If you've just returned from a day at the beach or an afternoon bicycle ride, stop in the kitchen. Even though you may not feel hungry, it's important to replenish your body after all that sweating and activity.
"Even though we tend not to feel hungry during the summer months, sound nutrition is more important than ever," says registered dietitian Becky Posada of St. Joseph Hospital in Orange.
Sweating causes losses in potassium and sodium and can deplete glucose stores, which give us energy.
"The good news is these losses can easily be replaced through a sound 'summer' diet," says Cindy Daversa, a registered dietitian at St. Jude Medical Center in Fullerton.
"Sweating causes electrolyte losses of sodium and potassium," says Daversa. "These minerals are easily replaced through proper nutrition."
Though sodium loss does occur during a day at the beach, both say there's no need to take salt tablets or eat anything unusually salty.
"During exercise, the concentration of sodium in the blood actually increases because you lose more water than sodium," says Posada. Replace the losses with water or diluted fruit juice and your body will balance itself.
Potassium loss also occurs when you sweat. "Replace potassium after a day at the beach by drinking a glass of orange juice or apricot nectar or by eating a banana, raisins, potatoes, yogurt or any milk product," says Posada. Berries, melons, cantaloupe, oranges and peaches are other good choices.
At times, magnesium is also lost during sweating. This can be replaced by eating whole-grain breads and cereals.
During exercise, glucose stores, which give us energy, are also depleted. They too can be replaced through food.
Follow a nutritionally savvy summer meal plan, and you can replenish your body with vital nutrients lost during summer activities. Just keep in mind the following tips:
* Stick to carbohydrate-rich foods. During and after an active summer day, replenish your glucose stores by snacking on carbohydrates.
"Within the first two hours after an active day at the beach, eat about 300 calories worth of carbohydrates," says Posada. Snacks she suggests include a cup of orange juice and a bagel; a bowl of cereal with a banana; two cups of cranberry juice and eight ounces of yogurt; 1 1/2 cups of pasta topped with tomato sauce; a turkey sandwich and large piece of fruit; a hamburger and fruit, and a bean burrito with tomato and carrot sticks on the side.
* Stay away from nutrition-poor snacks. "Because the weather is hot and our schedules often change, we tend to graze in the summer rather than sitting down to balanced meals," says Posada. "Many people will snack on potato chips or sugary items like Popsicles, which have little nutritional value.
"Eating such foods is fine in moderation as part of a balanced diet, but they shouldn't make up the bulk of what you eat during the day," she says. "You'll lose out on nutrition and will probably feel tired."
* Remember the four basic food groups. "During summertime we often forget to eat a well-balanced diet," says Posada. "At each meal or snack, make sure you eat two or three items from the four basic food groups.
From the milk group, adults should have two servings and children three to four servings a day; the grain group, five to 11 servings; the fruit and vegetable group, five to nine servings and the meat/fish/poultry/eggs/nuts group, two servings.
"Each of the food groups provide us with essential nutrients," says Posada. "The vegetable and fruit group gives us Vitamins A and C and fiber; the milk group calcium, riboflavin and protein; the meat/fish/poultry/eggs/nuts group, protein and iron, and the grain group thiamine, niacin, iron and riboflavin."
Examples of snacks and meals that include two to three of the four basic food groups are a piece of fruit, bagel and yogurt; carrot sticks and half a turkey sandwich; whole-wheat crackers with low-fat cheese and low-salt tomato juice; a tuna salad sandwich with low-fat or nonfat mayonnaise; a bowl of whole grain or bran cereal with low-fat or nonfat milk; fruit with cottage cheese; a slice of cold pizza; pretzels with a bowl of soup (cold or hot) and a glass of milk.
* Don't be afraid of starch. "Foods such as potatoes, rice, pasta and breads have really gotten a bad rap," says Daversa.
"Many people think you get fat eating those foods, but the truth is they contain no fat. They are a rich source of carbohydrates and an important part of any diet. What makes these foods fattening is what you put on top of them, such as margarine on toast, sour cream on baked potato and rich cheesy sauces on pasta."
There are many topping alternatives, says Daversa. "Buy seasoning packets and add them to nonfat or low-fat cottage cheese, nonfat yogurt or soft curd tofu, and you've got some great low-fat toppings for potatoes," she says. "For pasta and rice, try vegetable sauces, marinara and vegetable stir fries." The latter is great with a little fresh Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.