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Published: Sunday, 8/12/2012

Cool foods go down better on a hot day


Like many parents, I have been packing lunches for my boys as they sweat it out on the fields of nearby sports camps. I can't imagine how they are surviving six hours of exercise in the heat without sustenance, yet they return every day with the greater part of their lunch uneaten. The food is staying cold in the cooler, so that isn't the problem.

One son explained, "Pack me popsicles and watermelon. I'm not hungry for anything else." The other son said, "Mom, you try eating a heavy, sticky peanut butter sandwich in this heat!"

So I refreshed my memory as to which foods, according to Chinese medicine, are considered cooling to our bodies. Both modern and traditional medicines say food has energy. Western medicine evaluates a food's energy through its calorie content. In layman's terms, the amount of calories in a food correlates to the amount of energy released in our bodies. Traditional medicine says that foods have either a warming energy or a cooling energy, regardless of the calorie count.

The cooling foods are more likely to be harvested in the summer. Most of us are more active in the summer, so our bodies benefit from the extra energy derived from the natural carbohydrates and sugars found in summer fruits and vegetables. Think corn, peas, plums, melons, and berries. We also need more liquids when temperatures rise, not just in the form of drink, but also through liquid-rich foods such as a juicy watermelon or peach.

Here are some ideas for "cooling down" a lunch box:

● Raw foods are more cooling than cooked, so try sliced yellow peppers, cherry tomatoes, and snap peas.

● Many of summer's fruits and vegetables are essentially edible water. Load a lunch box with watermelon, cantaloupe, cucumbers, and tomatoes to keep your child hydrated.

● Instead of a heavy sandwich, replace the bread with a crisp, watery piece of celery and add some peanut butter.

● Add tomato and lettuce to any sandwich to supply cooling properties.

● Rice, bean, and corn salads deliver protein and carbohydrates and are more cooling than a ham and cheese sandwich.

● Place gazpacho or any cold summer soup in a sealable container.

● Add coleslaw to the lunch box.

● Spicy, acidic and greasy foods are believed to create heat in our bodies, as do meat and most dairy products, so look for substitutes for these food groups.

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