how to stay healthy in summer season- Jenna Volpe, RDN, LD

6 Unconventional and Timeless Ways to Stay Healthy During the Summer Season

As I’m writing this, the sunflowers are everywhere here in Austin, which means summer 2021 is now upon us! 

(Speaking as a “summer solstice” baby and subsequent Cancer crab who loves the beach, summer is most definitely my favorite season!) 😎

Texas Summer Sunflowers - Eating Healthy During the Summer

Getting through 2020 and now transitioning out of the pandemic (finally), I’ve seen a drastic shift in our healthcare paradigm, which I truly believe is for the better.

More people than ever before are realizing how important it is to take care of ourselves not just physically, but also mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  After all, our body is the vessel that holds our soul!  (Kind of a big deal when we see it from that perspective…)

As Benjamin Franklin once said, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” 

Words of wisdom to say the least!  When it comes to our health, I’m all about being pro-active versus re-active whenever possible, just because it makes everything so much easier…

  • Just like we (hopefully) wouldn’t wait until our car has 100,000 miles on it to get an oil change, we also shouldn’t wait until our health is in a state of crisis to start making positive lifestyle changes!

(More on how to craft your own holistic lifestyle later this year – stay tuned!)

Until then, here are 6 of my favorite health tactics to help you stay healthy during this summer season and beyond:

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1. Stay one day (or one meal) ahead of yourself.

How many times have you successfully made great food choices when you waited until you were starving (or “hangry”) to decide what to eat?! 

Although summer season can mean a lot less structured time, we don’t need to adopt the “all bets are off” mentality when it comes to meal planning. 

It just takes a little extra thought and intention!

The night before or the morning of, look at your schedule for that day and do a quick inventory of what types of foods you have on-hand to work with. (Or if you’ll be out, make note of which healthy options will be nearby, so you can stop and grab something nourishing/tasty!).

Some examples of what to consider in advance:

  • Where will you be? What times are open for you to have meal/snack breaks?  What kinds of food will you have access to at those times?  What do you need to stock up on, or keep in your bag before you leave the house?
  • Thinking about these things regularly is a habit that you’ll be grateful to have for many years to come!

2. Honor your preferences!  Eat and bring what you love.

Going to cookouts and beaches this summer? Bring something you LOVE, that also happens to work well for your body!

For example, I find that most cookouts and BBQ’s are plentiful in meat, rolls, pasta salad etc so to balance that out, I’ll either bring a veggie dish or a healthified dessert (or one of each). 

Here are a few of my favorite BBQ/cookout-friendly goodies:

If you’re going to the beach, try bringing a balanced lunch that contains something from every food group. 

A quick example would be a sandwich on whole grain/gluten free bread (whatever works for you), with a side of fresh veggie sticks and container of hummus. 

  • That’s just ONE example – there are really infinite balanced lunch options for a beach getaway. Take the time to figure out what you like, and what works best for you.  Trust me – you’ll feel SO much better when you have a nourishing meal to keep you going!

3.  Shield.

  • There’s nothing worse than getting eaten alive by mosquitos while trying to enjoy a hot summer night around the fire pit with friends, or getting home with a sunburn! ☹

Herbal Bug Spray

Unfortunately most of the commercial bug sprays out there are loaded with chemicals that are not just toxic to bugs but also technically toxic to human cells.  Our skin is semi-permeable and will absorb lots of the chemicals in topical products (1).  This is why things like hormonal birth control patches and nicotine patches work, after all!

Once in a while isn’t a big deal, but if you like to go camping or hang outside all summer long, you may prefer one of these natural options:

  • Catnip hydrosol with a few drops of  Citronella essential oil

    • Just a few drops of citronella oil per bottle of catnip is a wonderful herbal go-to for repelling mosquitoes and other bugs! Simple, safe, easy, natural and EFFECTIVE.

Catnip is safe and gentle enough for children, but powerful enough to work better than commercial bug sprays as a natural mosquito repellant.  To boot, Iowa State University found catnip to be 10x more effective at repelling bugs compared to toxic DEET! (2)

If you’ve got a green thumb and love to garden, you can even take some fresh catnip leaves and just keep them in your pocket!  (This is a tactic I learned from a few of my fellow herbalists.)

Keeping mosquitoes away without polluting your liver or environment…  Best of both worlds!

