CHICO — After several weeks this summer of consecutive days surpassing 100 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s time to think carefully about what we consume during extreme heat.

When it’s extremely hot outside and you want to stay healthy, it isn’t always enough to just stay hydrated. The food we eat plays a critical role in keeping the body healthy, cool and functioning well to manage during periods of extreme temperatures.

When it’s hot outside, choose meals with lots of different nutritional values and drink plenty of liquids. This veggie bowl is packed with fried veggies, beans, quinoa and greens, then topped with a chipotle pesto sauce. (Natalie Hanson — Enterprise-Record)

Summer tends to be the time when, instead of reaching for healthy options for our meals, we tend to want to indulge and eat things that sound good. Ice cream, chips, soda, burgers — these all sound perfect for afternoons by the barbecue or pool. Unfortunately, these are often the foods that are the body’s worst enemy for staying fueled in high temperatures and can quickly deplete you of all the water and vitamins you’ve consumed as you exert energy in high temperatures.

And vegans aren’t exempt from this either — we have plenty of junk food options available to us these days that sound pretty good on a hot day.

To avoid this and stay energized and healthy through summer, here’s key ways to keep your body running well in the heat:

  • Drink tons of water. I know we all know this but if you think you are drinking enough water, when it gets above 95 degrees just drink even more.
  • Eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. This is the best time to find local, freshly harvested produce and the more you can add to your diet, the more water and soluble fiber (and natural energy) you’ll be consuming. Try more things raw — cherry tomatoes, greens, grapes, berries — and you will feel a difference in days.
  • Don’t ignore healthy protein. Beans and healthy grains can be your best bet for quick protein throughout the day as well as being great sources of other minerals and fiber.
  • Nuts and seeds can be your best friend for energy on hot days and keep you from getting depleted. Especially if you’re doing hikes or just walking around the neighborhood, a handful of nuts or sunflower seeds is full of healthy fats and and protein.
  • Watch out for sugar and oil. These are the fastest ways to slow your metabolism down and make it harder for your body to process good fuels that you eat.
  • Don’t rely on magic pills or powders for your energy during the heat — they are often full of artificial sweeteners and other processed materials that are harmful for your usage of water and energy and make you crave them more. Water and natural sources of energy the safest ways to stay active and feel good during the summer months.

Healthy-ish Burgers

For a healthier burger that still satisfies your summer barbecue cravings, stay meatless — for a classic taste, try the Beyond Burger patty. For a healthier veggie option, choose a veggie option like Dr. Praeger’s California Veggie Burger from Trader Joe’s or other grocery locations.

  • Go low on oil. Cook with canola oil or other healthier options, and use as little as possible
  • Use a whole wheat bun instead of white bread buns
  • Use Violife or Follow Your Heart cheese — or skip it
  • Add fresh spinach instead of romaine lettuce
  • Use fresh tomato and pickles, not canned ones
  • For a healthy kick, add sriracha and brown mustard instead of yellow mustard and sugar-laden ketchup
  • Look for healthier barbecue sauce rather than the standard sugary ones. Or make your own!

Restaurant recommendations

This week, keep an eye out for special menu items at some vegan-friendly locations still offering takeout options. Remember to wear your mask when picking up food.

  • For a savory breakfast or lunch, ask about the Soyrizo dish at Sin of Cortez, without cheese or sour cream. Located at 2290 The Esplanade.
  • Find less healthy (but delicious) and cheaper Beyond Meat burgers at Burger Hut — both locations are now open for takeout or curbside ordering. Ask for no special sauce or cheese. Located at 3211 Cohasset Road or 2451 Forest Ave.
  • I discovered La Cocina Economica can make fajitas vegan, if you ask for the shrimp fajita dish to come with just the delicious grilled veggies, with tortillas, rice, beans, guacamole, salsa and fixings — but no cheese. Just make sure to ask how the rice is cooked. Located at 905 Wall St.

Natalie Hanson was inspired to write this biweekly column after meeting more vegans in Chico and seeing the need for representation in the north valley. Send vegan-friendly restaurant or business recommendations her way to

Eating well for extreme heat in summer

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