have BBQs, potlucks, picnics, beach bashes – the most important thing is that you come together with those you love. In a flash, we will all be hibernating for winter once more. Don’t let the summer pass you by! The laundry can wait.