Thursday officially marks the first day of summer. For many of us, this means spending more time outdoors being physically active or dining el fresco with friends and family. With bright sunshine, warm temperatures and high-altitude, summers in Colorado are truly spectacular, but there are a few things to keep in mind to help maximize your enjoyment and stay healthy all summer long.
Pay attention to hydration
Well-worn advice, but an important reminder just the same. When we get caught up in our daily activities it can be easy to forget to drink enough fluids. When this happens we risk becoming dehydrated, especially in warmer temperatures and at the high altitudes we experience here in Colorado. Not getting enough fluids can leave you feeling tired and listless, and in more extreme cases it can become a medical emergency. To avoid this, keep a bottle of water with you wherever you go and be sure to remind out-of-town visitors to do the same. If the thought of plain old water doesn't excite you, get creative. Think beyond the usual lemon and limes and consider adding strawberries, cucumbers and watermelon to your water.
Take advantage of fresh produce
This time of year produce is at its peak of flavor and freshness. The Boulder and Longmont farmers' markets are both in full swing and with each week there are more fruits, vegetables and herbs to choose from. Many of our grocery stores also carry local produce. Of course we all know eating more fruits and vegetables is important to good health, but they may also have a protective effect against sun damage, due to the antioxidants they contain, which help fight against free radicals and inflammation. In no way is this a replacement for using sunscreen or wearing protective clothing, but it may be another way to help your body stay healthy. Because when you are feeding your body the nutrients it needs you are also feeding your skin, which happens to be your body's largest organ.
Practice food safety
Lastly, but certainly not least, keep safe food handling top of mind. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, foodborne illness increases during the summer months. This is because bacteria multiply faster in warmer weather, and preparing food outside can make safe food handling more difficult. Always wash your fresh produce thoroughly before eating it, and this applies to melons as well. If you slice through the skin without washing it first, you risk contaminating the inner flesh of the fruit with bacteria living on the outside skin. Always keep warm foods warm and cold foods cold. This includes cut-up fruits and vegetables. If foods have been left out at room temperature longer than two hours, or for even just an hour when temperatures reach 90 degrees or above, they may no longer be safe to eat. And, as tempting as it might be, never put cooked food on the same plate that previously held raw food such as meat and poultry, and this also applies to utensils such as tongs, spatulas and knives. For more in-depth information, visit: foodsafety.gov/keep/events/summervacations/index.html.
While you may have heard this advice many times before, it's easy to get distracted when we're busy enjoying activities and friends and not be as vigilant as we might otherwise be. So keep these reminders top of mind as you go about embracing all that Colorado has to offer, and hopefully you, your friends and family will have a happier and healthier summer for it.
Constance Roark is a registered dietitian nutritionist and the president and founder of CMR Solutions. Visit cmrsolutionsllc.com.