Courtesy of Goshenite Seniors Services

For some of us, by the time August rolls around and as much as we love summer, the idea of another salad, another burger on the BBQ, or even skipping a meal because it’s just too darn hot to eat, leads to the doldrums. On the flip side, if you don’t have a patio or BBQ, you might be looking for “summer eats” inspiration that you can make without heading outdoors. We’re inspired to talk about summer heat and delicious eats this month because let’s face it, when the last of the summer sunsets are done and we’re heading back indoors to hunker down for winter, we’ll regret not spending the time enjoying all that summer has to offer.

Let’s address first things first. As older adults, nutrition is so very important and yet often, it’s the last thing on our minds when it’s hot. Eating healthy can seem like a lot of work and yet summer is the easiest, and often the least expensive time to do it. Fresh, local produce is in abundance throughout the summer and heading into fall and if mobility permits, hitting your local summer farmer’s markets is not only an outing but ensures a supply of fresh produce for the week ahead. The trick to making the most of the markets is to plan ahead and that means doing a little bit of homework and meal planning. It’s a bit of effort up front but worth it, trust us!

Meal Planning Tips

  • Set aside the same time each week to give some thought to lunches and dinners. It’s much easier to focus on healthy eating if you know you have all the ingredients in the refrigerator!
  • That means make a list and check it twice. Buy only what you know you will need because when things are fresh, they are wonderful, but a bulk purchase of avocados, when you only need one or two for a recipe and the rest will go bad isn’t a good idea. Many of us are used to shopping in bulk but sometimes “less is more,” and it doesn’t make sense to buy perishables in bulk.
  • Think light. Summer is probably not the time for a roast beef dinner with gravy and mashed potatoes. You might actually enjoy a thinly sliced roast beef, cold, in a wrap or sandwich (made from fresh bread you bought at the market!) but the other alternative is too hot to think of cooking!
  • Deli sections at your local supermarket offer a range of prepared products, many of them without nitrates and other preservatives and that are fully cooked and ready to assemble. Sometimes it’s just a little easier to have some of these “grab and go” meat items in the house.
  • Chicken and turkey are good, lightweight summer alternatives too and if you prefer making your own then another idea is to set aside one day a week to do the majority of your prep and cooking and then divide, store, slice, freeze and have meals (and/or the meal components) ready to use at any time. Trust us you will appreciate all the work you’ve done when on a hot day, all you have to do is open the fridge or freezer and take out something fully prepared and ready to go!

Other Meal Ideas:

  • Augment your main meal component with what’s fresh this week. Strawberries are perfect at the end of June and beginning of July and perhaps you were even inspired to make enough jam for the winter. What’s growing in your gardens and available in farmer’s markets in July and August that can be harvested and used? Peaches, plums, blueberries, and cherries are coming out now and fresh vegetables include tomatoes, cucumbers, celery, and zucchini. Lettuce is an all-summer-long option as are garlic and onions.
  • It doesn’t have to be all about the salads, all the time but even here you can inject some variety to your salad game. Think about freshly sliced field tomatoes, with slices of bocconcini cheese and basil leaves, drizzled with some olive oil and balsamic and freshly ground pepper. It’s nutritious and delicious and also light and fresh on a hot summer day.
  • Fruit salad is also a perfectly acceptable, filling, and fresh meal replacement that will keep you going. Suitable for breakfast or lunch you can enjoy as a salad OR blend into a smoothie with some yogurt for an added nutritional boost. You can also just have some yogurt with berries sprinkled on top or add some granola to the bottom of the dish to make your own parfait.
  • Don’t forget about pasta in the summer! Served hot or cold there are still ways to keep pasta a lighter summer meal option. These include: Pasta Aglio e Olio that can be served hot or cold and has simple ingredients that are up to you but usually has fresh tomatoes and olive oil maybe a few black olives, salt, and pepper.
  • Or – take a can of tuna with some diced green onion, celery, and fresh herbs (and either mayo or olive oil, depending on how hot it is outside) and mix with some cold pasta for a nice light lunch OR dinner!
  • Towards the end of the season – perhaps even by the time you read this blog – it’ll be corn on the cob season and as a main meal or an accompaniment, there’s almost nothing better! Roasted still in the husk, or stripped down and boiled, all you need is a little butter for perfection. If you want to get adventurous make it a garlic butter blend and if eating corn while still on the cob is a challenge – prepare it as usual but once ready, simply run a sharp knife down the sides into a bowl so you can still enjoy all that goodness.

Remember that eating fruits like watermelon are not only yummy but also a cooling treat and one that will help you to stay hydrated. Zucchini noodles are an excellent substitute for pasta noodles and still add flavour and gusto to any dish you might otherwise have enjoyed as a pasta dish. A wrap is lighter than a slice of bread or a bun and if you are looking for vegetarian options, things like quinoa, beans, and lentils, mixed with veggies, makes a great dinner bowl. Speaking of vegetarians, we’re going to end this blog about food with a recipe because we’re betting by now you might be feeling hungry! This recipe is vegetarian but has wide appeal to meat eaters too. It’s from the Oh She Glows Cookbook series and it’s a chickpea salad combo that looks like a chicken salad sandwich but tastes way better!

We know some days are hard. We long for the heat but when it comes, sometimes it comes along a little too strong and that can make us feel lethargic and uninspired in the kitchen. As older adults however, good nutrition is always important, perhaps even more so on a hot day when dehydration is a risk. So always make sure you are drinking water and perhaps even the odd beverage that adds electrolytes AND eat regularly. You may even wish to eat more frequently, but in smaller portions, in order to be at your best all day long. Remember – that dreaded “W” word will be here before you know it and you’ll be wishing for summer so plan ahead and enjoy great summer eats!

Chickpea Salad Recipe

Foodland Ontario’s Guide to Seasonal Fruits and Veggies