Lighter food helps deal with hot weather

August 10, 2005|by Lynn Little

Coping with summer's heat should include eating lighter foods that provide energy and nutrition. 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. Warm foods (such as soup) actually help us generate the extra heat we need to keep us warmer in the winter. But in the summer, we want to eat lighter foods. We still need calories, but we don't need the additional warmth that can come with the calories of heavier foods.

Fruits and vegetables are popular summer food choices made easier because grocery stores and farmers markets carry a wide selection. In addition, many fruit and vegetable selections look like they'll have a bit of a cooling effect on the body.

Produce also is less expensive and more eye-appealing in the summer.

In addition to helping with hydration during hot weather (fruits and vegetables are high in fluid), produce is easier to digest and is not going to weigh us down as we go through our busy summer activities. For most of us, summer is a high-energy time, and our activity levels increase during the summer. Even those in more sedentary jobs are likely to get out more because the days are longer.


Advice for eating light and providing nutrition for the body is to "stick to the basics." Important foods to eat include:

· Grains and cereals. These foods supply important carbohydrates, or basic energy. Make one-half of your grains whole. Eat at least 3 ounces of whole-grain foods every day.

· Fruits and vegetables. Eat a variety of fruits, rather than fruit juice, for most of your choices. Eat more dark green and orange vegetables, as well as beans and peas throughout the week.

· Protein foods, such as meat, poultry, fish and nuts. Protein is especially important for growing children. It also helps keep skin healthy. Go lean with the protein, choosing lean meats and poultry. Vary your protein choices with more fish, beans, peas, nuts and seeds.

· Milk and other dairy products. Get 3 cups of low-fat or fat-free milk or an equivalent amount of low-fat yogurt or low-fat cheese every day.

In warm weather, it is also important to drink eight to 10 cups of liquid per day; caffeine-free drinks are best because caffeine has a slight dehydrating effect. The food and physical activity choices you make every day affect your health, how you feel today, tomorrow and in the future. Choose lighter foods for energy and nutrition during the hot weather.

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

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