Selecting quick, nutritious meals for hot summer days is not always easy for elders who are more sensitive to heat exhaustion and dehydration when the temperatures rise. Loss of appetite, poor sleep and wilting energy are common for older adults in hot weather, so can certain foods and drinks help cool the body?
Extended Reading: Preventing Dehydration in the Elderly
Nutritional therapist Kerry Torrens explains that foods account for about 20% to 30% of our fluid intake, and in warmer weather, certain fruits and vegetables such as strawberries, lettuce and melons help the body hydrate better. Torrens also notes that eating and drinking cold items may sound like a logical way to cool off, but these nutritional choices have the opposite effect on the body. “Cold food and drinks might give you an initial cooling effect, but it’s short-lived,” says Torrens. “That’s because consuming food leads to an increase in temperature, as the process of digestion is heat-generating. This, combined with the rapid cooling initiated by cold food and drinks, means your body over-compensates by increasing your core temperature. So you may actually end up feeling hotter than you did to start with!”1
Read also: Senior Nutrition: Light Summer Meal Ideas
As older adults age, their metabolism slows and they require fewer calories, so choosing to make these calories count with important nutrients is key. The National Council on Aging offers a number of tips for picking healthy foods as you get older. For summertime cool-down and enjoyment, here are five easy and delicious recipes packed with fresh produce and lighter ingredients that seniors will love, even the grandkids, too.
1. Fresh Veggie Omelet
- Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a small skillet over medium heat.
- Add your favorite chopped veggies (onions, zucchini, tomatoes, etc.) and cook vegetables 3-4 minutes until tender. Remove from skillet and set aside. Melt ½ tablespoon butter in the skillet.
- Whisk together 2 eggs, 2 tablespoons milk and a dash of black pepper and salt until egg mixture is slightly frothy.
- Pour whisked eggs into heated skillet and cook. As eggs set, lift up the sides with a spatula to let the uncooked eggs slide under the cooked eggs.
- Once eggs are fairly set, flip omelet over carefully and sprinkle the veggies on this side of the omelet. Fold omelet over and slide from skillet onto a serving plate.
2. Strawberry Avocado Spinach Salad With Chicken
For a simple, scrumptious lunch or dinner, this easy-to-prepare salad recipe delivers crisp, refreshing flavors for keeping cool and healthy.
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon golden balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon roughly chopped fresh tarragon
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 6 cups loosely packed fresh spinach
- 6-8 large strawberries, hulled and quartered
- 1 avocado, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
- 3-4 thinly sliced rings of red onion
- ¼ cup feta cheese
- 2 tablespoons sliced almonds
- Whisk extra virgin olive oil with balsamic vinegar, sugar, tarragon, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper in a small bowl until blended.
- Place chicken breasts in a shallow bowl and cover with half of the dressing, cover bowl and refrigerate 30 minutes to 2 hours.
- Spray a grill pan or 12-inch non-stick pan with cooking spray and heat to medium high. Place chicken breasts on the hot pan. Cook 3 minutes, then flip chicken breasts. Cook another 3 minutes, and turn. Reduce cooking temperature to medium low and cook chicken 20-25 minutes more, turning every 5 minutes or so. Cooking time will depend on thickness of chicken, but it will be done when it hits 165° F internal temperature. Let chicken rest 5 minutes, then slice into ¼-inch slices.
- Arrange spinach, strawberries and red onion in a bowl. Lightly toss with remaining dressing. Add avocado, sliced chicken and top with feta cheese and almond slices. Serve immediately. Makes 2 servings.
3. Grilled or Baked Salmon
Lightly season 1 pound of salmon fillets with lemon pepper, garlic and salt to taste.
In a small bowl, mix together ¼ cup soy sauce, ¼ cup brown sugar, ¼ cup water and 1/8 cup vegetable oil.
Preheat grill for medium heat, or heat oven to 300° F.
Place marinated salmon on grill or in oven pan and cook about 6-8 minutes per side or until the cooked fish flakes with a fork.
Serve on a bed of rice or on a salad. Makes 2-3 servings.
4. Grilled Beef and Vegetable Soup
This summertime soup by Country Living will become a favorite any time of year.
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 medium onion
- 2 cans low-sodium beef broth
- 1 cup red wine
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 6 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
- ½ lb. beef
- 2 ounces cherry tomatoes
- 1 large onion
- 1 yellow bell pepper
- Make the soup: Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Add broth, wine, ½ teaspoon pepper, ½ teaspoon salt, and 2 sprigs thyme. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 25 minutes. Strain and keep warm.
- Make the kabobs: Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Toss olive oil, vinegar, remaining salt and pepper, beef, tomatoes, onions and peppers in a large bowl. Let sit for 20 minutes. Skewer and grill, about 4 minutes a side for medium. Place one skewer each in 4 soup bowls, add broth, and garnish with fresh thyme. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.
5. Chicken Wrap
- Add chopped cooked or grilled chicken, avocado, tomatoes, greens and plain yogurt to a whole-grain wrap.
- Roll the filled wrap tightly, cut in half and serve.
About the Author
An award-winning journalist who has documented stories in nearly 20 countries, Beth Lueders is an author, writer and speaker who frequently reports on diverse topics, including aging and health issues for both U.S. and international corporations.