With much of the country experiencing record heat waves, we need to do everything we can to fight the effects of heat on our bodies. What we eat can be a great weapon in that fight to stay healthy and productive.
These are just some of the things a hot environment can do to you:
- Increase sweating, which makes you dehydrated and deficient in essential minerals
- Dilate blood vessels, which drops your blood pressure — sometimes enough to make you dizzy or faint
- Cause swelling in fingers, toes and ankles
- Elevate your heart rate, making you tired sooner
- Make you mentally confused or unable to concentrate
- Trap air pollution, which can worsen any breathing problem you have
- In extreme cases, cause heat cramps, exhaustion or stroke
Most of these issues start with dehydration, so you’ll want to choose snacks that are cool and have a high water content. Snacking often rather than eating just 2 or 3 big meals a day will also help your body beat the heat.
Here are some ideas to get you started.
Watery Fruits & Veggies
Whole pieces of fruit are easy to carry in your lunch box. You can also find packages of pre-cut fruits and vegetables at your supermarket. High water content items include:
- Melons such as watermelon and cantaloupe
- Juicy fruits like berries, grapes, oranges and peaches
- Leafy greens
- Bell peppers
If you have access to a refrigerator to keep your food fresh until breaktime, add a container of dip to go with your fruits and vegetables. Again, check your supermarket’s deli section for grab-and-go containers of:
- Yogurt, raita or tzatziki
- Buffalo chicken dip
Still cruising the deli counter, we find options for salads perfect for spreading on whole grain crackers, breadsticks or pita chips:
- Tuna, chicken or egg salad
- Veggie cream cheese
- Herbed cottage cheese
The salt content will give you energy (as athletes know very well), replace sodium lost through sweating, and remind you to drink more water — which is essential to prevent dehydration. Don’t eat too much of these, though, or you’ll feel bloated. Healthy options include:
- Trail mix
- Olives or pickles
If you can store it safely in a freezer, you’ll look forward to cooling down at breaktime with one of these ideas. Just make sure it’s not too sugary (see Foods to Avoid below).
- Frozen yogurt
- Frozen smoothie
- Fruit pop (low sugar)
It’s super important to drink lots of water, even if you don’t feel thirsty. If plain water doesn’t appeal to you, there are other choices. Note that sports drinks are not on this list; in spite of their claims to replenish electrolytes, their high sugar content will only make you feel worse.
- Coconut water
- Fruit flavored (sugar-free) water
- Fat-free or skim milk (equal to or better than plain water for fast rehydration)
- Green or fruit smoothie
Foods to Avoid
Some types of food will make you even more dehydrated. They include:
- Sugary snacks like candy bars
We hope these ideas will get you started thinking of your perfect heat-beating snack. Here’s to munching our way through summer with health and energy!