by Jill Cruz, MS, CNS
Summer is the time for letting loose a bit, but that doesn’t mean letting healthy habits fall to the wayside. It’s possible to enjoy the hot summer months and still maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Two common areas of concern for health in the summer are poor hydration and poor nutrition, such as eating more junk food and too much grilled food. You may be asking, “What are some ways I can stay cool and hydrated, have fun, and still keep up healthy habits?”
Staying hydrated is one of the simplest but most important ways to stay healthy and active. Many people actually reduce their physical activity in the summer because of the hot weather. This makes sense, and I do recommend being very cautious with physical activity in the heat to avoid over-exerting yourself. But exercise is still important. So, how do we exercise in a way that is safe and enjoyable?
My first suggestion is to take advantage of the long days and plan to exercise outdoors in the early morning or late evening hours, if you can. If you are able to exercise at a gym, then you can avoid the heat. Either way, you still need to stay sufficiently hydrated.
Start by paying attention to your thirst. More often than not, your body will let you know if you need water. However, if you are drinking a lot of other beverages such as coffee or soda, your sense of thirst may be weaker. If that’s the case, try to slowly reduce your consumption of those other drinks and increase your water intake.
How Much Water Should I Drink?
There is no magic number of ounces that everyone should be drinking. General guidelines recommend 9-12 oz. of water daily. I find this guideline to be useful, but it is very important that you listen to your body first. Guidelines like these that are generalized should be taken with caution. The most important thing is to pay attention to YOUR level of thirst. I recommend making a habit out of drinking at least a small amount of water (about four oz.) at least once an hour. If you are planning to exercise, it is recommended that you drink about eight oz. of water roughly an hour before you work out, and then 4-6 oz. for every 15 minutes of exercise.
If you work out for more than an hour or you are exercising in the heat, then I recommend adding electrolytes to your water. To be considered an electrolyte drink, the beverage should contain a small amount of natural sugar and these minerals:
Many commercial electrolyte drinks contain a lot of poor-quality sugars like high-fructose corn syrup and artificial coloring, so try to avoid those if possible. Instead, try natural drinks like coconut water or add a small amount of fruit juice and some liquid minerals to regular water. There are also great electrolyte powders on the market that don’t contain high-fructose corn syrup and artificial coloring. Your drink does not have to be bright blue to do the job.
Cooling Summer Foods
Even if you are drinking plenty of water and exercising regularly, you still need to pay attention to your food intake. Below is a list of healthy, cooling snacks that I recommend. They can also help you stay hydrated and replace ice cream, soda and other sugary sweets.
- Chilled herbal tea
- Sparkling water with cucumber, mint or citrus
- Chilled cucumber slices, baby carrots, baby bell peppers or sugar snap peas
- Frozen grapes or peas
- Natural fruit pops
- Hummus with celery
- Shrimp cocktail
- Gazpacho or cold cucumber soup
Tips for Grilling
Grilling is, of course, very popular in the summer because it is so easy and tasty! The only problem is that charred foods contain compounds that could potentially be carcinogenic. The jury is still out on exactly how dangerous it is to eat a lot of grilled food, but I recommend some caution in this area just in case. Below are four things you can do to reduce the carcinogenic compounds in grilled meat and fish.
- Eat vegetables with grilled meat or fish. The fiber and other nutrients in vegetables can offset carcinogenic compounds.
- Before grilling, marinate meat and vegetables in marinades that do not contain oils or fat. This reduces the production of carcinogenic compounds.
- Use lean cuts of meat and avoid using added oils or fats. Less fat results in lower production of carcinogenic compounds.
- Reduce grilling time and flip often. This reduces the production of carcinogenic compounds.
About the Author:
Jill Cruz, MS, CNS, has a Master of Science degree in Human Nutrition from the University of Bridgeport, CT, and is a Board Certified Nutrition Specialist. Jill specializes in weight-loss, metabolic syndrome, fitness nutrition and health optimization. She combines her strong science-based background with tons of practical nutrition, fitness and lifestyle guidance, and a special emphasis on mindset, accountability and building a pile of healthy habits. You can learn more about Jill on her website, Work with Your Nature Weight Loss, at wynweightloss.com.