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What’s in Your Cooler?

Pat Baird, MA, RDN, FAND

Outdoor picnics, concerts, and social events are in full swing -- which means packing smart meals and beverages to bring along. However, it doesn’t mean you have to leave behind your food and beverage choices. Below are a few of my tips for staying hydrated this summer, while including your favorite options.

  1. Plan outings the same way as any other meal or snack time to avoid a dull picnic hamper. Coordinate your outing with your group in advance to ensure the best mix of fresh foods and tasty treats.
  2. Hydration is a health essential for people of all ages. Adequate amounts of fluid are important to maintain body temperature, digest food properly, and perform a variety of biological processes.  While water may be top of mind for most people when they think about hydration, we get water from a variety of beverages and foods.  All of them count.
  3. Quench your thirst. The latest recommendations from the Institute of Medicine advise that adults use thirst as their guide for how much to hydrate.  Keep in mind that they specified this meant fluid from all sources: food and beverages combined.
  4. Include options. Don’t forget to pack choices -- water, juice, milk, soda, or even ice tea.  Diet soda is a good hydration option for people looking to save calories and stay refreshed.  Juice provides vitamins and minerals, especially electrolytes like potassium that may be lost with sweating, while flavored milks offer nutrients like calcium and vitamin D.  Summer fruits like watermelon, cantaloupe, grapes, peaches, and nectarines are also high in water and tasty additions to any cooler. 

So before your next outing be sure to plan a variety of food and beverage choices to offer the best choices for everyone and, most importantly, maintain optimal hydration.

Pat Baird is a registered dietitian nutritionist, a fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; and President of the CT Academy of Nutrition.  She is an award-winning author of five books, a noted media spokesperson, and adjunct professor at UConn Stamford. Pat worked in healthcare at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.   

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