Natural Sunscreen

I’m also an advocate for wearing sunscreen!  Protecting our skin from sun damage not only helps prevent melanoma (skin cancer) but it also makes us look a whole lot younger down the road…

The catch: Like commercial bug sprays, most mainstream sunscreens on the market are laden with carcinogens (cancer-causing chemicals) that can leak into the blood through our skin (3). Lots of these chemicals are actually banned in the UK and Australia.  (As I mentioned, the skin is more permeable/”sponge-like” than we realize.)

  • My favorite natural sunscreens for the beach or for going out on walks are Beautycounter or Pure Haven Essentials, and I personally use Just Jill Cosmetics SunShield Mineral Moisturizer for my face!
    • These are a few examples of sunscreens made with all-natural ingredients that our body knows how to handle.  I have no professional affiliation with any of those sunscreen companies; they’re just in alignment with my core values and health standards. There are a lot of different options out there!

Healthline also has a few great safe and simple sunscreen recipes

  • Ultimately, some sunscreen is better than none (chemicals or not), since about 1 in 5 people will develop skin cancer at some point in life according to Healthline.

4.  Get moving!

Don’t get me wrong – it’s always great to have the opportunity to go for a walk or get outside on a beautiful day!

But what do you do when it’s rainy, cold or crappy out?

Or if you live in Texas like me… what do you do for basically the entire summer when it’s triple digits outside and you find yourself getting tan-lines after going outside just to check the mail? I speak from personal experience!!

What I’m getting at here is there can always be a reason not to exercise, but when there’s a will, there’s always a way. Rain or shine, Boston snow storms or Texas heat, house or apartment or RV, I’ve never let that stop me from staying active.  To each their own, but just sayin!

There are INFINITE ways to get moving…

What constitutes “movement” is on an entire spectrum. 

Movement can range from light stretching or chair yoga, to walking or gardening, to swimming, tennis, workout classes, personal training, exercise videos, running, or something totally different! 

There’s no right or wrong way to move your body! The key is that you enjoy it, it’s sustainable, and it works well for you.

A few examples:

  • On beautiful sunny days, there’s nothing better than getting outside on foot or on a bike, around the neighborhood or a lake, in the woods or at a local park! (Location-specific.)
  • If you live near some kind of water – (lucky you!) – swimming is ahh-mazing, has zero impact on your joints and can be a great way to work every muscle in your body!
  • On busy or rainy days, a quick workout video or yoga class or a even few sets of lunges can make a huge difference!

It’s not about how LONG or how INTENSE our activity is, but how CONSISTENT we are. 

  • For me personally, as little as 5 to 15 minutes of movement is enough to drastically improve my sleep, focus, energy, mood, and stress management.

Bottom line:  Find a few fun different summer-friendly activities you enjoy, and make them a part of your lifestyle!

5.  Stay hydrated!

A general rule of thumb is about 8 glasses or 64 oz. per day, or ~2 to 3 liters.  Your individual water requirements may be higher if you’re very physically active (especially high intensity exercise) or out in the heat, or it may be reduced if you’re on a medical fluid restriction (such as in cases of kidney disease or heart failure.)

How can you tell if you’re dehydrated or too hydrated?

  • If you’re already thirsty, you’re likely mildly dehydrated. Time for a big glass of water! 
  • If you’re peeing every 20 minutes and it’s completely clear, you’re probably over-doing it.

What type of water is best?

I love Mountain Valley spring water which is clean, naturally rich in minerals, tastes great, and it comes in glass bottles versus plastic. This would be my first choice when I’m out, if it’s available (which it isn’t very often).  Plastic is a conversation for another time! Although I do still consume things that come wrapped or bottled in plastic, I also try to be proactive for our environment and for hormones’ sake.  Plastic is also high in estrogen-like substances which are endocrine disruptors.

  • The catch:  bottled water can get pretty expensive, pretty quickly!

My #1 choice for environmentally and financially sustainable clean water is a Berkey water filter.

In the U.S., lots fluoride is added to tap water in the U.S. as a way to keep the water clean, along with chlorine!

Although fluoride and chlorine are necessary for preventing bacterial growth in our tap water, at the same time I’d rather not be consuming large quantities of those on-the-reg.

  • Fluoride and chlorine are halogens which can displace iodine in the body (4).
    • What this means: too much fluoride or chlorine is not great for our thyroid!  This might be something to consider if you have any kind of thyroid disorder.
  • Fluoride and chlorine also have a negative impact on our gut microbes (the bacteria that live in our gut).
    • Think about it – why do we add chlorine to a swimming pool?
  • Fluoride consumption over time has been shown to calcify our pineal gland (5).
    • The pineal gland is a soybean-sized gland in the center of our brain. It regulates sleep, hormones, neurotransmitters, circadian rhythms, and much more! 

