Food for a Hot Day: Best Outdoor Snacks for Hot Weather

Fact checked by Olga Sadouskaya, MD
Clinical Pharmacologist, Chief Medical Officer

When the sun is shining and the temperatures are rising, the temptation to eat nothing but ice cream is strong. But are there refreshing hot weather foods that are actually healthy? Let’s find out!

Summer diet principles

You don’t need to alter your regular diet much for the summer months. Just follow these three simple steps to be healthy and full of energy when the heatwave comes.

1. Stay hydrated

If you often feel tired when it’s hot outside, it may be a sign that you’re not drinking enough water. Higher temperatures and humidity levels make us sweat more. That's why it’s crucial to replenish the body’s water supply on hot days.

How much water you need depends on your age, general health, and how physically active you are during the day.

The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommends drinking 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) a day for women and 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) a day for men. But you may need to drink more when you're exercising or sweating a lot.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be only plain water — feel free to sip your favorite tea, coffee, or other sugar-free drinks, hot or cold. But keep in mind that excess caffeine can make you lose more liquid and lead to dehydration. If you exercise in the heat, opt for sports drinks with electrolytes to boost your hydration.

2. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables

Summer might be the best season for eating healthy, and fresh fruits and vegetables are some of the best hot weather foods to include in your daily diet. They’re full of vitamins and antioxidants to keep you going. So, if it’s too hot for the stove or you don’t have much of an appetite, make a quick green salad or snack on strawberries or melons.

Fresh fruits and vegetables as examples of food for a hot day

3. Get enough protein

Hearty, protein-rich meals may not be the best food for a hot day, but protein is an essential part of your diet. It gives you energy, supports your heart and immune system, and keeps your skin healthy and radiant. During summer, opt for lighter meals with healthy sources of protein like:

  • Oily fish
  • Poultry
  • Dairy products
  • Beans and lentils
  • Tofu
  • Nuts and seeds

You may want to skip meals when it’s too hot outside, but it can slow down your metabolism and make you more tired and sleepy. You can reduce your portion sizes, but make sure to eat regular, nutritious meals. It'll help you stay healthy and active during the summer.

Does your appetite change when it’s hot outside?

Seasonal changes in appetite are completely normal. If you’re craving comfort foods in winter, you may feel less hungry during the summer months… and you’re not alone! When it’s hot, your body works harder to regulate its temperature and cools itself down by making you sweat. The digestion process generates a lot of heat, so your body cuts down on those heat-producing functions to keep itself cool. That’s why you may not feel like eating when the temperature goes up.

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What is “good food” for hot weather?

To stay healthy in summer, opt for light, hydrating foods. Some fruits and vegetables, for example, contain a lot of water, so fresh salads are a great hot weather food as they can cool you down. Toss in some lean protein like chicken breast or tofu and you’ll have a light yet nutritious meal that can keep you going even in the midst of a heatwave.

You can also adapt more wintery recipes like soups and stews by adding seasonal ingredients and serving them chilled.

Healthy outdoor snacks for hot weather

Without a doubt, ice cream is the ultimate summer treat. But there are many healthy alternatives that can keep you cool and hydrated in summer! Some of them even need little to no preparation!

Melon

This sweet fruit is refreshing and low in calories. It also contains a variety of nutrients that help to regulate blood sugar levels, and electrolytes like potassium, magnesium, and sodium that can keep you well hydrated throughout the day.

Berries

Why not add some juicy summer berries to your summer meals? Strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries are not only delicious but also rich in vitamin C and antioxidants, so they can support your immune system as well. What a delicious food for a hot day!

Cucumber

Cucumbers are about 95% water, making them a great vegetable to snack on during hot summer days. You can infuse your water with slices of cucumber, eat them raw, add in a salad or try a chilled cucumber soup.

Cucumber-infused water as one of the outdoor snacks for hot weather

Coconut water

This slightly sweet and nutty drink is full of electrolytes that boost hydration. This is especially important on hot, humid days and after exercise. A high potassium count can also lower blood pressure, but consult with your doctor if you’re taking any blood pressure medication.

Coconut water is a versatile drink: you can enjoy it plain, mix it with juices, or add in smoothies.

