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Does your child find it difficult to cope during hot summers? What they eat could be part of the problem and the solution! Food and drinks have a significant role to play in how our body and mind feel during summer. Here are some foods your child should avoid and some others they should eat in the summer.
It’s become common news now for every upcoming summer to be declared the hottest on record. Perhaps the only predictable thing about our summer weather is that it is likely going to be hotter than the last. And while it is a saving grace that children have the option to spend much of their day indoors thanks to it being vacation time, it would be a pity for them to miss out on outdoor activities entirely.
There are a few things, of course, that parents can do to equip their child as best as possible to weather the summer heat. A large part of this is ensuring your child is adequately hydrated. Since it will be vacation time, this also means icecreams and other frozen delights will likely feature fairly prominently. However, there are plenty of equally yummy and refreshing but healthier options than iced lollies.
In this article, we will discuss what foods to avoid, and your hydrating options for the summer months.
The hot Indian summer can be a rough experience for most people. Children especially can suffer tremendously when unprepared to face the heat. It may or may not come as a surprise but what food you eat can have a great impact on how your body copes with heat. For instance, traditionally there are certain foods that were preferred over others based on the time of the year.
Here are some foods that stress your digestive system, and are best avoided during the summer months.
Not surprisingly, it is advised that parents avoid serving their children excessively spicy foods in summers. This is because the capsaicin in chilli peppers increases body temperature, which can result in excessive sweating, acidity, abdominal pain, cramps, and nausea. If your child is prone to gastroesophageal reflux, it is best to avoid spicy foods all together.
It is tempting for children to want to grab the nearest cool, fizzy drink they can find when it’s hot outside and their throats are parched. But it’s exactly why parents should be cautious when it comes to making soft drinks easily available to their children in summers. These drinks offer nothing but empty calories and harmful additives. Moreover, they’re easy to get addicted to. Instead, make healthier alternatives such as lassies and fresh fruit juices easily accessible to your child.
Oily fried foods are difficult to digest even at the best of times. They can cause stomach cramps and heartburn. The extra exertion on your digestive system can also make you dull and lethargic. So even though your child may be itching for their next junk food outing of double-decker burger and greasy fries, try going for healthier options like hummus and pita bread or sushi and steamed dimsums.
For those with delicate digestion, street food and hot weather may not mix well, and are best avoided. There are higher chances of uncovered street food carrying harmful bacteria. Your child’s immune system may not be as hardy as yours, and eating unhygienic street food, especially in the summer, can cause indigestion, vomiting, and dehydration, particularly if it has been sitting out in the sun for hours.
Dairy, especially milk, cream, and certain types of cheese, are notoriously difficult to digest. Even for people who are not lactose intolerant, overconsumption of dairy can cause the lactase (the enzyme that breaks down lactose) in their body to deplete faster. While that third ice-cream or second cream puff may be tempting, it can cause your child stomach bloating, nausea, diarrhoea, and more. In summers, especially, when your body may be working extra hard to cool down, it’s always best not to overwork your digestive system.
Bonus! While you and your child should definitely make the most of the mango season while it lasts, we would encourage you to moderate it to some extent. This is because overindulging in mangoes can have side effects like heat boils, stomach pain, and diarrhoea. While tolerance levels can differ from person to person, it is advised that you soak mangoes in water for a few hours before consuming them.
The dehydration that inevitably comes with the hot summer heat can be kept at bay by including more of certain types of food in your child’s diet. These should hopefully also help your child maintain their energy levels through the day.
Here are our top five foods to help your child beat the summer heat:
With 92% water content, the watermelon had to top the list! An excellent source of hydration, watermelons are also full of vitamin A, which helps flush out toxins and keeps the skin looking fresh. Cut up pieces of watermelon for your child to snack on, or make fresh juice by blending watermelon with mint leaves (also known for their cooling effect!). Your child is sure to look forward to this healthy snack after spending time outdoors!
Another summer favourite (and for good reason) is the humble cucumber. Great for hydration, no doubt, but also a good source of fibre, it will help regulate your child’s digestive system and avoid constipation. If your child is being particularly fussy with the meals you serve, switch to salads. Try this Mediterranean salad with cucumber, cherry tomatoes, feta cheese, chickpeas, and onion. You could also serve cucumber and carrot sticks with hummus-based dips.
While we did caution you against certain types of dairy earlier in this article, there are some others that we would highly encourage you to add generously to your child’s diet. Unlike milk, curd is easier to digest because the fermentation process it undergoes breaks down most of the lactose to lactate, which is much easier to digest. So unless your child is severely lactose intolerant, this is a safe alternative. To bring in variety, you can use curd to make buttermilk, raita, kadhi, or curd rice. You can even experiment with healthy smoothies or smoothie bowls using Greek yoghurt.
Sure, there are plenty of store-bought versions of tender coconut water these days, but for its pure health benefits, nothing beats it in its fresh and unadulterated version. Rich in antioxidants, it is known to reduce inflammation, along with cooling the body. The coconut malai or ‘meat’ left behind after you’ve consumed the juice is also rich in nutrients and a great source of fibre. So if you’re on a family outing this summer and need to stop for refreshments, we definitely recommend going for fresh tender coconut, instead of fizzy drinks or processed coconut juice.
When in doubt, don’t hesitate to dip into the vast variety of options available among traditional Indian recipes that are based on summer-specific vegetables. During your grocery shopping runs, opt for light, water-based vegetables, including okra (bhindi) and a whole host of gourds, like bottle gourd (lauki), ridge gourd (turai), pointed gourd (parwal), ivy gourd (tindora), and bitter gourd (karela). Combined with a dal, these refreshing summer vegetables make for simple yet highly nutritious and delicious meals.
Bonus! As an alternative to tender coconut water, you can also offer your child sugarcane juice. Packed with a whole host of nutrients such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, and more, it is also high in dietary fibre and antioxidants. It serves as an instant source of energy, and also helps prevent urinary tract infections.
If you’re on the hunt for some innovative recipes to give these summer foods a fun twist, check out the blog 7 Foods to Keep Your Children Cool in Summer. And remember, at the end of the day, nothing replaces water when it comes to keeping you cool and hydrated during the summer. So, be sure to have your child carry a bottle of water with them whenever they step out of the house.