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No-Cook Cooking: Food choices can make staying hydrated more fun

No-Cook Cooking: Food choices can make staying hydrated more fun

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While temperatures are reaching and even exceeding the century mark, hydration becomes even more important.

Thanks to summer’s fresh produce and a dairy-case staple, filling your plate can be an effective addition to filling your water glass.

Think of watermelon, cucumbers, zucchini, cantaloupe and honeydew, to name just a few options.

Watermelon’s high water content and its bounty of hydration-friendly nutrients—calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium—can make it a sweet, juicy rival to your favorite sports drinks.

Keep slices or chunks ready in the refrigerator to enjoy after you’ve been mowing the grass, walking the dog—or, in this heat, even after such simple tasks as bringing in the groceries.

Slice cucumbers and limes as thin as possible—try a mandoline slicer for quick, uniform results, being careful to protect your fingers—to layer in a pitcher of ice water to keep in the fridge. Spas and gyms often serve cucumber water to help people feel replenished and refreshed after they’ve been sweating heavily.

Some fruits can make delicious substitutes for sugar-sweetened freezer pops and other tempting frozen treats. Seedless grapes are even more delicious after they’ve spent half an hour or so in the freezer in a zippered sandwich-size plastic bag. Pop the bag in the freezer while you work out or weed the garden, and you’ll have a refreshing treat to reward yourself with when you get back.

Pour a mixture of fruit juice and water into ice cube trays to savor in iced tea or cold water. Children can make their own fruity treats using ice cube trays, ice pop molds or even humble paper cups.

At my elementary school, the arrival of hot weather meant there’d be a tray of crushed ice in the cafeteria line filled with rows of tiny paper cups of slushy, semi-frozen orange juice.

Piling salad on your plate? Keep it interesting by changing up your toppings and focusing on veggies with high water content. Use multiple colors of bell peppers in profusion. Ditch the salty croutons and cheeses and reach for cucumber and zucchini instead. Your spiralizer can stay on the counter all summer long.

If you enjoy yogurt, be sure to keep containers of your favorite sugar-free flavors at the ready. Yogurt’s great for more than just calcium and probiotics; its respectable electrolyte profile will help replace important nutrients that water alone can’t. If you’ve been sweating your way through housecleaning or a summer training run, yogurt is a good post-exertion snack option.

Mix it up and treat yourself to a new flavor; give Greek yogurt a try if you haven’t already. Just be sure to read labels and keep an eye on the sugar and calorie levels. Unsweetened and sugar-free versions are plentiful—and delicious.

And if you’re always on the lookout for new reasons to spend time in the kitchen with the young people in your life, learning together how to make your own yogurt at home will blend science-experiment fun and nutrition education with food-preparation experience and some welcome bonding time.

Sometimes, staying hydrated means paying as much attention to what you don’t ingest as to what you do. During this draining, enervating season, leave the salt shaker in the cupboard, ease up on the alcohol and don’t skip meals, especially breakfast.

And don’t forget the power of water. Follow your doctor’s recommendations for how much water to drink each day, which can vary depending on your activity levels and other needs.

If you’re taking medications, keep in mind that you may need more water than you’re in the habit of drinking to metabolize them effectively; be sure to read the labels and safety inserts when you pick up your prescriptions.

Stay current on Virginia Department of Health recommendations for weathering exhaustingly hot days online at vdh.virginia.gov.

For comprehensive tips on staying safe in extreme heat—and keeping relatives, neighbors and pets safe, too—visit the Virginia Department of Emergency Management’s website at vaemergency.gov.

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