7 nutrition tips for healthy summer eating

Excerpt: Summer is the perfect time to bring nutrient-rich elements of a healthy, Mediterranean-style diet into your daily eating patterns. Consume colourful vegetables and fruits for their many phytonutrients, eat a variety of healthy protein foods, and grill fish for essential fatty acids. Season foods with herbs and spices, and dress salads with olive oil to add flavour and boost heart health, while enjoying chilled soups to keep cool and hydrate.

The traditional Mediterranean diet is based on typical food patterns favoured by people living in countries such as Spain, Italy, and Greece with hot, dry summer climates.

Plant-based foods are its foundation, along with fish, seafood and poultry in moderation, and olive oil as the main source of added fat,* according to Mayo Clinic.

A Mediterranean-style diet has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, dementia, certain cancers, depression, and frailty in older adults,* reports Harvard University. With a bountiful supply of in-season fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices available, summer is the perfect time to incorporate some nutrient-rich elements of Mediterranean cuisine into your daily eating patterns:

  1. Paint your plate with rainbow colours. Think of red tomatoes, green asparagus, purple grapes, yellow peppers, orange peaches, white onions, and brown mushrooms. Including vegetables and fruits of different colours in your meals and snacks offers many important health benefits.* That’s because each colour of vegetable or fruit contains different phytonutrients, compounds that promote health and protect against chronic diseases.*
  2. Enjoy chilled soups to keep you cool. Try chilled soups like gazpacho, lemongrass-ginger-carrot soup, or cold cucumber soup with yogurt and dill to keep you refreshed and hydrated through the summer.
  3. Eat varied, healthy protein foods. Look to the Mediterranean diet as a guide for healthy daily protein consumption. Enjoy fish, seafood, poultry, eggs, and plenty of plant-based protein from beans, peas, lentils and nuts.*
  4. Grill fish for essential fatty acids. Older adults with higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their red blood cells lived nearly 5 years longer on average,* reported a 2021 study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Fatty, oily fish such as mackerel, salmon, trout, tuna, and sardines are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, as are walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, brussels sprouts, and omega-3 fortified eggs,* according to Healthline.
  5. Drink plenty of water and nutritious smoothies. Older adults need to drink more fluids to compensate for changes in their body temperature regulation, which increase the risk of dehydration,* advises University of Ottawa. Drink water even when you’re not thirsty. Add variety and nutrients by drinking fruit or vegetable smoothies, and water lightly flavored with your favourite fruit ingredients.
  6. Season with herbs and spices to boost heart health. Seasoning foods with herbs and spices such as garlic, ginger, turmeric, basil and dill, promotes better heart health, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol,* reported recent studies from Penn State University and Clemson State University. Trying different herbs and spices, instead of adding salt, adds flavour and stimulates the appetite of older adults,* advises Canada’s Food Guide.
  7. Dress salads with healthy oils. Regular consumption of olive oil, a Mediterranean diet staple, is associated with a lower risk of death from heart disease, cancer, dementia, and respiratory diseases,* reported a 2022 Journal of the American College of Cardiology study. Canola, sunflower, sesame, and safflower oils are other healthy oils that can provide you with essential fatty acids and antioxidants in salads.*