Nutrition and Lifestyle Habits To Help You Make The Most Of SummerJul 06, 2022
Summertime in Saskatoon is finally here! The weather is warm, the kids are out of school, and the routines are changing. For some, this can mean that life is lighter, brighter, and all-around less stressful. You might find it easier to adopt supportive nutrition habits in the summer due to the availability of in-season, local produce and the abundance of opportunities to move and stay active. For others, the 'go-go' nature of summer can push them out of their routines, leaving them feeling challenged by their regular food and movement priorities, and overwhelmed with an increased number of social gatherings and opportunities to drink alcohol. In today’s article and accompanying podcast episode (listen here) the Registered Dietitians at Vitality Nutrition in Saskatoon are here to share their top tips for feeling confident, fuelled, hydrated, and energized this summer!
1. STAY HYDRATED WITH FLUIDS & ELECTROLYTES
It's easy to lose more fluids and electrolytes during a Saskatoon summer, as our sweat rate increases due to hot weather and/or an increase in activity and exercise. When our nutrition coaching clients consider hydration they often think of water alone. While water is certainly an important component of hydration, it is not the only element to consider when it comes to getting and staying hydrated!
Have you ever tried increasing your water intake only to find yourself peeing constantly? This is where electrolytes come into play! Electrolytes act like magnets that help our bodies hold onto the fluids we consume. That’s why our Registered Dietitians' strategy for summer hydration involves optimizing both fluid and electrolyte status.
Here are a few signs that you might need to support your fluid and/or electrolyte intake this summer:
If you are experiencing the above symptoms of dehydration (or if it is a particularly hot, sweaty, and active day), our Dietitians recommend that you start by:
- Assessing your water intake and increasing it if necessary (roughly half your body weight in ounces is a helpful starting point for a daily water target – then increase from there based on sweat losses!)
- Being intentional with your electrolyte consumption using the strategies below!
- Sprinkle moderate amounts of salt in your meals
- Include saltier condiments like mustard and pickles
- Enjoy fruits, non-starchy, & root veggies daily
- Choose 2+ colours of vegetables and/or fruits with most meals (we obtain different electrolytes from each colour!)
- Cook with broths
- Include a variety of mineral-dense meats
- Build dairy or dairy alternatives into your menu for calcium and/or potassium
- Supplement electrolytes in you water as needed (eg. Nuun tablets)
DIETITIAN TIP: If you are choosing to use supplement electrolytes to support intense training or increased sweat rate, look for a product that contains at least 300mg or more of sodium, 100mg or more of potassium, and small amounts of calcium, magnesium, and chloride. The best electrolyte supplements we’ve found in Canada are the Nuun tablets, which can be found at Sobeys in the natural food section, Sport Chek, and London Drugs, or ordered online.
DIETITIAN NOTE: Many of our nutrition coaching clients have been exposed to the general recommendation of limiting sodium at some point in their lives. While this advice is pertinent for a subset of the population who experience high blood pressure, obtaining adequate sodium is an important element of maintaining hydration and electrolyte balance for most. In other words, don't be afraid to add those salty pickles to your burger after a full day in the heat!
2. HAVE AN ARSENAL OF PORTABLE SUMMER SNACKS
Having an arsenal of energy-sustaining snacks is key to bridging those long gaps in meals – whether they result from a day at the beach, boating, hiking, or adventuring. When choosing an energy-supportive snack, our team of Registered Dietitians like to opt for combinations that provide both protein and fibre! Here are a few of our favourites:
3. USE CONVENIENCE FOODS TO YOUR ADVANTAGE FOR QUICK SUMMER MEAL PREP
If you’re anything like us, you'll want to be making the most of your summer weekends rather than spending them grocery shopping and meal prepping. For this reason, we opt for convenience foods at the grocery store so that we can quickly assemble balanced meals to fuel us throughout the week! Some ideas, organized according to the 'Fundamental Four' food groups we teach at Vitality Nutrition, include:
- Proteins: Prepped souvlaki from Costco that can be quickly BBQed, chicken or turkey sausages, rotisserie chicken, seasoned tempeh for sandwiches, deli meats or canned tuna for a quick protein at lunch, or cottage cheese or Greek yogurt for an easy breakfast protein or snack.
