By Maggie McCauley

The top thing on your summer to-do list is probably to have fun, but you can still enjoy your favorite activities with family and friends while also keeping your health as a top priority. “There are many ways to prepare for summer wellness from your diet to sunscreen and hydration,” says Dr. Jim O’Toole, double-board certified plastic surgeon of O’Toole Plastic Surgery. “These are some of the best approaches if you want to have a fun and safe summer.”

1) Drink Up

“It’s important to stay cool and hydrated,” says O’Toole. Depending on your body size,  you should be drinking 60 to 140 ounces of cold water every day. Keep a water bottle handy throughout your busy schedule and travel plans. It’s best to use a stainless steel water bottle, but if you must use plastic, look for high-density polyethylene. (Remember to recycle plastic bottles!) You can also eat your hydration, choosing produce with high water content, such as zucchini, celery, tomatoes, watermelon, strawberries, grapefruit, and cantaloupe. These foods offer tons of phytonutrients, natural antioxidants, and offer protection against sun damage. “Studies show that your body absorbs water faster in foods,” says O’Toole. So, now is the perfect time to load up on fruits and veggies at your favorite farmer’s markets!

2) Beware of BBQ

Taking meals outdoors is a fun summer tradition. Picnics, barbecues, cookouts, family reunions — you name it. “People always eat more and eat foods that they normally wouldn’t at these kinds of events,” says O’Toole. Knowing how to navigate these kinds of eating situations will help your waistline and your health. Foods that require refrigeration that are left sitting out for too long can start growing bacteria. Consuming meats that are cooked at high temperature for long periods of time can increase your risk of cancer. Cured meats are carcinogenic and high in sodium, which decreases hydration and could lead to blood pressure issues. “Occupy 75% of your plate with watermelon, healthy salads, and other foods high in nutritional value.”

3) Insects be Gone

A mild winter leads to a higher tick population this season. Be sure to check cuff and sock lines for ticks before heading indoors to help decrease your chances of Lyme disease. If traveling to a Zika area this summer, be sure to wear a strong mosquito repellent with DEET. There are natural ways to protect yourself from unwanted bug bites this summer, such as using lemon, eucalyptus, lavender, and diluted cinnamon essential oils. Citronella candles and thyme also
keep these uninvited guests away from the party, and a mixture of vinegar and vegetable oil is a good concoction that ticks hate. Planting marigolds, catnip, basil, and lavender around your garden and patio areas will also stave off mosquitos!

4) Say Yes to SPF

The ideal sunscreen protection will have SPF 30-50 and 7.5% or more zinc oxide. The zinc oxide builds a barrier around your skin, protecting you from harsh sun rays. Oxybenzone and avobenzone are two ingredients that you should limit or try to avoid in your sunscreen. Octinoxate, homosalate, and octocrylene should be completely avoided. Limit your exposure to the sun by wearing a hat and finding shade when outside, and try to exercise and do yard work early in the morning or later in the evening, when the sun isn’t as strong. Don’t forget to reapply sunscreen during prolonged outdoor activity! Most only last a maximum 80 minutes.

5) On the Road

From road trips to summer vacations, it’s hard to eat healthy while traveling. Fast food is high in saturated fat, sodium, and carbohydrates. Instead, prepare snacks and meals ahead of time that can be eaten on the go. “My family has always done this,” says O’Toole.

6) Fresh Eats

“In the summer, there is a bounty of healthy foods,” says O’Toole. Fruits and veggies are now picked at the peak of their freshness, which means their nutritional levels are at an all-time high, too!

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