We’re speaking from firsthand, chapped-lipped experience here: Staying hydrated feels like an extra challenge during the summer.
With soaring temps, busy schedules, and (let’s be honest) occasional day drinking, eight glasses — or more! — of H2O might not be in the cards. We often forget that certain foods (especially water-rich fruits and veggies) can make a major dent in our hydration goals.
To help you win this battle against drying out, we found hydrating eats that go far beyond the usual suspects. On top of fruits and vegetables, we even found out that certain animal products are made up of 75 percent fluid or more. (Skip to number 13 for the answer.)
Get ready to be surprised at the water content of these eats. They’ll make you think twice about what you put on your plate during the dog days of summer.
We have to start with the obvious, of course. The fact that these frozen childhood favorites melt into a puddle in the heat is a pretty good indicator that they’re mostly made up of liquid.
Depending on the size and the ingredients of your frozen treat of choice, you can expect to take in a significant amount of water from juice- or dairy-based ice pops. (A classic twin Popsicle has around 3 ounces.)
For your next picnic or poolside chill-out, pack the cooler with these icy hydrators for dessert. Be sure to check nutrition labels to avoid excess sugar and food dyes, or try making your own so you’ll know exactly what’s inside!
Again with the obvious: Soups can help replenish your body’s fluid stores fast. But when sweltering days have you lying under the ceiling fan in your skivvies, a bowl of steaming-hot stew may not sound super appealing.
Instead, try a chilled soup. This culinary concept has seen an explosion of interesting recipes in the last several years. For good measure, choose soups that contain the high-water fruits and veggies on this list and avoid soups with tons of salt.
If purchasing canned soup, look for 3 grams or less of fat and 360 milligrams or less of sodium per serving, because many canned soups can be high in these nutrients.
Considering the name, it’s no surprise that watermelon contains a lot of fluid — in fact, it’s 92 percent water. One cup of this summertime fave contains nearly 5 ounces of fluid. Eat a cup and a half and you’ll take in the equivalent of an 8-ounce glass!
And this red delight brings to the table a boost of nutrients.
“This refreshing nutrient-packed fruit is a great way to get lycopene, an antioxidant found in red fruits and vegetables,” says Briana Rodriquez, RD, in-house registered dietitian for Jenny Craig. It’s also high in vitamins A and C.
Nothing says summer like a handful of fresh, juicy strawberries. And when you enjoy summer’s favorite berry, you’re in for a boost of hydration, too.
“The water content of strawberries — 91 percent — is the highest of all the berries,” says Rodriquez. As with watermelon, this translates to about 5 ounces of fluid per cup.
While they may technically be considered winter fruits, oranges and grapefruits make an excellent choice for summer hydration, clocking in at around 90 percent water. A medium orange or half a medium grapefruit actually equals half a cup of water.
Start your day with a tangy broiled grapefruit or grab an orange to combat a workday afternoon slump.
Yellow, green, or in between, summer squash is a go-to veggie for adding fluid through food, with an off-the-charts 95 percent water, or approximately 3.5 ounces per cup. (Just note that cooking draws some water out of this veggie, so for hydration, raw is best.)
“The mild, sweet flavor of squash makes it a great nutrient-rich substitution for noodles,” notes Rodriquez. If you haven’t yet hopped on the “zoodle” bandwagon, maybe now’s the time to get a spiralizer.
Next in the lineup, another fruit (yes, it’s a fruit) with major hydrating power: Tomatoes. Ninety-four percent water plus plenty of vitamin C and antioxidants makes these a no-brainer for restoring fluid balance through pizza, pasta, and salads.
Since fresh tomatoes contain the most water — 6 ounces in a cup! — try them sliced with a drizzle of olive oil, some balsamic vinegar, and fresh basil for a light dinner side.
As salad greens go, iceberg lettuce contains the most water, with a whopping 96 percent (or 2.5 ounces per cup). But given that it’s fairly flavorless, it’s good to know that nutrient-rich romaine lettuce and spinach aren’t far behind, with 95 and 91 percent, respectively.
Salads are also an excellent lunch or dinner swap if you’ve been low on water content for the day. Or how about starting the day with a breakfast salad? Yes, they’re a thing!
For a hydrating veggie snack, get cool with cucumber. One cup will give you 4 ounces of water.
“Cucumbers are naturally low in calories but high in nutrients,” says Rodriquez. “They also contain a decent amount of fiber, which is great for your digestion.”
The idea that celery is a “negative-calorie” food is a myth (sorry to disappoint!), but what celery does have going for it is a super-high water content of 95 percent — about 4 ounces per cup.
Replenish your fluid stores with celery in salads or soups or top it with the classic peanut butter schmear.
They’re colorful, they’re versatile, and they pack 92 percent water. Flavorful bell peppers don’t just add pizzazz to recipes — they’re loaded with nutrients too.
A single red pepper supplies almost 4 ounces of fluid and nearly 170 percent of your Reference Daily Intake (RDI) of vitamin C, plus plenty of fiber, vitamin A, and potassium, just to name a few.
“This purple palate-pleaser is one of the top veggies in terms of water content — 75 percent per cup,” says Rodriquez. Translation? A non-trifling 2.5 ounces of fluid per 1-cup serving.
Rodriquez suggests grilling a large batch at the beginning of the week and keeping extras in the fridge for healthy, hydrating snacking.
Sure, you know milk contains plenty of fluid — but did you realize its fermented cousin does, too? With anywhere from 75 to 88 percent water, yogurt can help you reach your daily fluid target.
Plain regular yogurt can pack 5 ounces of fluid per 6-ounce container. The same goes for Greek yogurt, even with its thicker consistency. Add frozen fruit to make it a smoothie and you’ll up the water content even more.
Wait, what? Eggs? Like sunny-side-up next to bacon? Yep, this breakfast staple is 75 percent water. Most of an egg’s fluid is found in the white, so when downing mimosas at your next boozy brunch, opt for whites for extra hydration.
Three large eggs have about 4 ounces of fluid, and we know a brunch omelet probably has more than that.
More proof that you can’t judge a food’s water content by its cover: Potatoes boast an unexpected three-quarters water content. But that doesn’t mean French fries are a great way to hydrate.
To get the most out of potatoes, go easy on the salt, which can make you retain water (in a bad way), and opt for baking or roasting them. A medium baked potato can provide almost 4.5 ounces of fluid.
It’s nice to know so many foods can keep your body’s fluid levels balanced. But realistically, these shouldn’t replace your cups of water!
We’re just hoping that when it comes to thinking twice about what foods to bring on a picnic, these might do the trick. So go ahead and eat your water (and, of course, don’t forget to drink it too).
Sarah Garone is a nutritionist, freelance writer, and food blogger. Find her sharing down-to-earth nutrition info at A Love Letter to Food or follow her on Twitter.