You know how your food cravings change with the season? There’s a legit scientific reasoning for that. “The body reflects what’s happening outside,” explains Ayurvedic expert, Nadya Andreeva—author of Happy Belly: A Woman’s Guide to Feeling Vibrant, Light, and Balanced. Meaning that what flies in February is very different than what nourishes your body on a long and sweaty summer day. And your food choices and meal times may need to shift with the seasons, says triple-board certified nutritionist Dana James, MS.
Want to make sure you’re not living on coconut water and tossed salads until Labor Day? Here’s how experts say you should eat in the heat.
Scroll down for seven tips for eating in the heat.
Originally posted May 18, 2014, updated June 1, 2016.
1. Cool foods rule
Ayurveda, the 5,000 year-old healing science, is all about opposites, so cooling foods and beverages are your friend in summer—especially if you’ve got any signs of excess heat in the body, like heartburn, inflammation, and flushed skin. Salty, spicy, and sour foods are heating, while things like mint and cilantro, cucumbers and celery with high water content, and dark greens tend to cool the body. “A great green juice to drink in the summer would mix pear, fennel, some kale, some mint, and maybe a bit of lime juice,” says Andreeva, if you want to make a shopping list…
2. Eat sweet
No, not Ben & Jerry’s. But sweet fruit, on the other hand, is fair game. It’s extremely balancing to anyone with an abundance of Pitta—the fiery of the three Ayurvedic doshas (constitutions). So go ahead and load up on it. Berries are a good choice, she says, as is watermelon, which is super light and hydrating.
3. Pick your alcohol wisely.
Summer is the season of outdoor cocktailing (have you heard about orange wine?) and Andreeva’s not out to deny anyone that pleasure. But she warns that the same Ayurvedic principles that apply to food also apply libations, which means any drink with a slightly sweeter taste is your best bet for boozing in balance. Instead of a salty, sour (i.e. heating) margarita, enjoy a mojito full of cooling mint.
4. Respect your body’s rhythms
A lot of people experience diminished appetites when temps soar, and nutritionist Dana James, MS, founder of Food Coach, says that’s totally fine. “If you’re not hungry, don’t force yourself to eat. Enjoy lighter meals,” she says. That doesn’t mean you should skip important nutrients or meals altogether. Just don’t feel compelled to eat something hearty just because the clock’s telling you to, she says.
5. Now is the season for local
When you’re en route to your weekend getaway and pass a perfect-looking farm stand, stop! “Enjoy summer’s abundance,” James says. “Snack on watermelon and freshly-picked tomatoes. Use freshly cut herbs and micro-greens for salads.” Not only does nature provide lots of cooling foods at just the right time (think summer squash, snow peas, and cauliflower), they’re nutrient-dense. “Those micro-greens have seven times more antioxidants than the adult greens,” James says.
6. Electrolytes are your friend
The more you sweat, the more electrolytes you need, says James—but not from fluorescent sports drinks. She recommends using sea salt (for sodium), drinking lots of green juices (for magnesium), and sipping cucumber juice and coconut water (for a “potassium infusion”).
7. Enjoy meals with friends
It might not sound like a direct dietary rule, but Andreeva says it’s important for anyone struggling with too much fire inside—which can leave you feeling cranky and feisty—to enjoy leisurely meals with loved ones. “One of the treatments I would prescribe is joy and pleasure,” she says. Plus, it forces you to eat mindfully, rather than scarfing meals on-the-go, which is always a good thing.