How to eat for the season: summer

With spring's cleanse behind you, it's time to focus on hydrating fruits and veggies.

Why do we crave light, fresh salads in Springtime, refreshing fruits and high-energy carbs in Summer, and heartier, fattier fare in the Fall and Winter? There are greater things at work than the whims of appetite. In this series, we’ll look at the benefits of eating for each season.

If you’re on board with eating according to a seasonal rhythm, by now you’ve moved through the cleansing period of Spring and its diet of antioxidant-rich, low-sugar greens and veggies. These foods are still important as you segue into the more energetic Summer months, but extra time outdoors and an increase in recreational activities shifts the focus.

“Summer really represents the bounty of produce for the year. It’s hot outside, you’re sweating more, and you instinctively want to eat light foods that boost your energy,” says chef Marissa Lippert, MS, RD, founder of Nourish Kitchen + Table. “We naturally gravitate toward cool, refreshing, watery produce to both replenish and quench the heat.”

The harvest now: Juicy, high-carbohydrate fruits and veggies that help your body find its new balance. “In keeping with Ayurvedic teachings, we bring these foods into our diet for a few reasons,” says functional medicine specialist Dr. Susan Blum, MD, MPH, founder of the Blum Center for Health and author of The Immune System Recovery Plan. “One, our bodies have a higher metabolic demand for the greater sugar content of these foods, two, they’re full of vitamins we need for our activities and, three, they have a high water content, for necessary hydration.”

The recommend: Get creative with your produce and, whenever possible, fire up the grill instead of the stove. There’s a relaxed vibe to the season and tossing juicy stone fruit, crisp peppers, sweet corn and fresh herbs together with grains and lean proteins can make you feel chef-like. “When I was growing up, my Mom always kept bulgur salad in the fridge. It’s a great whole grain and we could easily add in cucumber, tomatoes, or whatever herbs and vegetables we had,” says Lippert. That type of summertime simplicity carries over to Nourish, where she says the watermelon agua fresca with mint and a touch of jalapeno is flying out the door.

Here, Lippert’s tips for kicking back and embracing the ease of summer:

1. Have your fruit with a side of interesting. Blend watermelon into your gazpacho; make a slaw of mango, red pepper and daikon radish; grill peaches then add heirloom tomatoes, tarragon, gorgonzola and sourdough croutons.

2. Keep cold, carb-rich salads on hand.Try black beans with fresh corn, yellow pepper, red onion, cilantro, lime juice and cumin; or mix whole-wheat pasta, farro or black quinoa with arugula, red chili flakes, olive oil and feta.

3. Make your produce multitask.Drizzle a sauce of bell pepper, olive oil and capers over grilled snapper one night; use the pepper with onion, cucumber, citrus and sole for ceviche the next.