Summer is that magical time of year where hours of day-drinking, sunbathing, and barbecue-feasting leave us feeling both giddy and kind of gross. And as easy as it might be, we really shouldn't ignore our health this time of year. Warm weather means extra exposure to the sun’s UV rays, plus hotter temps that can make us feel bloated and dehydrated. Then there’s the whole wanting to look good in a swimsuit thing. (We say you look great, but you do you.)
The good news? There are plenty of ways to balance fun with feeling our best from now all the way through Labor Day. And most of them involve everyone’s favorite tool of all: food. It's time we all gave these 10 nutrition-approved healthy habits a try, so we can wake up on a summer Monday feeling ready to take on the world (OK, slight exaggeration, but these will help us feel 10 times better than we did last week).
1. Remember your vitamin D.
If you’re being diligent with the sunscreen (and you are, right?) you might not be getting quite as much D as you think. “Our bodies produce vitamin D from the sun’s UV rays. But sunscreen blocks UV absorption, and therefore prevents the production of vitamin D,” explains registered dietitian Rachelle Mallik. Focus on getting your fill through food sources instead, like egg yolks and fatty fish like salmon, tuna, or sardines.
2. Snack on homemade pickles for something crunchy.
Instead of getting your crunch fix from a bag of potato chips or paying an arm and a leg for a jar of artisanal pickles, make your own on the cheap with cucumbers from the farmer’s market, suggests registered dietitian and culinary expert Robin Plotkin.
Fill a large jar with equal parts water and vinegar, along with a healthy pinch of salt, whole peppercorns, garlic cloves, and fresh dill. Add as many sliced cukes as will fit and marinate in the fridge for one to two days before eating. “They’re a flavorful, low-calorie snack. And yes, they count as a serving of veggies!” Plotkin says.
3. You can't beat banana soft serve.
We're not saying to never get a scoop at your favorite ice cream shop, but when the craving for something cold hits on a daily basis, just remember that pureéd frozen bananas make a delicious nondairy ice cream year-round (here's how you can easily make it at home).
Throw in some wild blueberries and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, says registered dietitian nutritionist Amy Gorin. Aside from tasting like pure summer, the berries are loaded with potassium and water to help you stay hydrated. For the coolest, creamiest texture, freeze fresh berries before pureéing.
4. Guzzle a glass of ice water before meals.
It’s an easy rule to help you stay hydrated, sure. But that’s not all. Drinking water before a meal could help you eat fewer calories, making it easier to keep your weight in check, says registered dietitian Erin Palinski. As an added bonus? “The icy cold water might give your metabolism a slight boost,” she says. Skip the sodas and add fresh lemons and cucumbers to your water so you get a little more excited about drinking it.
5. Eat your sunscreen.
There's a reason watermelon is the fruit of the summer. Yes, because nothing tastes better than a slice of the pink melon on a hot day, but it's also rich in lycopene, an antioxidant that can help protect your skin from the sun’s damaging UV rays, says registered dietitian Amy Goodson. It’s no substitute for sunscreen—but every little bit helps, right?
6. Add artichokes to your BBQ menu.
Artichokes don't get enough love, but it's time to change that. A tasty, fiber-rich seasonal side to practically any protein, artichokes also contain compounds that may help aid the liver’s ability to produce and release bile, Palinski says. “This helps fight the dreaded bloat that can happen from too many summer celebrations,” she says.
7. Make your smoothie blue.
If you’re trying to lose a few pounds, consider adding spirulina to your blended drink, recommends registered dietitian Stephanie Ferrari. The algae is a surprisingly good source of plant-based protein, which can nix the urge to snack by keeping you fuller for longer. Skeptical? You’ll get 4 grams of protein (along with a host of inflammation-fighting antioxidants) in just one tablespoon of spirulina.
8. Drink pomegranate juice after a sweat session.
Outdoor summer workouts mean extra sweat, which can throw your electrolyte levels out of whack and leave you dehydrated. But pomegranate juice is loaded with potassium, an electrolyte mineral that can help you rehydrate and encourage your muscles to recover faster. “For the ultimate post-workout smoothie, I combine eight ounces of 100-percent pomegranate juice with a ripe, frozen banana, a tablespoon of coconut chips, and two thin slices of raw beet,” says registered dietitian Alex Caspero.
9. Dress your salad with ACV.
You’re loading up on leafy greens this time of year anyway, so why not give those salads an extra boost? “It might seem super trendy, but apple cider vinegar is a great way to add probiotics to your diet,” says registered dietitian Eliza Savage. Not to mention ACV could help keep your blood sugar stable after you eat, so you’re less susceptible to junky cravings. Start with just a tablespoon of ACV because that's all you need to get the benefits.
10. Don't forget to hydrate during happy hour.
The combo of alcohol and tons of sugar means that summer happy-hour favorites like frosé and margaritas leave you bloated and dehydrated. (Not a fun combo when it’s hot and sticky outside.) Swap them for lower sugar drinks like plain rosé, gin and club soda, or a Paloma, Savage recommends. And have a glass of water with your drink instead of in-between drinks. “You’ll be more apt to actually drink it,” Savage says.