You know the summer cliché: Drink lots of water, and stay out of the sun when you can. But there’s so much more to staying hydrated in hot weather, so we reached out to a registered dietician to snag her tips for staying safe and keeping cool. (Good news: It can be delicious.)
Maybe you’re great about towing a bottle of water everywhere you go. Or maybe you’re the person who waits too long, and after hours in the sun you feel like a literal meltdown is imminent. I’ve been in both camps, so I wanted to know what I could do better going forward. Here are the smart tips I gleaned from registered dietician and nutritionist Marci Evans, MS, of Cambridge, Massachusetts.
1. If you’re feeling thirsty, it might be too late.
“I do recommend in the summer that people keep beverages on hand and keep sipping on them even when not feeling thirsty,” says Evans. “When you’re feeling thirsty you’re [often] already dehydrated.” She explained that many of her clients feel “bothered” by trying to keep up with hydration, or like “it can feel like a chore.” She often finds herself reminding people that “physically and mentally, you feel better when hydrated.”
2. Certain foods can help.
Handily enough, says Evans, “some of the foods we’re drawn to [in summer] are more hydrating.” She mentioned watermelon, tomatoes, stone fruits, and cucumbers as good examples, along with produce-centric soups such as gazpacho. “Most fruits and vegetables are hydrating,” she said. “Those that are the juiciest are likely going to be the most hydrating.”
3. Don’t be afraid to mix up your H2O game.
Many of Evans’s clients have admitted that they find water boring, tasteless, or just plain dull, so consider using fruits and veggies to make your beverages a little more interesting, she says. Think: Lemon, cucumber, or berries. And adding sparkling beverages to juice or doing a water-juice mix is totally fine.
4. Seltzer is hydrating!
“There’s some misinformation” out there about seltzer and sparkling water, says Evans. Simple carbonated water is absolutely hydrating.
5. So is coconut water.
Coconut water fans, rejoice: This stuff is the bomb when it comes to thorough hydration, says Evans. “Not everybody loves coconut water, but it’s really hydrating,” she adds, thanks to its bevy of natural elecrolytes.
6. You’ll likely need salt, too.
This is a little complicated on the cellular level and depends on a number of factors such as blood pressure and any health issues you have involving sodium, but “if you’re somebody who sweats,” says Evans, “chances are you’re a good candidate for taking in salt with meals.” (Note that medical dehydration treatments tend to involve both water and salt.) The best bet here, as always, is to talk to your doctor, because as Evans notes, “the amount of sodium you lose in your sweat is very individual.”
7. Soups can be your friend.
Those who love hot soups such as ramen and soba no matter the season, or chilled soups such as pea and cucumber soup, good news: Vegetable and chicken broths “are super-hydrating,” says Evans. “They’re very nutrient-rich and super-nourishing.” So keep it up!
8. If in doubt, look at your urine.
Evans suggests that if you’re not sure whether or not you’re hydrated, just look at your urine. Generally, if “it’s really concentrated and yellow, it’s a good indicator that [you’re] not well hydrated, but if it’s on the pale side, you’re probably doing a pretty good job.”
9. Watch out for coffee, beer, wine, and spirits
“While alcohol and caffeinated beverages are technically hydrating, they’re also diuretics,” says Evans. “A lot of people don’t really know that.” (Read: They’ll make you urinate more often, making them not as hydrating as water, and in fact they can dehydrate you.) So watch out for the #roseallday.
10. Decide to make hydration a priority.
The biggest issue Evans sees in dehydration is that people don’t think it matters. “There’s a lack of caring, a ‘This isn’t my highest priority.’” But there are consequences, she notes, like returning from a hike and feeling terrible and having a headache (or a more dire scenario). So grab a reusable water bottle, toss it in your summer bag, keep it handy, and fill it up when you can. “You’ll observe the payoff,” says Evans, and will feel oh-so-much better all summer long.
Alex Van Buren is a food and travel writer living in Brooklyn, New York whose work has appeared in Gourmet.com, Bon Appétit, Travel + Leisure, New York Magazine, Martha Stewart Living, and Epicurious. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @alexvanburen.