- Volume: Bagged salad, veggie trays, frozen berries for smoothies, or mini-veggies that can be quickly enjoyed or paired with a dip.
- Fats: Hummus, tzatziki, or guacamole as a dip for veggies or spread for sandwiches and wraps, avocados for breakfast or to add to smoothies, and nuts and seeds for snacks.
- Fibre-filled carbs: An abundance of fruit for snacks, whole grain breads or wraps, canned beans or lentils for salads, or potatoes that can be quickly chopped up and added to the air-fryer.
4. INVEST IN KITCHEN GADGETS THAT KEEP THE HOUSE COOL
During the hot summer months many of us are looking for ways to keep our homes cool and comfortable; heating up the house by turning on the oven is the last thing on our minds! Getting creative with meals and investing in gadgets that keep the house cool is a must.
Some gadgets and equipment our Registered Dietitians love in the summer include an air-fryer, pressure cooker, blender, BBQ, and mason jars. For example:
- Air-fryer: We love it for homemade sweet potato fries or potato wedges.
- Pressure cooker: Make shredded chicken for easy tacos.
- Blender: For colourful, hydrating, and energizing smoothies.
- BBQ: For burgers, steaks, foil packet meals, and souvlaki.
- Mason jars: For simple summer breakfasts like overnight oats or chia pudding, or to take a smoothie with you on-the-go!
5. SUPPORT YOUR BODY IF AND WHEN YOU CHOOSE TO CONSUME ALCOHOL
Whether or not you choose to enjoy alcohol is contingent on your personal values and beliefs. However, our team of Registered Dietitians encourage you to consider the following tips to help you decide if and when it aligns with your nutrition, lifestyle, and social goals this summer, and how to support your body along the way!
- Reflect on your values to determine if and when it serves you to drink: Clients in our one-on-one nutrition coaching program often ask our team of Dietitians whether or not they should drink when approaching a weekend or special event where alcohol is being served. While our team cannot answer this question from a values/beliefs perspective, we can instead help guide our clients through conversations on their personal goals, and whether or not consuming alcohol is in alignment (you can learn more about goal-setting here). Doing so helps our nutrition coaching clients make an intentional choice that aligns with the experiences they want to collect and the way they want to feel. For example, as Registered Dietitians, we get ‘choose-y’ when we drink, knowing that alcohol can cause inflammation, fatigue, and stress on our physical bodies. For us, having drinks on an unimportant Tuesday night often doesn't align with how we want to feel the next day when it comes to our energy levels at work or our motivation and performance during workouts. However, there are also other opportunities where we feel that drinking alcohol will provide us with connection points for important social relationships, and may add an element of fun to a special evening. In these cases, choosing to drink an amount of alcohol that fits within our own personal boundaries could enhance our experience and be in alignment with values we hold outside of our physical health.
- Consider your drink of choice: If you don’t drink very much or very often, it is likely worth choosing whatever drink you are craving or think you will enjoy the most! However, if you know you will be consuming multiple beverages in a row, it can be helpful to choose an option that is low in added sugars. Some of our favourite examples are vodka seltzers and light beers.
- Stop drinking ~ 2 hours before bed if possible: The metabolism of alcohol impacts our blood sugar balance in the body. This is often why people are hungrier while drinking and may wake up in the middle of the night (or early in the morning), even after a late night of socializing. Typically, the liver tightly regulates our glucose level. When we drink, the liver is busy prioritizing the metabolism of alcohol. This causes a dys-regulation of blood sugars and a tendency to experience low levels. By giving your body time to metabolize the alcohol you have consumed before bed, you are less likely to experience blood sugar lows in the night which may increase your ability to capture more restorative sleep and leave you feeling better the next day!
- Plan a balanced snack: As discussed above, the metabolic effects of alcohol leave most people feeling hungry while they drink and prone to sleep-disrupting low blood sugars afterwards. Our team of Registered Dietitians encourage their clients to plan a balanced snack or small meal that will support blood sugars throughout the night – especially if clients find themselves hungry after drinking!
- Set your limit beforehand: When you are living in the moment, it can be difficult to set a limit on how many servings of alcohol will align with your personal values, goals, and priorities for the next day. If you know you feel better limiting your drinks to a certain number, set that intention prior to an event to ensure you can be firm in a choice – even with changing inhibitions. When you are packing your drinks for an event or gathering, you can support your goals by bringing only the amount of alcohol you have chosen for yourself ahead of time.
