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  • Writer's pictureDr Megan

Summer Fresh

Start the new year energised and in control. Hydrate and recharge to battle the demands of Summer on your body.

About 60 percent of our body is made up of water. And some of our organs, such as the brain and muscles contain as much as 75 percent water. The functions of these bodily fluids include digestion, absorption, circulation, creation of saliva, transportation of nutrients, and maintenance of body temperature.

To get adequate hydration, we recommend drinking 1.5-2L per day and more if you are exercising (approx. an extra 250ml for every 30 mins of intense exercise).

Despite our knowledge of how important it is to drink water, you may find it surprising that across the world, most live in a state of dehydration and this is seen in all ages from childhood, through to middle age and in senior citizens. Alarmingly, in Australia, a massive 80% of adults suffer chronic dehydration. Interestingly, this problem is worse in Australia compared to many other countries such as the USA, France and Germany. Perhaps this is because we live in a hotter country and don’t drink enough water to compensate for the loss through sweating???

Some of the warning signs that you are dehydrated include headaches, feeling tired/sleepy and lightheaded and your skin loses its plumpness and becomes flushed/red. Moderate dehydration can cause general weakness, rapid heart rate and poor concentration. In severe cases, heat stroke can be life-threatening causing your core body temperature to rise (like a fever) and can result in muscle cramps and kidney failure.

Dehydration can happen quickly during the summer heat so be sure to carry a water bottle with you and take frequent breaks to have a drink. This is especially important for kids as they often get caught up in play and forget to ask for water.

In addition to drinking water, there are other clever ways you can ensure you stay hydrated and full of energy, which involves making smart food choices. The first cooking workshop in our Cooking4Health series is specially designed to give you the skills and knowledge to make delicious meals during summer so you stay hydrated & energised, whilst having that Summer Sunkist glow. To book a spot click here.

In the meantime, to help you get started here are my top dietary tips to combat the demands of summer.

1) Eat hydrating foods

Drinking the right level of water to stay hydrated can help reduce obesity. A study in the USA showed that there may be a correlation between being dehydrated and having a higher body mass index (BMI). Drinking water has been proven to reduce hunger and temporarily improve your metabolism by almost 30%.

One possible reason is because dehydration can make you crave food when you are not hungry. In addition to drinking more water, at mealtimes choose foods high in water content. This is where fresh summer salads come up trumps. Most vegetables are >80% water, so I recommend a large salad made with baby spinach, tomato, cucumber, sprouts, broccoli, drizzled with a zesty lemon vinaigrette to liven up your tastebuds.

And at snack times, I recommend satisfying not only your hunger but upping your water intake by choosing foods such as oranges (86% water), apples (85% water), watermelon (91% water), slices of cucumber (96%). Essentially, fresh fruit & veg.

2) Drink wisely

For someone trying to watch their weight or consume a healthy diet the calories that sneak in via beverages are usually forgotten. This is especially true when we are talking about sugary drinks, including fruit juices, and alcoholic drinks. The absolute worst culprit is soft drink and fancy coffee drinks. Do you regularly have a fruit juice at breakfast time, fancy coffee for morning tea, a soft drink at lunch, an iced tea for afternoon tea and a wine or beer with dinner. If so, you have just consumed more than 1300 calories just in liquid – most of which do not provide much hydration or nutrition. For some people (small woman) this would be their entire daily caloric intake. What about food? That is extra calories. Hence this person would be consuming well in excess of 2500 calories for the day. Even two glasses of 1 percent milk (perhaps in a coffee) and a glass of orange juice a day, while also averaging one bottle of wine a week can add up just under 150,000 in liquid calories or about 20 kg. WOW!

Apart from the extra calories in alcohol and coffee (particularly speciality versions), these drinks can leave you more dehydrated!

It is therefore not surprising that many individuals that consume drinks on a regular basis other than water are overweight or obese.

So, what can you drink if you want something a little more tasty than a glass of water??

A popular summer drink is a smoothie but beware they can be loaded with calories and excess sugar. Instead, make your own with real fruit and don’t discard those skins – fibre! Try to avoid smoothies made with too many hidden calories such as frozen yoghurts and ice-cream. Instead stick to fruit and veggies – still sweet and delicious and much lower in sugar, calories whilst high in hydrating water.

If you are going to have coffee and alcohol, aim to limit your intake and be sure to have a glass of water alongside one of these beverages.

3) Prep school & work lunches in advance

When the sun is beating down, the idea of seeking out the nearest ice cream stand is seriously tempting. There's nothing wrong with a treat in the heat, but coming prepared with a healthy lunch will mean you get the nutrition you also need, providing you with long-lasting energy all day long.

I recommend buying a lunchbox that is insulated, so you can pop in a cool pack, then fill your lunch box (and your kids) with bottled water, sandwiches, vegetable sticks, hummus and salads.

4) Portion-control

With food being abundantly available, we have forgotten to think about our energy needs and to stop eating when we are full. Eat an amount of each food group daily that gives you the energy you need to be at your best (physically & mentally) and places your body in a healthy state.

Use your plate as a guide to have a balanced meal three times a day:

  • ¼ plate lean protein for a satisfied tummy e.g. beef steak, chicken, pork, fish/salmon, lentils/beans, eggs

  • ¼ plate starchy veg or wholemeal grains for long-lasting energy e.g. sweet potato, beetroot, wholemeal pasta/brown rice, quinoa

  • ½ plate non-starchy veg for vitamins & minerals e.g. tomato, broccoli, capsicum, zucchini

  • 1-2 tsp healthy fats for supply skin e.g. olive oil/dressing or ¼ avocado or 20g cheese

This is a guide only and needs to be 'tweaked' for each individual. Nevertheless, it is a balanced and healthy place to start without demonising food groups, e.g. carbohydrates are not the enemy, they can and should be included in a healthy diet but eating too much for your body can result in weight gain, particularly excess tummy fat. It is about finding out how much your body needs.

Our Cooking4Health cooking workshops are designed to give you the practical skills and knowledge to make your own delicious food that will enable you to achieve your health goals. The meals are quick and easy to prepare and family friendly. You can find out more about our workshops here.

If you would like advice about how you can achieve better health and cook your way through summer with ease, then please don't hesitate to book your spot in our Summer Fresh cooking workshop. If you have any questions contact us on 0438 195 535 or via my email or

Dr Megan Fabbro x

BSc(Hons), PhD(Medicine), International Diploma Nutrition

Director, Nutrition4You

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