Updated: Aug 10
Too hot to cook and you don’t know what to eat? Although it might be tempting to skip meals when our appetite is low with all this heat, we need to keep our bodies fueled appropriately. These 7 tips will help you keep your meals balanced and simple during those hot summer days.
Heat waves are giving us a hard time with meals; we want to avoid heating the house with cooking, our appetite might be low as a result of enduring the heat on top of the fact that warm meals are just not appealing.
Before we get to the practical tips, here are some general guidelines to keep in mind when you are choosing what to eat. A balanced meal always includes a source of protein and it remains important on a hot summer day. Protein allows you to maintain your energy levels stable throughout your day, helps you balance your glycemia if you have diabetes, keeps you full longer until the next meal or snack comes around. Protein is crucial to keep your bones and muscles strong and it should be part of your meals. A few ideas of high protein foods might be meat, fish, dairy, legumes, nuts and eggs.
Hydration will be particularly important on a hot day so think about foods that contain lots of water when choosing what to eat that day. That means load up on fruits and vegetables and think about other hydrating foods such as some dairy.
Here are 7 ways you can make sure you get your protein and hydration throughout the day:
1. Use Leftovers
One of my favourite everyday strategies! Leftovers are great to avoid cooking and bonus, to avoiding doubling up on dishes. Use the microwave to reheat your food a little if it needs it and it’s ready without heating the full house. If you dislike eating the same meal two days in a row, get creative! Use some leftover chicken breast in a sandwich or a salad to avoid heat all together.
2. Plan Ahead
Sometimes, a recipe yields too many servings for your needs. Take the opportunity to prepare for days where you won’t want to cook and freeze the extras in single or double portions according to your needs. Prepare a large couscous salad with chickpeas and few veggies that freeze well if you want a cool meal, or precook some meat you can then keep in the freezer and take out to make sandwiches without having to cook it during a heat wave.
3. Have a Few Staples In Your Cupboard
Be prepared for hot days with a few ready-to-serve foods in your cupboard. Canned fish such as tuna, salmon or sardines are a perfect source of protein you could eat directly in the can, but tastier options might be using a tortilla to make a wrap or adding the fish to a nice salad. A salmon dip might be a good option as well, nice and fresh and you can pair it with veggies for hydration.
Canned legumes are also a nice option for protein. They are very versatile: you can use them in every option mentioned for fish! Out of the can and in a salad, mashed up in a wrap, as a dip with hummus or a black bean burger, many options are available to you.
4. Enjoy Seasonal Foods
Summer is BBQ season right? If you have one available to you, this might be a good option for you to keep the heat outside. Be careful: make sure you are able to tolerate this extra heat during meal prep.
Using seasonal foods might give you some inspiration for your meals as well. If you are able to grow a garden, shop at farmer’s market or enjoy in-season foods at the grocery store, you might be inspired by the nice basil and tomatoes for a bruschetta. Don’t forget to add a bit of protein, why not add some fresh mozzarella?
5. Grocery Store Options
Want to avoid cooking but you would like to avoid high costs from ordering out? Never forget you have options at the grocery store. It will be more expensive than if you were to prepare the meals yourself but this can be a nice compromise. They now have anything you could think of ready for you, from sandwiches to ready-to-serve hot meals. If you want to avoid catering all together, you will find nice options such as a variety of salads you could build on to what you already have at home to make a complete meal in minutes.
6. Use Minimal Cooking
If you have air conditioning and you feel like you can tolerate some heat, more options are available to you. Fish cakes to make a different burger or to eat simply as a patty with vegetables, pasta you can cook to make a cold pasta salad, many possibilities are available. You could also prepare some elements in the microwave which minimalizes heat in your house: potatoes, frozen vegetables, reheating leftovers are a few examples.
Eggs are a great food that require minimal cooking. Excellent source of protein, eggs can be hard boiled, scrambled, in a quiche and then added to your meal to complete it. Once cooked, they can be eaten cold or hot. Having 2 eggs will provide enough protein for a full meal.
7. Don't Overcomplicate It
Last but not least: don’t overcomplicate it! Summer is for nice SIMPLE and fresh meals. We are always looking for inspiration, new recipes, getting our cookbooks out to get some new ideas. This puts a lot of pressure on us and we forget meals can be quite simple! Think picnic or lunch style: a complete meal might look like some cottage cheese with a few crackers and tomato slices. Too hot and not really hungry? Have a small snack: Greek yogurt with fresh berries or a cold smoothie will refresh you.
Finally, don’t forget you are always allowed a treat, so go for that ice cream! You read this right: a Registered Dietitian advising you to eat ice cream! We keep labelling foods as good or bad but truth is, it’s not that simple. As we age, our needs change and ice cream may be eaten not only for pleasure but also to make sure you eat enough calories or that you simply EAT. It is important you keep eating regularly to maintain your energy level and make sure you meet your needs for the day so if it means you mostly eat what you feel like and it’s not the most balanced option, it still is a smarter choice than completely avoiding to eat for long periods of time.