- Stay hydrated with fluids and electrolytes: Staying hydrated while you are drinking and continuing to do so the day after is a key strategy to feel better and support your body. While a hangover has multiple causes including inflammation, gastrointestinal irritation, and poor sleep, dehydration and electrolyte imbalances are contributing factors to the fatigue and headaches often experienced. Alcohol causes dehydration because it is a diuretic, which means it increases the excretion of water from the body. Our Registered Dietitians encourage their clients who choose to drink to prioritize hydration using the tips outlined below!
DIETITIAN TIP: We suggest that clients drink a glass of water for every alcoholic beverage they consume, and that they supplement with electrolytes (eg. Nuun tablets) both the day of and the day after drinking. Restoring fluid and electrolyte status can help reduce symptoms of a hangover and help you get back to living an energized lifestyle as soon as possible!
1. GIVE A BOOST TO CLASSIC SUMMER MEALS
Our Registered Dietitians love to give classic summer meals a nutrition boost by adding colour, lean protein, or fibre to the meal. Consider these tips for balancing some go-to summer staples:
- Sausages: Try leaner sausages like turkey sausages, and pair them with colour, fibre, and volume like raw veggies or a salad.
- Burgers: Try leaner burgers like those made from lean beef, chicken, or turkey, and aim to boost the fibre content with a multigrain bun or by adding a vegetable on the side.
- Pasta Salad: Try adding fibre to your salad by using a whole grain pasta or a bean-based pasta, and by adding in extra veggies for more volume and nutrition.
- Brunch: Build out your brunch menu with added protein and fibre through recipes like a homemade protein pancake (eg. the Kodiak pancake mix, or an oat and egg-based pancake or waffle) or add lean proteins on the side like scrambled eggs or turkey bacon!
2. BE INTENTIONAL AT SOCIAL GATHERINGS
Many of us in Saskatoon (including our Dietitians!) see an uptick in social gatherings during the summer months. The goal here should be to enjoy yourself, your company, and the connection that social events offer. That being said, some find themselves overwhelmed in these situations due to the need to navigate food and beverages being offered in a way that is in alignment with existing goals and values. We encourage you to consider these tips when attending social gatherings – especially if you're feeling a bit anxious beforehand!
- Choose what you love: Many social events contain a variety of options to choose from, which can certainly feel overwhelming! We recommend choosing the foods and beverages that you love. It’s ok to leave something behind if you don’t enjoy it or would prefer to fill your belly with something you'll genuinely enjoy instead.
- Contribute a dish or snack: If you are unsure whether or not the event you are attending will have nourishing food options, you might consider contributing a dish of your own to add balance to the menu. For example, you might bring a salad, vegetable tray, fruit salad, or bag of air-popped popcorn to share with friends during a day at the beach. Infusing the meal with colour, fibre, and/or volume is often welcomed by all! Of course, whether or not you contribute a dish depends on the nature of the event you are attending, but from our experience most hosts (and guests) will welcome your more nourishing option, so long as you bring enough to share!
- Avoid ‘saving up’ for the event: Many people attempt to find balance during larger social meals by restricting their intake during the day to account for the ‘splurge' that will take place later on. However, this well-intended effort often ends up backfiring as mental and physical restriction can make it difficult to eat mindfully when you finally have access to food.
- Situate yourself thoughtfully in your environment: Many summer gatherings offer meals in a buffet format or will host a spread of appetizers like chips and dip to snack on over the course of several hours. If you find yourself mindlessly grazing on the available food, consider situating yourself in a position that makes it easier to eat mindfully. For example, if you are sitting next to the bag of chips it can be easy to munch on them without noticing how much you’ve consumed. Instead, we encourage you to consider fixing yourself a small bowl (or grabbing a handful), then finding a spot to sit where the chips or food table are out of reach. This can help ensure that if you do decide to go for seconds, this is an intentional decision that can be fully enjoyed!