Zucchini

Much like cucumber, zucchini is low in calories and has a high water content. It’s rich in fiber, minerals, and vitamins and can keep you full for longer. You can eat it raw, add it to stews and soups, or put it on the grill. Just a heads-up: zucchini contains more vitamin A when cooked than in its raw state.

Gazpacho

This classic cold soup is one of the best foods for hot weather and is ideal for summer lunches. Made from tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and onions, it’s a fantastic source of vitamins C, A, and E. Carotenoids and antioxidants in tomatoes also have anti-inflammatory properties and help regulate blood pressure.

Green salad with peaches and feta

With slightly bitter greens, creamy cheese, sweet fruit, and a crunch of toasted nuts, this healthy summer salad ticks all the boxes. The recipe for this nutritious and high-in-fiber summer meal is simple:

  • Get some leafy greens.
  • Season them with chopped mint, olive oil, and lemon juice.
  • Add peach slices and toasted almonds.
  • Garnish with feta cheese.

Bon appetit!

Pineapple and mint smoothie

What could be better than sipping a refreshing tropical drink on a hot summer’s day? This smoothie also has a handful of health benefits: mint is known to ease digestion and settle an upset stomach. And pineapples are packed with nutrients such as vitamin C, manganese, and copper that have anti-inflammatory properties and can boost your immune system. Without a doubt, a pineapple and mint smoothie is one of the best outdoor snacks for hot weather!

Tips for cooking outdoors in summer

Picnics and barbeques go hand in hand with sunny summer days. But bringing food out in the heat can have certain health risks: when not cooked or stored properly, your summer snacks can lead to food poisoning.

The most common signs of food poisoning are:

  • Stomach cramps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever

Here are a few simple tips you can follow to keep food safe in the heat and enjoy your summer of picnics and outdoor cookouts to the fullest.

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Summer food safety tips

1. Keep it clean

Wash your hands with soap and warm water before and after touching your food. Clean your knives, cutting boards, and other tools, especially after handling raw meat and fish. Rinse your fruits and vegetables with clean water.

2. Separate your ingredients

Keep your raw meats and fish in separate containers to avoid cross-contamination. Put them on the bottom of your cooler to avoid their juices seeping onto your ready-to-eat foods.

3. Cook it properly

You need to get food hot enough to kill any microbes and bacteria that can cause food poisoning. Keep in mind that different foods should be cooked at different temperatures:

  • Beef, Pork, Veal, Lamb: 145 F
  • Poultry: 165 F
  • Fish: 145 F
  • Eggs: 160 F
  • Ground meats: 160 F

Use a food thermometer to make sure your food is cooked through.

4. Put it in the fridge

Keep your food chilled right until you need to cook it. When outside, put your cooler in the shade and avoid opening it too often. You can use separate coolers for drinks, ready-to-eat meals, as well as uncooked meats and fish. After you’re back home, put any leftovers in the fridge. Avoid leaving your food unrefrigerated for longer than an hour when it’s over 90 F outside.

A summer food safety infographic to avoid food poisoning when cooking in the heat

Foods to avoid in hot weather

We’ve already covered some of the best healthy foods for hot weather. But is there something you should cut from your summer diet?

While most foods are safe to eat in moderation in any season, there are certain meals you should limit during hot summer months.

  1. Steaks. While delicious, they are hard to digest and generate more body heat in the process. If you’re craving meat, you can use citrusy marinades to make it more digestible.
  2. Fried food. It's hard to digest and can cause skin problems and acne flare-ups. Fried food often contains a lot of salt as well, which can lead to dehydration.
  3. Ice cream. It may be a summer staple and a natural choice when you want to cool down, but it can actually make you feel hotter. The quick cooling effect of a cone of ice cream or a cold drink causes your body to increase your core temperature.
  4. Alcohol. The idea of having a cold beer or an iced cocktail on a hot summer evening may be tempting. But alcohol can quickly raise your body temperature and cause dehydration. If you want to have a glass of chilled wine after work, it’s totally fine. But make sure to have a glass of water to go with it as well.

Key takeaways

Hot weather might make you lose your appetite, but it’s still important to eat regular meals to give your body energy and stay healthy. The best summer foods contain a lot of water and nutrients that can keep you hydrated even on the hottest days.

Feel free to experiment with seasonal ingredients to create the most refreshing meals. And make sure to follow the summer food safety guidelines when cooking outdoors.

October 4, 2022