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How to remain hydrated and healthy in the summertime

Toronto, August 1, 2019

By Selma Al-Samarrai

A bowl of strawberries
(Photo by Mcfields, Big Stock)

Summer weather has finally arrived and with it has comes the season of patios, barbecues, ice cream trucks and chilled beverages. It may feel like healthy eating in the summertime is an impossibility, but there are many ways to substitute the season’s many unhealthy temptations with nutritious options.

Punya Puri, a registered dietitian in the Family Health Team at St. Michael’s Hospital, has a list of tips for how to maintain a healthy diet in the summertime.

For starters, Puri recommends avoiding chilled beverages such as blended coffee or fruit drinks that are loaded with sugar.

“Most summer drinks are extremely high in caloric content, which may negatively affect you in two ways. First of all, sugar absorbs water in the body and subsequently dehydrates you, so you will simply want to drink more. This creates a vicious cycle of consumption,” explained Puri.

“Secondly, these drinks have many calories. A person could easily consume an entire meal’s worth of calories through one of these drinks, without any nutritional value.”

Even the drinks that boast “real fruit” are not healthy options, explained Puri, as this normally means the drink contains highly concentrated fruit juice, which is mostly sugar. In fact, Puri found that a regular-size blended fruit option at a popular juice chain contains 53 grams of sugar — the equivalent of 13 packets of sugar.

For a healthy alternative, Puri suggests either simply drinking water or infusing your water with fruits and herbs such as sliced watermelon and basil, lime with cucumber, or mint and a citrus fruit.

Another factor that influences what we crave in the summertime is the hot weather, which generally reduces one’s appetite.

Dr. David Jenkins, nutrition researcher and physician in the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism at St. Michael’s Hospital and the University of Toronto, explained that the very act of eating generates heat, a process named the thermic effect of food. Foods that are high in protein generate extra heat during digestion. This process is precisely why people eat more when the weather is colder.

“As a result of this, people generally avoid eating high-protein foods, big meals or hot food items in the summertime. My advice to remain healthy and nutritious in the summer is have lots of varied salads and cold plant-based foods,” explained Dr. Jenkins, who is an advocate for vegan diets throughout the year.

As for healthy and nutritious snacks, Puri has no shortage of suggestions.

“Frozen grapes are a great snack on a hot summer day – they’re full of vitamin C and antioxidants and are roughly 80 per cent water, so they’re hydrating too,” explained Puri.

Berries are plentiful in Ontario during the summertime, and are rich in vitamin C, folate, fibre and potassium. Puri says they’re a good snacking choice because they’re easy to eat separately or mix into healthy snacks such as whole-grain cereals, salads or plain yogurts.

Beans and lentils are another good option as they provide a lot of fibre and protein, and can be mixed in an easy salad recipe that also includes cucumbers, tomatoes, bell peppers, cilantro and lemon.

As for desserts, Puri says you can’t go wrong with a healthy homemade popsicle.

“All you need is cheap popsicle moulds, plain or Greek yogurt and your favourite fruits, and then you just freeze them overnight and enjoy them the next day!”

According to Puri, the healthiest approach to maintaining a healthy weight is by eating regular meals, and adding a snack if the meals are more than four to five hours apart. A healthy snack is between 100 to 200 calories, and combines a carbohydrate along with either a protein or a healthy fat.

“It’s ok to indulge yourself every now and then and enjoy small treats that you really crave. This will not derail your healthy eating goals. It’s not what you eat, it’s how much of what you eat,” said Punya.


Dr. David Jenkins is also a Professor in both the Departments of Nutritional Sciences and the Department of Medicine at the University of Toronto.

About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in more than 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the Hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael’s Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.

About Unity Health Toronto

Unity Health Toronto, comprised of Providence Healthcare, St. Joseph’s Health Centre and St. Michael’s Hospital, works to advance the health of everyone in our urban communities and beyond. Our health network serves patients, residents and clients across the full spectrum of care, spanning primary care, secondary community care, tertiary and quaternary care services to post-acute through rehabilitation, palliative care and long-term care, while investing in world-class research and education. For more information, visit www.unityhealth.to.


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