Your Guide to Healthy Summer Living

Senior couple lying together on blanket enjoying a picnic with array of fresh fruits and cheeses while listening to music.

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“Summer Means Happy Times and Good Sunshine” -Brian Wilson (The Beach Boys)

Summer has a way of bringing out the child in all of us. Even if you don’t have two months off to swim and surf, there’s just something special in the air. But whether you’re 17 or 70, in great shape or not, everyone can enjoy a picnic. Below we have a few suggestions to make yours a healthy – and happy – one.

Firstly, be sure to pack any perishable food in an insulated cooler with ice packs, and when you reach your picnic destination, don’t take these foods out of the cooler until you’re ready to eat; leaving them in the sun or heat for too long can spoil them – and spoil your day if you get food poisoning.

Now that we’ve resolved that potential issue, it’s time to decide what to pack for your picnic. Well, that’s easy! June, July and August are full of in-season, delectable, juicy fruit! What’s more, summer fruits (and vegetables) are not only delicious, but they’re also full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that your body needs and that are critical for maintaining good health. They also provide energy and help you stay hydrated.

Here’s a list of some of the top in-season summer fruit contenders: watermelon, berries, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, pears, peaches, mangoes, plums, nectarines, grapes, bananas, apricots, lemons, limes, yellow squash, zucchini, tomatoes and avocados (yes, technically yellow squash, zucchini, tomatoes and avocados are fruits).

And some great summer vegetables include corn, cucumbers, eggplant, beets, bell peppers, carrots, celery, okra and green beans.

To compliment your veggies, bring some hummus (great with carrots), and your favorite dips. Another great side dish to munch on are yummy cheeses, like brie, gouda or whatever pleases your palate. And don’t forget to bring crackers, or if you prefer, a baguette – delish! And if you’re going to bring salad, why not add some fresh veggies to give it a real kick.

For your main dish, you can’t go wrong with barbeque chicken, but if you’re a vegetarian (or even if you’re not!), cold pasta salad can be wonderful. Bow tie pasta is a popular option, and then add whatever you like. Some great choices include chickpeas, cherry tomatoes, mini mozzarella balls, slices of cucumber and any other favorite crisp vegetables.

For dessert, fruit is the perfect option: think watermelon or a fruit salad. And for your beverage, the healthiest option to drink while outside on a hot day is water. But if you must have that iced tea (we get it!) or soda, be sure to still drink some water; because of increased sweating during hot summer days, it’s easy to become dehydrated without even realizing it, which can be dangerous. And please keep in mind that while extreme heat can be dangerous for everyone, it’s particularly threatening for the elderly and those with chronic medical conditions.

Another caveat: make sure to keep yourself covered with sun lotion. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), a good rule of thumb is to reapply every two hours. But if your picnic is at the beach and you take intermittent dips in the water, you should reapply every time you get out, even if it’s been less than two hours. Regarding SPF, the AAD recommends 30 or higher. And be sure that it is water-resistant and offers broad-spectrum protection, in other words, protects against UVA and UVB rays (UVA rays can cause wrinkles and age spots and can pass through window glass and UVB rays are the main cause of sunburn, but are blocked by window glass. They both can cause skin cancer.)

Finally, don’t forget to pack enough napkins, a blanket for your food spread, and cutlery for everyone, and if you’re having a picnic at the beach, bring an umbrella – and a few beach chairs. You also might want to bring something to play some music (but don’t blast it if you’re in a public spot) and a frisbee or Nerf football to throw around (just be sure to drink extra water to make up for all the sweating from the exercise).

Last bit of advice? Enjoy these long hours of daylight because they won’t last forever!

Happy summer!

This information is for educational purposes. Please consult your physician for any medical issues. The Visiting Nurse Association of the Treasure Coast (VNA) is committed to bringing trusted and quality home health and private care to Indian River and Brevard County patients. For more information about VNA services, visit www.vnatc.com.

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