Make light food choices for nutrition and energy

August 06, 2003|by LYNN F. LITTLE

Coping with summer's heat should include eating lighter foods that provide energy and nutrition. Some of the popular food choices during summer months include fruits, vegetables, sandwiches and salads.

At one time, it was said that warm foods "stick to your ribs" - and that's probably true. Warm foods, such as soup, actually help us generate the extra heat to keep us warmer in the winter. We may be more active in the summertime than in the winter. At this time of year, lighter foods are preferred. We don't need the extra heat.

Fruits and vegetables are popular summer food choices because grocery stores and farmers markets have a wide selection available. Produce also is less expensive and more attractive in the summer. With more inclination toward these foods, people are more likely to get the necessary five fruits and vegetables a day, as recommended for good nutrition by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


In addition to helping with hydration, produce is easier to digest and is not going to weigh us down during a busy day.

Lighter foods fit into our summer lifestyle. For most of us, it's a high-energy time and our activity levels increase. Even those in more sedentary jobs are likely to get out more because the days are longer.

To eat light but right, stick to the basics:

  • Grains and cereals, which supply important carbohydrates, for basic energy.

  • Fruits and vegetables. Grilling vegetables has become more popular, but many people prefer to eat some selections fresh from the garden.

  • Protein foods such as meat, poultry, fish and nuts. Protein is especially important for growing children. It also helps keep skin healthy.

  • Milk and other dairy products. Most of us don't get enough of the valuable nutrients this group offers.

Parents should try to incorporate the basic food groups into children's snacks. It's also important to drink eight to 10 cups of liquid per day; caffeine-free drinks are best because caffeine has a slight dehydrating effect.

For light summer eating, choose lots of fresh, cool fruits and vegetables. They will provide energy and good nutrition during the long hot summer.

Lynn F. Little is a family and consumer sciences educator at Maryland Cooperative Extension in Washington County.

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