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Posted: Monday, June 3, 2024

Fuel Up for Summer

The weather is getting warmer and sunnier, and that means we’re heading outside more. Thankfully, we live in a wonderful place with many outdoor options such as walking, hiking and biking trails; kayaking; water sports; tennis; volleyball; and running. Whatever activity you choose, being aware of how to fuel your body is crucial to keeping your body running efficiently.

Heather Pierce, registered dietitian with Blount Memorial Hospital, has a few ideas to help us improve our energy levels and fuel our summer activities. First, take advantage of seasonal fruits and vegetables. “These foods provide water, carbohydrates and fiber to keep you hydrated and energized for outdoor activities. Every meal or snack provides a great opportunity to add a fruit or vegetable and provide valuable nutrition. You can add a tomato to your sandwich or wrap, add seasonal berries to your yogurt or add sliced cucumbers to the dinner table,” Pierce explained.

Additionally, when it comes to summer meals, grilling is a great cooking option. Add grilled vegetables to your grilled fish or other lean meats. Grilled pineapple is a nutritious and sweet dessert. “It’s also a good idea to keep cool proteins around for quick meals. I see so many people who start yard work in the morning and skip lunch, leaving them ravenous in the evening. Boiled eggs, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt or precooked lean meats are great for assembling a quick meal. Just pair them with a salad, pre-cut veggies, and hummus or fruit,” said Pierce.

And although you’ve heard it a million times, make sure you get enough water. The best way to hydrate during a long day outside is to sip water throughout your activity. Adding cucumber or lemon to your water for a refreshing boost and a little flavor also may entice you to drink more. “If you’re outside and sweating, you’ll need water. Mild dehydration can impair performance, cause a headache or worsen fatigue. We need about half of our body’s weight in ounces to maintain fluid balance,” advised Pierce. High water content fruits and vegetables such as melon, cucumber and oranges help aid in hydration, too. “If you are active for more than an hour outside, also consider an electrolyte replacement since we lose salt in sweat. Using sports drinks occasionally is fine, especially for high-energy sports. Or you can pair a salty snack with a fruit along with your water. Both can help sodium and potassium levels,” Pierce added.

Finally, be aware of sugar consumption. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Americans consume more than 17 teaspoons of sugar daily, while dietary guidelines recommend less than 12 teaspoons per day. Unfortunately, one sweetened beverage (12-ounce soda, sweet tea) can provide that amount. “These drinks raise blood sugar sharply and cause an energy crash later, so be mindful of liquid calories,” Pierce said. Frozen sweet treats also tend to make it into our diets this time of year but there are many nutritious and delicious options. “To get more nutrition from your treats, try frozen grapes on toothpicks, fruit kabobs, or homemade popsicles with 100 percent fruit juice instead of store-bought popsicles and ice cream cones. When short of time, look for lower-sugar popsicle or ice cream options in the store, and replace soda with caffeine-free sparkling waters. Instead of chips, try pepper slices, carrots, cucumbers or your favorite summer veggies with Greek yogurt dip,” Pierce said.

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