Super Summer Foods

As the weather heats up, you may find yourself craving cool, crisp, refreshing meals.  You’re in luck!  Fresh produce abounds in the summer making it the ideal time to meet the recommended 9 servings of fruits and/or vegetables per day.   Summer produce will cool you down and leave you feeling light and refreshed.

Fruits and vegetables anytime of year are nutritional powerhouses.  But summer produce has an edge up with the variety that is available.  Below are some summer super foods, just in time to shape up for summer!

Berries:  Any berry will do…no need to discriminate!  Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries are the most common and are all very high in vitamin C.  This vitamin is important for your immune system but it also helps in collagen production to maintain skin elasticity.  Berries are also a great source of fiber since the seeds are found in the fruit. 

How to use:  Add berries to yogurt for breakfast, put them in a salad for lunch, pair with some nuts for a snack or eat fresh berries for a light summer dessert.  

Melons:   They have a very high water content making them ideal for proper hydration during the hot summer months.  They are a great source of vitamin A, which is important for eye health.  Watermelon is high in lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that may help to reduce your risk for certain types of cancers.  

How to use:  Melons are a great complement to cottage cheese.  This meal pairs fiber (melons) with protein (cottage cheese) to keep you full and satisfied.  They also make a great side dish for any backyard BBQ.

Bell Peppers:  These are one of my favorites.  They have a subtle crispy sweetness that I love.  I also love that they are so versatile and can be used in just about any dish, cooked or raw.  There are four common colors: red, yellow, orange and green.  Green is the least sweet tasting but all are great sources of vitamin C.  In fact, did you know that a red bell pepper has three times more vitamin C than an orange?  

How to use:  Try adding bell peppers to an omelet for breakfast or throwing them in a salad for lunch.  They also make a great substitution for chips or crackers for dipping into hummus or a low calorie dip.  Try that for your afternoon snack!

Tomatoes:  Nothing screams summer more than fresh red tomatoes.  Be it Roma tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, slicing tomatoes…any of these will add flavor and nutrition to your summer meals.  Tomatoes are high in vitamin A, vitamin C and also lycopene.  The lycopene found in processed tomatoes (tomato sauce) is more easily absorbed than in fresh tomatoes. 

How to use:  The most common way to use tomatoes is slicing them for sandwiches or salads.  Pairing them with a small amount of fresh mozzarella and basil can be a nice appetizer or snack. 

Spinach:  Spinach could top any list of super foods given its stellar nutritional profile.  When eaten raw, spinach is very high in vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin K and folic acid.  Cooked spinach is also high in calcium and iron.   These nutrients help in building bone density, boosting immunity, promoting eye health and may enhance mood.  You have to act fast though; spinach will start to wilt within 3 days. 

How to use:  Start your day with spinach by adding a handful to your morning smoothie.  Aside from the green color, I promise you won’t even know it is there!  My favorite smoothie is 1 banana, 1 cup almond milk (or regular milk), a few handfuls of spinach and ¼ cup raw rolled oats.  If you want a more traditional approach, add it to eggs, put it on sandwiches or use as a base for salads.

Eating well means feeling well!  So to have a super summer, start your day with yogurt and berries, pack a sandwich with sliced tomatoes for lunch, bell peppers and hummus can be your afternoon snack, have a spinach salad with dinner and enjoy some melon for dessert. 

Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD, CLT