There is a time and a place for casserole-sized, piping-hot comfort food, but 90-degree summer days are not it. During the sweltering summer season, we’ll do whatever we can to stay cool, and what we eat can play a major part in that. Think clean, cool salads; hydrating fruits and veggies; and even frozen treats. Incorporate these nine foods into your weekly rotation this summer to chill out and nourish your body and soul.
1. Chilled Salad
We’re not referring to potato salad here.; we’re talking mixing bowl-sized leafy green salads packed with veggies, grains, and beans that will keep you cool, vibrant, and nourished all summer. Load up your favorite extra-large salad bowl (or seriously, the same bowl you make brownies in) with dark, leafy greens; cool quinoa salad; a dollop of hummus; cherry tomatoes; shredded carrots; and olives, then pop it in the fridge for an hour. You’ll get a full, satiating meal that will keep you cool on hot summer days and equally blistering nights.
Pro tip: Use chilled salsa or hummus for your dressing. It’ll keep you full and won’t add too much extra fat or calories to your otherwise healthy meal.
We consider watermelon just another major perk of summer. Sure, you can buy it year-round, but what’s the point? This water-loaded, low-calorie treat is at its peak from May to September. Store your melon in the fridge so it’s icy-cool when you bit into it (30 minutes to an hour in the freezer also works in a pinch). Frozen watermelon chunks also make for an incredible, minimal-ingredient slushy (or margarita—no judgment here).
Pro tip: To pick the perfect melon, give it a whack. When you slap the underside of the mellow, you should hear a deep, hollow sound. A yellow splotch is also another clear indicator that a melon is ready to be hacked into.
Say it out loud: hih-kuh-muh. For those unfamiliar with this fibrous Mexican root vegetable, it looks like a coconut’s ugly, slightly misshapen cousin. It has a brown tough exterior that’s a bit more squat than perfectly round, and the inside is white and wonderfully crunchy. If that description didn’t sell you, think of this: jicama is extremely hydrating and packed with nutrients including vitamin C and fiber (6 whopping grams per cup—that’s nearly 25 percent of the recommended daily intake).
Pro tip: Don’t leave cut jicama exposed to open air, as it tends to dry out. Purchase whole jicamas (not the pre-cut variety) and store leftovers in an air-tight container, preferably cut-side down.
Revert back to childhood and make yourself a classic Ants on a Log. If you have no idea what that is, we are so saddened by this absence of childhood nostalgia, but we’ll explain: Ants on a Log is just a celery stick filled with nut or seed butter (though traditionally peanut is used) and accented with raisins. To this day, we still prefer our celery prepared this way. However, this hydrating veggie is also great when dipped into chilled hummus or salsa. It’s the perfect scooping vessel.
Pro tip: Swap your tortilla chips for celery sticks. Celery is nature’s Tostitos Scoops.
5. Smoothies and Smoothie Bowls
There was a time when we were downing a smoothie in the morning and a smoothie bowl for lunch. They’re just so good, and when made with whole food, plant-based ingredients, they’re good for you, too. Fruit-and-veggie-based smoothies pack in a ton of antioxidants, vitamins, and fiber to keep your body working at its peak performance. Remember, true beauty starts with health, not concealer. Pack your blender to the brim with greens, then add just enough fruit to sweeten and perhaps a dollop of nut or seed butter for extra satiety. Beware of the honey or agave some chains like to pour into their product. When you have great produce, you don’t need any sweeteners.
Pro tip: Never dilute a perfectly superb smoothie by adding ice. Use frozen fruit (or even frozen veggies like spinach and cauliflower) to chill your beverage or bowl.
6. Frozen Grapes
Grapes are hydrating on their own, but when you pop them in the freezer for an hour or so, they transform into poppable mini-popsicles. The texture is a bit icy and some people aren’t fans, but those who grew up with these naturally sweet frozen treats look forward to them every summer. Beyond keeping you cool, grapes are high in fiber and antioxidants, which not only benefit essential functions, but may improve the appearance of your skin. Their high natural sugar content might also give you a boost during those lethargic 90-degree summer afternoons.
Pro tip: Try cotton candy grapes. By the power of thoughtful plant breeding, these green grapes really do taste like cotton candy. We didn’t believe it until we tried it.
It’s not summer without feasting on an ear of corn, but keep it away from the grill! If you’ve never enjoyed raw corn on the cob, now is the time to start. Not only is this preparation (or lack thereof) much cooler than grilled or boiled corn, it’s a more healthful way to eat. When grilled, corn begs to be slathered in non-dairy butter or mayo; however, the raw variety is sweet on its own and just needs a sprinkle of salt and perhaps a pinch of cayenne. Nutrition-wise, corn is loaded with B vitamins, magnesium, fiber, and even a good amount of protein (about 3.3 grams for a medium ear).
Pro tip: Get your corn fill while you can! The season ends in late September.
8. Iced Coffee
Yes, our caffeine addiction may actually be good for us … well, depending on how much coffee we’re sipping each day. Keep your max at three cups, and remember, a cup is eight ounces—not that 32-ounce reusable cup you fondly call “Bubba.” Plan your iced jolt of energy for the hottest part of the day—around 3pm for maximum cool-down effect. Coffee gets our insides moving—that’s polite code for natural laxative. Don’t cringe; we all want to feel our lightest during the summer, and iced coffee just might help with those mild tummy troubles.
Pro tip: Ask for light ice in your coffee. It’ll still be cold, but less ice means more coffee and decreased dilution as you sip away.
9. Fruit-Based Frozen Treats
Frozen juice is the new soft-serve, and it’s surprisingly good. We love places like Pressed Juicery that have engineered a way to transform juice into an incredible frozen treat—complete with vegan-friendly toppings such as cacao drizzle and granola butter. Summer flavors include vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, and matcha. As far as store-bought options go, many grocers carry Pressed Juicery Freeze pints. Snow Monkey is another solid choice. Made with minimal, plant-based ingredients, these fruit-based pints are packed with protein and antioxidants. We’re keeping a pint of each in our freezer all summer long.
Pro tip: Let the pint sit out for at least 10 minutes before diving in. A bit of thaw time magically transforms the texture from icy to indulgently creamy.
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Tanya Flink is a writer and fitness enthusiast living in Orange County, CA.