4. RECOGNIZE SNEAKY SIGNS OF HUNGER
Our appetite can be decreased when we are hot! One reason for this is that the body tries to regulate its temperature by cutting down on heat-generating functions like the digestion of food. This decrease in appetite can leave you feeling disconnected from the energy demands of your body. In many cases, skipping on meals and fluids can leave you dehydrated, famished, fatigued, or even ravenous, and unable to eat mindfully later in the day. Learning to identify sneaky signs of hunger can help you keep your body well-fuelled through the day – even in the absence of a grumbling stomach. Here are a few signs that you may benefit from a meal or snack:
All of these signs are cues that your brain and body would benefit from nourishment in order to support your blood sugars and keep up with metabolic functions like energy production, temperature regulation, and digestion!
1. EAT REGULARLY
Summer in Saskatoon is a busy time, where routines can feel absent, and the heat may have your appetite suppressed. These factors can contribute to skipping a meal or forgetting to enjoy a supportive snack! Whether you are busy or relaxing, eating regularly is important to support blood sugars, energy levels, and your ability to engage in mindful eating throughout the day. Prioritize eating regularly and avoid getting too hungry by keeping portable snacks with you and by prioritizing a break in your day for a proper meal.
DIETITIAN TIP: Consider planning a supportive snack if you have longer than five hours between meals. At the five hour mark, blood sugars tend to take a dip which can lead to fatigue or a difficulty eating mindfully when you enter your next meal!
2. SAY ‘YES’ TO EXPERIENCES
Give yourself permission to enjoy all that a Saskatoon summer has to offer! You will not regret getting ice cream with your kids, making s’mores with your friends, or going to the work BBQ. If you are feeling anxious about the change in your routine or the abundance of opportunities to eat in a social setting, consider completing our free resources on values to help build context around how these experiences can enrich your life and your overall health! You can find the resource in our article on goal setting here.
3. MOVE IN A WAY YOU LOVE
Take advantage of movement in a way that you genuinely enjoy. Summer presents a time to explore new forms of activity like a membership at the Saskatoon Canoe club, swimming at the lake or an outdoor pool, walking or hiking with friends, going for bike rides, slack-lining, or trying new sports like beach volleyball, tennis, frisbee, or golf!
4. BE IN THE PICTURE THIS SUMMER
Being in the picture can be a challenging scenario for people who are overly critical of themselves or their appearance. If you find yourself fearful of photographs or avoiding them altogether, our Dietitians encourage you to consider these tips:
- Why do you (or the people around you!) want the photo? Most likely, it's to capture a good or meaningful time! Having a memory is precious. By reminding yourself of the purpose of a photo you may feel more inclined to step into that photo. If this tip doesn’t work, try reflecting on why you might want this photo in 10 years. It won’t be to remember hating the way you looked, but to remember where you were, who you were with, and to celebrate a special moment in time!
- Zoom WAY out: If you find that your eyes are immediately are drawn to yourself and the parts of yourself you are most critical of when looking at a photograph, it could be helpful to zoom out. Challenge yourself to choose other elements in the photo to focus on such as the environment you are in, what was going on during the photo, or who else is in the photo and why they are significant to you. Perhaps from there you can choose to focus on the positive elements of the photo, or even yourself.
5. FOCUS ON WHAT MAKES YOU FEEL YOUR BEST
There is no universal ‘right’ way to eat or move, but there is a way that is ‘right’ for you. Focus on what makes you feel your best this summer, whether that includes wearing clothes that you are comfortable in and that align with your personal style, surrounding yourself with people who make you feel uplifted and joyful, embracing movement that you love, or eating food that you enjoy and makes you feel good. It’s likely that your version of “feeling your best” includes some combination of food and experiences that fuel your body and feed your soul.
By staying hydrated, fuelling your body, embracing movement, and being intentional in social settings you can support your physical body while enjoying all the experiences that a Saskatoon summer has to offer. If you enjoyed this article and accompanying podcast episode by the Registered Dietitians at Vitality Nutrition, you can support us by sending it to a friend, family, coworker, or anyone you think would benefit from our summer nutrition tips. If you need support aligning with your personal values and making intentional choices that improve your health and happiness, we encourage you to reach out to learn more about our one-on-one nutrition coaching program. Here, we will build an individualized plan to help you better approach and accomplish your nutrition, movement, and lifestyle goals this season!
Ready to bring the evidence-based nutrition support of our Registered Dietitians into your kitchen?
Hungry for more?
Get recipes, tips, and updates from the Vitality Nutrition team straight to your inbox!
Don't worry, your information won't be shared.