I get asked all the time what are the best food to eat during the summer? Healthy eating tips for the summer are a little tricky but my main mantra is “Eat With The Season”!
Since the weather is warm, you need light, cooling foods. Juicy peaches, sweet watermelons, tomatoes hot off the vine… and the right foods are easy to find. One trip through your garden or a walk through a farmer’s market and you’ll have the perfect summer meal.
But since you’re outside exercising and working in the garden, you build up an appetite. You work hard and play hard so you crave calories to keep the fire burning. Are cucumbers the first food you reach for after rototilling the garden? Most of my clients respond “probably not”. Unfortunately, many times craving calories trumps craving fresh food. You satisfy your appetite with a meal of tortilla chips and soda. Or brats and beer. Or hamburgers and ice cream. And afterward you feel full, bloated and hot.
Fortunately there is a solution! It is possible to eat well, have energy, and avoid feeling bloated. The trick is in the timing and with an easy tweak to your natural summer diet, you’ll feel fantastic.
It should come as no surprise that I recommend eating lots of fruits and vegetables in the summer. In fact, I recommend eating fruits and vegetables all year, but in the summer they are especially important. Summer is a yang season and is associated with the fire element. Fire governs the heart and small intestine. When fire is balanced within the body, the heart governs and circulates the blood properly and the intestines properly digest food. Emotionally, you are balanced, sensitive and enthusiastic. There are a few simple guidelines to keep fire balanced:
1. Focus on yin foods. Yin foods are wet and cool. Fruits and vegetables (especially green vegetables like lettuce, cucumbers and watercress) are yin. For protein, eat more fish or seafood than meat. Smoothies and salads are yin and are excellent summer meals.
2. Eat moderately. Avoid huge meals.
3. Eat bitter foods. Bitter foods support the fire element. Coffee, tea and chocolate (without sugar) are all bitter and moderate amounts of them are appropriate for summer health. This is the season you can call your coffee a health food! Asparagus, bitter greens like kale, arugula or escarole, celery and rhubarb are all good foods for the summer.
Eat Big in the Afternoon
If you focus on yin and bitter foods, your diet is cooling and light. But what happens when you need more energy than a slice of watermelon provides? This is when the timing of your meals matters. If you need a heavier meal, eat it mid to late afternoon. “Picnic time” is the best time to fuel up. Avoid eating a big meal early or late in the day. A healthy summer eating plan starts with a breakfast of fruit, smoothies or yogurt. Have a salad for lunch. Eat a heavy meal later in the afternoon and end your day with more fruit.
By eating mostly fresh, light, wet foods and including a heavy meal only in the afternoon, you will help your fire burn bright but not out of control. You’ll feel light, cool and energized. Your heart, circulation and digestion will be strong. You won’t feel bloated or full.
Traditional Chinese Medicine uses nutrition as a tool to maintain health and promote healing. Eating a yin diet with your heavy meal in the late afternoon is good general advice, but your constitution may need a slightly different routine. The proportion of yin food matters and varies from person to person. To get the best summer eating tips, contact me and together we’ll make a plan that’s perfect for you.