Seasonal Meal Prep Pt 2: Staying Cool in the Summertime
The past few weeks have been so. freaking. hot. As a born-and-raised Calgarian, I must admit that I don’t do too well in the (ultra rare) heatwaves. Give me a 30-degree day and a nice tropical beach or pool to cool off in? Now that’s a different story. But being in a landlocked city with very few river and lake oases, and no air con in my 2nd floor apartment, I find myself doing everything I can to cool down and stay sane in the heat.
Luckily, you can use nutrition strategically to support your body in the sweltering summer months! So today, as the second part of an ongoing blog series on seasonal meal prep, I’ll take you through my favourite foods to eat in the summer to stay comfy and cool.
If you haven’t read part 1 of this blog series yet, where I go into detail about why you should meal prep and give you a few good tips on meal prepping no matter the season, I highly recommend checking it out here.
But if you’re just looking for some idea of what to make when it’s too hot to eat your usual go-to meals (use of the oven is strictly verboten in my house right now) or if you want some tips on what to eat to keep your body as healthy as possible in the season of day-drinking, backyard barbeques, and weekend camping trips, I got you.
If you live for patio hopping (and maybe a bit of day-drinking) in the summer, chances are your liver could use some support. The liver performs over 500 very important functions in the body, including absorption of nutrients, hormone regulation, and general detoxification. So, if your alcohol consumption increases in the summer, like so many of us, one of the best things you can do is focus on liver-supporting foods when you aren’t frozé-ing it up on a patio!
My favourite liver-supporting foods include beet, carrot, garlic, and citrus fruits. For a quadruple whammy, you can combine all four into a super cooling summer salad. Simply shred equal amounts raw beet and raw carrot with a mandolin or food processor, mix together, and dress with a simple lemon-garlic-dijon vinaigrette. I like adding in some shredded green apple too to give it a tangy-sweetness that offsets the earthiness of the beet.
Add some protein and healthy fat, and that raw beet and carrot salad is an amazing warm-weather lunch! Which brings me to my next recommendation for you, patio princess: this summer, focus on prepping healthy breakfasts and lunch items.
Breakfast and lunch, in general, are a lot easier to make at home than dinner (in my opinion). If you’re out enjoying the sun on a patio several nights per week, making sure you’re eating nutrient dense breakfasts and lunches really offsets the less-than-nutritious restaurant food and alcohol you’re most likely consuming. In the summertime, my go-to breakfast is a protein-rich smoothie that contains at least one serving of healthy fat (like avocado, coconut oil, or almond butter), a few big handfuls of dark leafy greens (kale, chard, and spinach taste best), and some fruit and/or seeds for fibre. I also love adding something fermented (like cultured coconut water or goat kefir) to support my gut.
For lunches, there’s basically nothing more refreshing during the peak hours of heat than a great big salad. I love a big bowl of arugula topped with mixed nuts and seeds, olives, bean sprouts, seasonal veggies, avocado, and some eggs for protein. Of course, you can get super creative with both salads and smoothies, but I always recommend incorporating what Kelly Leveque calls “the Fab Four” in each meal: fat, fibre, protein, and greens. This will help keep your blood sugar balanced, which will keep you feeling energized all night long—no matter where it takes you.
Maybe you love a good night of patio-hopping, but your favourite part of summer is taking off for the weekend and getting out of the city. So, whether you’re heading out on a camping trip or hitting up the spa at a mountain resort, focusing on having quick and easy snacks on hand is always a must (because nobody likes a cranky road trip buddy). I don’t know about you, but stopping for a road trip burger always sounds like a good idea, but an hour later I always regret it. So, if that’s you, I recommend adding a bit of meal prep to your pre-weekend to do list.
If you’re heading out for only a couple of days, focusing on eating healthy meals before you go, and preparing some nutrient-rich snacks for the trip, is definitely the way to go. I love having a green juice before I head out on a long drive—it’s super energizing, light, and contains lots of beautiful enzymes to help keep digestion running smoothly on the long drive ahead. My go-to snacks and drinks to pack for a weekend getaway include homemade trail mix (I love a mix of almonds, pistachios, dried goldenberries, and mulberries), Epic bars or local beef jerky, green apples, apricots (my favorite summer fruit, by far), hard-boiled eggs, and my absolute favourite—kombucha!
Weekend getaways are supposed to be fun, and having post-road-trip digestion issues are not. So, getting in the probiotics when you can, especially in the form of a delicious fizzy beverage like kombucha, is highly recommended.
Even if you’re not doing a lot of patio-hopping and weekend trips this year, there are plenty of ways you can use food and nutrition to keep cool this summer. My first recommendation is to eat loads of seasonal fruits and veggies. One of the best parts about summer in my opinion is all the fresh, local fruits and veggies! I just love walking into my neighbourhood organic market to see the shelves chock-full of colourful produce. Apples, apricots, berries, cabbage, cucumbers, peppers, peas, mushrooms, tomatoes, and leafy greens are among some of my favourite seasonal items.
Just like I love to meal prep tons of delicious soups in the cold months (summer soups are definitely still a thing though, hello gazpacho!), my summers wouldn’t be the same without my favourite cold salads. Greek salad, edamame and arame salad, Asian-style coleslaw, and roasted veggie and lentil salads are some of my favourite ways to make the most of the fresh summer produce. The best thing about these salads is that aside from the dressing, you basically don’t need a recipe! Get creative with it! Make sure you have your Fab Four in there, and add some quinoa, wild rice, or sweet potato for a bit of healthy carbs. My final tip for making a really good summer salad is this: variety and texture.
Eating the same spinach salad every day can get boring and can mean you’re not getting the wide range of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients all the seasonal produce has to offer! So, I like to keep lots of different veggies washed and cut up in my fridge to be ready to go when I feel like a salad. I also like to have some toasted nuts and seeds prepared and some ripe avocado on hand to keep the textures in my salad interesting.
What are your favourite meals to prep in the summertime? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below! And as always, if you ever have any suggestions for blog post topics, I’d love to hear them!
PS—Hydration is of course, the number one way to stay cool in the heat. To read my three-part blog series about staying hydrated, follow the links below!