Summer Sizzle: How to Beat the Heat and Maintain a Healthy Diet

I am very hopeful that at some point, the season of sun-kissed days and balmy evenings will reach us. This article, a piece I am writing whilst the rain still falls strong on a daily basis, is going to give you practical tips, delicious snack recipes and their nutritional benefits, so that when the heat and sunshine hit you will be equipped to live your healthier, most delicious summer yet. 

Now, while it’s tempting to go full throttle on ice creams and refreshing drinks during this season (and trust me, I have my fair share of gelatos too), keeping a healthy diet doesn’t have to take a vacation. In this article, we’ll explore some useful ideas  to help you stay on track while enjoying everything that summer has to give.

The Foundation: Stay Hydrated

Imagine the sun blazing overhead, whilst you look fabulous in a pair of Top Gun like sunglasses. In addition to looking this good, it’s also essential to keep your body hydrated. Drinking water is not the only option, you can also hydrate with water-rich foods. My favourite is watermelon, but you can also opt for cucumbers, celery, lettuce and succulent strawberries to quench your thirst while nourishing your body with essential vitamins and minerals. As an example, one cup of watermelon contains about 92% water and provides lycopene, vitamin C, vitamin A, and potassium amongst others, making it a hydrating and nutrient rich snack. And by the way, if you do want water but find it bland, just pop your favourite fruits and veggies in it, leave the jug in the fridge for an hour or so and you have naturally infused flavourful water to sip throughout the day.

Credit: Unsplash.com

Load Up on Fresh Produce:

One of the greatest joys of summer is the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables. Head to your local farmer’s market or grocery store to discover a rainbow of seasonal, nutrient rich produce. Incorporate a variety of colourful fruits and veggies in your plate to add new life to your meals. Always grab some dark green leafy vegetables to load up on magnesium and folate, or choose asparagus for delicious salads, risottos or quiches and remember they are a fabulous gut loving prebiotic food. If instead you are looking for fruit: a fresh strawberry, feta and mint salad is another delicious and refreshing option. And yes, strawberries are packed with vitamin C, antioxidants so you really are doing yourself a favour here.

Choose Light and Refreshing Snacks:

During summer heat, reach for snacks that will help keep you feeling light and energised. Think of options that will offer a balance of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats to avoid unnecessary cravings, whilst fuelling your activities. How about a bowl of Greek yogurt topped with fresh berries, crunchy walnuts and a drizzle of honey for a creamy and satisfying treat? Greek yogurt is high in protein and probiotics, giving that extra support to your gut health whilst keeping you fuller for longer.

Frozen Treats to Beat the Heat (see what I did there…) :

There’s nothing like a frozen treat to cool you down on a scorching summer day. Instead of always reaching for store-bought ice cream, why not alternate it to a speedy healthier version? Just blend frozen bananas with a splash of almond milk, a swirl of almond butter and some crushed walnuts on top (and yes, if you want you can add some dark chocolate chips) for a creamy and indulgent chocolate “nice” cream. Bananas are a good source of potassium, which helps regulate fluid balance and muscle function. 

Smart Move: Plan Ahead for Picnics and BBQs

Who doesn’t love picnics in the park and backyard BBQs with friends and family? Well, instead of relying on store-bought snacks and processed meats, why not take the time to plan ahead and prepare your own delicious spread. Pack a cooler with homemade quinoa salad jars packed with colourful veggies, grilled vegetable skewers drizzled with balsamic glaze, and whole grain wraps filled with lean proteins like chicken or turkey, creamy avocado and crunchy greens. Oh, and talking about quinoa, this is a complete protein and a good source of fibre too, making it a satisfying and nutritious base for any salads and rainbow bowls! What I also like to do when I have people over, is to grab a chopping board and top it with different types of hummus (think plant protein), many colourful crunchy veggies (think antioxidants), a few olives and parmesan chunks, and maybe some fruit here and there: a rainbow like picky mix if you will.

So now you know, with a little creativity and planning, maintaining a healthy diet during the upcoming hot weather is definitely within your reach, so you can enjoy all that summer has to offer without compromising your health goals. Enjoy!

Credit: Unsplash.com

Bonus Recipe:

Sunshine Smoothie

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 slices of pineapple
  • 1 small frozen banana
  • 1 tbsp ground linseeds
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric 
  • 1 handful cashew nuts
  • 1 scoop unsweetened protein powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk

Pop everything in your blender, whizz it up and enjoy!

REFERENCES:

Rahaman MM, Hossain R, Herrera-Bravo J, Islam MT, Atolani O, Adeyemi OS, Owolodun OA, Kambizi L, Daştan SD, Calina D, Sharifi-Rad J. Natural antioxidants from some fruits, seeds, foods, natural products, and associated health benefits: An update. Food Sci Nutr. 2023 Jan 13;11(4):1657-1670. doi: 10.1002/fsn3.3217. PMID: 37051367; PMCID: PMC10084981.

Goñi, I.; García-Alonso, A.; Alba, C.; Rodríguez, J.M.; Sánchez-Mata, M.C.; Guillén-Bejarano, R.; Redondo-Cuenca, A. Composition and Functional Properties of the Edible Spear and By-Products from Asparagus officinalis L. and Their Potential Prebiotic Effect. Foods 2024, 13, 1154. https://doi.org/10.3390/foods13081154

Watermelon, raw – https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdcapp.html#/fooddetails/167765/nutrients

Battino M, Giampieri F, Cianciosi D, Ansary J, Chen X, Zhang D, Gil E, Forbes-Hernández T. The roles of strawberry and honey phytochemicals on human health: A possible clue on the molecular mechanisms involved in the prevention of oxidative stress and inflammation. Phytomedicine. 2021 Jun;86:153170. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2020.153170. Epub 2020 Jan 11. PMID: 31980299.

Cazzola R, Della Porta M, Manoni M, Iotti S, Pinotti L, Maier JA. Going to the roots of reduced magnesium dietary intake: A tradeoff between climate changes and sources. Heliyon. 2020 Nov 3;6(11):e05390. doi: 10.1016/j.heliyon.2020.e05390. PMID: 33204877; PMCID: PMC7649274.

Bridge A, Brown J, Snider H, Nasato M, Ward WE, Roy BD, Josse AR. Greek Yogurt and 12 Weeks of Exercise Training on Strength, Muscle Thickness and Body Composition in Lean, Untrained, University-Aged Males. Front Nutr. 2019 Apr 30;6:55. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2019.00055. PMID: 31114790; PMCID: PMC6503736.

Nieman DC, Gillitt ND, Henson DA, Sha W, Shanely RA, Knab AM, Cialdella-Kam L, Jin F. Bananas as an energy source during exercise: a metabolomics approach. PLoS One. 2012;7(5):e37479. doi:

10.1371/journal.pone.0037479. Epub 2012 May 17. PMID: 22616015; PMCID: PMC3355124.

Written by

  • Valentina Cartago

    Valentina is a Registered Nutritional Therapist, trained at The Institute for Optimum Nutrition in London. She is a member of both BANT and CNHC. She is based in London where she runs her own practice The Italian Nutritionist, supporting her 1-1 clients and delivering corporate and community talks on various health topics both in person and online. Her background includes Head Nutritionist at LMS Wellness,where she worked alongside functional doctors and Clinical Nutritionist at the Hevolution Global Healthspan in Riyadh. She is fluent in both English and Italian.

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