That said, most mainstream water filters (like Brita) do NOT remove fluoride! But they do get rid of chlorine. 

We use the “Big Berkey” water filter in my household, but feel free to do your own research and make your own informed decisions about the water you drink!


Some fluoride is needed for supporting healthy teeth and bones; just not as much as we’re made to believe.  In the U.S. we tend to consume ridiculously large quantities of fluoride and not have better dental outcomes compared to other countries that don’t add synthetic fluoride to their water.  (6)

We can still get enough fluoride in moderation when dining at restaurants and café’s:

  • Restaurants and café’s use tap water to make coffee, tea, soups, cooking rice, etc. So don’t worry about not getting enough fluoride if you start using a Berkey filter!

Fluoride, chlorine and tap water aside… hydrating with tap water is MUCH better than not drinking enough water!

Here are a few fun ways you can stay hydrated this summer: 

  • Drink more decaf/herbal tea
  • Squeeze some fresh citrus into your water
  • Try carbonated water
  • Sip on fresh cold-pressed juices
  • Add fresh herbs (like basil) to your glass of water
  • Add some sliced cucumber to your water pitcher

6.  Keep cool!

Did you know that certain types of herbs can help to cool the body off internally, or help prevent us from over-heating?  This is an example of “herbal energetics”, a practice which focuses on categorizing and selecting certain herbal plant medicines based on the specific actions they have on the body relative to what a person needs.

Here are just a few of my favorite cooling herbs for the summertime:

  • Cilantro: Add some cilantro to a summer soup, or top your guacamole with a handful of fresh cilantro!
  • Basil:  Enjoy as part of some Caprese salad or homemade pesto! Or add some fresh muddled garden basil to your cocktail/mocktail.
  • Stinging nettle: Steep 1 tablespoon dried nettle leaves in ~12 to 16 oz. water, for at least 15 to 20 minutes.  Drink ~6 oz. of nettle tea infusions a few times a day. 
    • Nettle is a diuretic and will lower blood pressure so don’t go overboard and DON’T use this one to hydrate after a workout!
  • Peach leaves: these cool us off internally, whether taken as a tea or tincture! Tea is more fun.
    • Peach leaf tea: when you go peach picking, also fill a paper grocery bag with peach leaves from peach trees (with permission). Dry the leaves and then steep a few tablespoons in ~12-16 oz. hot water for at least 15-20 minutes or up to a few hours.  You can even make it into iced peach leaf tea which makes a lovely summer beverage!
  • Peppermint: Make a cup of peppermint tea with fresh or dried peppermint leaves to have after a meal!  Not only will this cool you off but peppermint tea will also support healthy digestion. ????
  • Fennel: this is also a wonderful cooling herb that supports healthy digestion!  Try some fennel tea or this fennel-cucumber salsa

I hope you enjoy your summer in whatever ways feed your soul, fill your cup and bring you lots of joy.  We all deserve that! Cheers to new beginnings in 2021!


  1. Nielsen JB, Benfeldt E, Holmgaard R. Penetration through the Skin Barrier. Curr Probl Dermatol. 2016;49:103-11. doi: 10.1159/000441549. Epub 2016 Feb 4. PMID: 26844902. 
  2. Coats, Joel, and Barbara McManus. “Catnip Captures Attention as a Mosquito Repellent.” College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Iowa State University of Science and Technology, 25 July 2012,
  3. Goodman, Brenda. “FDA Sunscreen Report Raises Concern Over Chemicals.” WebMD, WebMD, 21 Jan. 2020,
  4. “The Halogens: Fluorine, Chlorine, Bromine, Iodine and Astatine.” Chemistry of the Elements, 1997, pp. 789–887., doi:10.1016/b978-0-7506-3365-9.50023-7.
  5. Tan, Dun Xian et al. “Pineal Calcification, Melatonin Production, Aging, Associated Health Consequences and Rejuvenation of the Pineal Gland.” Molecules (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 23,2 301. 31 Jan. 2018, doi:10.3390/molecules23020301 
  6. “Is Fluoridated Drinking Water Safe?” Harvard Public Health Magazine, 22 June 2018,