Choose light foods for energy and nutrition

June 18, 2008|By LYNN 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 are fruits, vegetables, sandwiches and salads.

At one time, it was said that warm foods were "stick to your ribs" foods. Warm foods (such as soup) actually help us generate the extra heat we need to keep us warmer in the winter.

In the summer, we want to eat lighter foods. We still need calories and, in fact, we might be more active in the summertime than we were in the winter. But, we don't need the additional warmth that might be built in.

Fruits and vegetables are popular summer food choices because grocery stores and farmers markets carry a wider selection. That makes people more likely to get the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables a day, as recommended for good nutrition by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in MyPyramid: Steps to A Healthier You ( and the Fruit and Veggies: More Matters campaign (


Produce also is less expensive and more visually appealing in the summer. It's what we want to eat because it looks like and tells us that it's cool.

In addition to helping with hydration during hot weather (fruits and vegetables are high in liquid), produce is easier to digest and is not going to weigh us down as we go through our busy summer activities.

Lighter foods fit into our lifestyle. 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.

To eat light and provide nutrition for the body, stick to the basics. Important foods to eat include:

· Grains and cereals, especially whole grains, which supply important carbohydrates.

· Fruits and vegetables. Grilling vegetables has become more popular, but some prefer to eat some selections right out of the garden.

· Protein-rich 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.

· Incorporate the basic food groups, especially fruits and vegetables into snacks.

It is important to drink 8 to 10 cups of liquid daily; caffeine-free drinks are best because caffeine has a slight dehydrating effect.

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

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