Summer Eating

Bathing suit season has officially arrived and between a hamburger BBQ and an ice cream you may be wondering what your body really needs to stay looking great in the skimpiest season of the year.

Because today it is so easy to buy tomatoes or even strawberries in minus ten degree weather, many of us do not change our eating habits with the seasons.  Nowadays, thanks to the worldwide distribution of resources it is only our bodies that recognize that eating meat pie in July and a mango salad in February is strange.  Eating seasonally also means eating local, therefore consuming fresher, more nutrient and anti-oxidant rich foods.  This also means we are alternating different foods so we’re not always eating the same things, this allows us to detoxify from them (once the season is over) and has been shown to reduce the likelihood of developing food intolerances.  More importantly: there is a reason why famous chefs such as Gordon Ramsey and Jamie Oliver make a point of using seasonal products…they just taste better!

Our bodies go through cycles during the year that follow nature’s seasons.  Being grounded and rooted means following these cycles and giving our bodies what nature is offering at that time of year.

Summer is a time for expansion, creativity, rest and leisure.  When the weather is hot our bodies are replenished by relaxation and self-expression – this is also true for our digestive system and providing it with easily digestible food in order for it to rest is also following the seasonal cycle.  According to Chinese Medicine, it is also a time to protect and tonify the heart and small intestine; favoring “yin” foods such as fruits and vegetables.  All of our cells, organs and systems reap the benefit of following this rhythm.  Eating seasonally is simply a way of reconnecting to the yearly cycles, something which is essential for balance and health.

What does a summer diet look like?

With summer vacation and the fact that we are generally in good health (cold and flu season has passed) it is easy to forget our healthy habits.  Here are a few simple guidelines to remember for the summer:

  • Think fruits and vegetables!  Summer is the easiest month to find an abundance of seasonal produce, so take advantage of it!  Fruits and vegetables should consist of 65 to 70% of your diet.  Opt for raw rather than cooked as these contain more valuable vitamins, minerals, water and fiber.  If you choose to cook them, do so in a light stir fry that keeps your vegetables crunchy and full of their juices.  The ultimate green: sprouts.  These little sprouted seeds have the highest nutrient content you can find.
  • Jazz up those carbs! Carbohydrates should only consist of 15-20% of your diet; to make then seem more plentiful serve them as salads mixed with vegetables, olive, sundried tomatoes, fresh herbs…. Good grains for the summer include amaranth, buckwheat, rice, quinoa, rye and barley.
  • Put away that crock pot! Proteins should also only consist of 15% of your diet and should be low in fat.  Choose chicken, light fish, sea food, and legumes.  Avoid battered, fried and red meats as much as possible as their content in fat is high and will make you feel sluggish.
  • Spice it up!  Rather than using heavy and or processed sauces and vinaigrettes; to give taste to your dishes add some fresh spices such as basil, mint, garlic, coriander, parsley, hot peppers, etc.  Top that off with healthy fresh condiments such as lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and/or Dijon mustard… mmm-mmm!  To avoid water retention, salt is best kept to a minimum.
  • H2O please!  Water is your best bet to avoid unnecessary sugar and calories.  Add a squeeze of lemon or choose sparkling for variety.  If you are looking for alternative treats, go for fresh fruit or vegetable juices, with a handful of nuts or seeds, these make a fabulous and filling snack.  Fruit and vegetable juices are tasty enough as they are, and do not need any added sugar or sodium.  Make sure you read the label before buying these products.  Herbal teas are another good idea, according to Chinese medicine, warm beverages actually help keep you cool in the summer.  Try camomile, mint, ginger, nettle-lemon…
  • Smaller & lighter meals that are easier to digest.  These will leave you feeling energised rather than sluggish, encouraging you to go out and stay active.
  • Move!  What better way to exercise your heart than by doing some exercise.  The advantage of summer is that you don’t need to drag yourself to the gym to get a bit of exercise.  Be creative and have fun while moving with friends and family.

*Note that these proportions are for the average adult.  If you have a very active lifestyle you will need to augment your carbohydrate and protein intake.

Tips for integrating those veggies            

If you are wondering how in the world you can manage to eat that many fruits and vegetables, here are a few ideas:

  • Replace your peanut butter toast with a yummy veggie or fruit smoothie.
  • Always keep fruit and raw veggies at the office, in your travel bag or purse
  • Make your salads and veggie dishes attractive, as visual appearance is an important part of appetite
  • Throw some veggies on that grill!  They will give you that smoky flavor you are craving while keeping you from eating too much meat. Try some corn, peppers, Portobello mushrooms, vegetable brochettes …
  • Can’t resist the ice cream?  Opt for sorbet.  High quality sorbets are made entirely of fruit and a small amount of sugar.

Bon appétit!