healthy-eatingCool Strategies for a Healthy Summer Season!

Arthur Valentine, MS, RDN, LD

Warmer weather is here! With warmer weather and an abundance of sunshine come family gatherings, road trips, days out at the lake, and plenty of opportunities to enjoy quality time with family and friends. It is also a great time to enjoy healthful foods and to try something new! Let’s take a look at some tips for a healthy and balanced summer!

1) Eat Breakfast:

This advice holds true no matter the season! Research has found regular breakfast consumption to be associated with less weight gain over time.1,2 Although not all studies agree,3 some research has also found that those who regularly consume a healthful breakfast pattern have lower body mass indexes and waist circumferences compared to those who skip breakfast.4

Keep in mind though that not all breakfasts are created equal! 5 Strive to consume foods from at least three of the following groups at your breakfast meal to help to maximize your nutritional intake: Whole Grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat (or non-fat) dairy, and/or protein source. Additionally, researchers propose that, as a general rule, a quality breakfast should contain around 15-25% of your daily calorie needs, 5 so if your calorie needs are around 2,000 calories per day your breakfast would amount to around 300-500 calories. For more information regarding general calorie recommendations, take a look at the following table from the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans:

2) Don’t Be Afraid to Have a Healthy Snack:

Going to a festive gathering on an empty stomach can be a recipe for overeating. Try having a healthy snack before going out for the day (or evening) to curb your appetite. Focus on snacks that include either a fruit or a vegetable. Here are some ideas (feel free to use your own creativity too!)

Your favorite vegetables (e.g. snap peas, carrots, celery, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, with hummus or Greek yogurt dip.
String cheese with your favorite fruit (e.g. apple, banana, grapes, berries, oranges)
1 oz. of your favorite type of nut along with your favorite fruit (almonds and red grapes are a personal favorite of mine!)
Greek yogurt with your favorite fruit
2 tbsp. peanut butter along with celery sticks or an apple

3) Stay Hydrated!

The importance of hydration cannot be overstated. Water is required for nearly everything our body does! Fluid needs are quite individualized but for a general idea of your estimated total fluid needs, we can refer to the Dietary Reference Intake values from the United States Institute of Medicine (see below).

For adult males aged 19 and above, the Adequate Intake (AI) value is set at 3.7 liters of total fluid from all sources (water, other beverages, and food) per day. For women aged 19 and above, the Adequate Intake (AI) is set for 2.7 liters per day. One liter equals roughly 34 oz. of fluid, so 3.7 liters would be the equivalent of 125 total ounces. However, keep in mind that these values do refer to “total water (from a combination of drinking water, beverages, and food).”6 (p.73)

Generally speaking, fluid from the foods that we eat provides us with around 20% of our daily fluid needs, so we are left with an estimated fluid need (from beverages) of roughly 3 liters for men (thirteen 8 oz. glasses) and 2.2 liters (nine 8 oz. glasses) for women. Also keep in mind that these values will vary from person to person and that more fluid may be needed if you are physically active and/or spend a good deal of time outside in the heat of the summer. For more information regarding hydration and physical activity, take a look at this link:

4) Be Smart when Dining Out!

Eating out can be a great way to socialize with friends and family and can also be a great way to try new things; however, many restaurant items are quite large and, as such, can be loaded with calories, fat, and sodium. Prior to going out to eat try doing some research regarding healthful menu choices at different restaurants on your list so that you can make an informed decision. You can either use the official nutritional information off of the restaurant’s official website or you can use a database. If you forget to look this up ahead of time, remember that restaurant chains with more than 20 locations are required to have their nutritional information available to you in store. Don’t be afraid to ask, and use this information to your advantage! If you aren’t interested in exact information, many restaurants do advertise healthier choices and/or half servings. Try one of these!

Be careful with appetizers! Some appetizers can contain as many calories and milligrams of sodium as the meal itself. If you do desire an appetizer, be sure to split it with as many people as possible and ask your server about lighter options. You could also choose a lighter appetizer such as a side salad.

Don’t be afraid to utilize the to-go box! Most of us do not want to waste food, but there is no shame in using a to-go box to bring some home for later.

If you have any questions regarding nutrition or are interested in meeting with the Swift County-Benson Hospital Registered Dietitian, please contact Arthur Valentine at or 320-843-1322. Have a wonderful summer!


1) Purslow, L., Sandhu, M., Forouhi, N., Young, E., Luben, R., Welch, A., & … Wareham, N. (2008). Energy intake at breakfast and weight change: prospective study of 6,764 middle-aged men and women. American Journal of Epidemiology, 167(2), 188-192.

2) Heijden, A., Hu, F., Rimm, E., & Dam, R. (2007). A Prospective Study of Breakfast Consumption and Weight Gain among U.S. Men. Obesity, 15(10), 2463-2469.

3) Barr, S. I., DiFrancesco, L., Fulgoni III, V. L., & Fulgoni, V. 3. (2016). Association of breakfast consumption with body mass index and prevalence of overweight/obesity in a nationally-representative survey of Canadian adults. Nutrition Journal, 15

4) O’neil, C., Nicklas, T., & Fulgoni, V. (2014). Nutrient Intake, Diet Quality, and Weight/Adiposity Parameters in Breakfast Patterns Compared with No Breakfast in Adults: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2001-2008. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 114(12), S27-S43.

5) O’Neil, C. E., Byrd-Bredbenner, C., Hayes, D., Jana, L., Klinger, S. E., & Stephenson-Martin, S. (2014). Research: The Role of Breakfast in Health: Definition and Criteria for a Quality Breakfast. Journal of The Academy Of Nutrition And Dietetics, 114(Supplement), S8-S26.

6) Dietary Reference Intakes for Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate. (2005). Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press.