If the dog days of summer have you looking for ways to keep your cool besides spending all day at the movies, look no further than your plate. What we choose to eat affects our bodies in many ways, including regulating our internal thermostat. Paying attention to what your body naturally craves during the warmest months can help you feel your best as the mercury climbs. Our bodies reflect what’s going on outside, so choosing cooling foods is one of the best defenses against getting over-heated.
Salty, spicy foods tend to heat the body, while dark greens such as spinach, Swiss chard, arugula, and foods with high water content, like cucumber, celery, and watermelon—a family favorite—are cooling. My family and I are currently on a mission to find the best local watermelon, and I must say, we’re enjoying the hunt. The kids like to make popsicles and use cookie cutters to create fun shapes, and watermelon slices are the ultimate hassle-free dessert. Grandma has been known to enjoy a watermelon martini, so we’re all getting creative and enjoying a summer favorite.
As we move through the warmest part of the year, remember to hydrate. It is so important to drink lots of water. Start your days with a big glass of water with a great breakfast then continue to hydrate between meals. We tend to eat lighter when it’s hot outside and that gives your body a break so it doesn’t have to work as hard to digest your meal.
During triple-digit days, I like to avoid using the oven and stovetop completely, so I’m always thinking about new ideas…what can make with no heat in the house? The kids love making smoothies, a perfect quick, healthy breakfast or afternoon snack, and I like to experiment, adding herbs for extra flavor and nutritional kick. Fortunately, living in the middle of an incredibly rich and diverse agricultural region, gives us plenty to work with. When we do cook in the heat of summer, it happens outdoors, which means we’ll roast a whole chicken & cook a batch of rice in the outdoors for the week, and we grill vegetables and fruit. We’ll cook a batch of beans on the porch in the slow cooker. Everything cooks outside. Our current go-to favorite salad is fresh peaches with whole-leaf basil and walnuts, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and a dash of cinnamon. No cooking at all with this treat.
Having a garden is one of the best ways to eat seasonally, and take advantage of fresh, ripe, cooling foods. It’s also an easy way to involve children in meal planning and preparation. My kids are getting more involved with planting, harvesting and cooking, and I love watching their appreciation for real food bloom. Our garden is currently bursting at the seams with zucchini—hello, zoodles—and fresh tomatoes and herbs, and I’m making good use of our the walnuts from last fall’s harvest. With peaches, plums and apricots for dessert, we have healthy, nutritious options right in our own backyard.
It’s pretty easy to eat healthy, not to mention local, during the summer. As appetites generally shift with the seasons, I want to make sure we’re offering our restaurant guests an enticing selection, which is why we created the Green Sharlene options that offers lighter choices, such as the Green Sharlene monthly salad and the Green Sharlene omelette. We’re featuring spaghetti squash, and zoodles on occasion in place of pasta. Let us know what you think of these healthier options. Listening to your body and thinking fresh and local will not only help you stay cool, and feeling great.