40+ Secrets to Having Your Healthiest Summer Ever
Here’s how to lose weight, improve your skin, avoid bug bites, and have a blast while you're at it.
Pack a spare pair of flip flops
Athlete’s foot, that itchy, burning bane of bare feet everywhere, comes with the territory during summer. “Athlete’s foot and other skin infections can be transferred by direct contact,” explains Patricia Nicholas, MD, president-elect of the New York State of Podiatric Medical Association. Keep your tootsies safe and comfortable this season by stashing a spare pair of cheap flip-flops in your beach bag or car and use them in common areas like pool decks, locker rooms, and beaches, to avoid exposure to this tough-to-treat infection.
Forget the base tan this summer! Melanoma is the leading cancer killer of people under 40, and even if you don’t get the deadly type, you can still be disfigured by it. Fortunately, this is one cancer that you can do a lot to prevent. Wearing sunscreen during the summer is a must, says Eric Meinhardt, MD, a dermatologist at California Dermatology Specialists. Keep a bottle handy and reapply per the directions as long as you’re outdoors, and seek shade during the sun’s strongest hours—11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Take a life-guarding class
Summer often means swimming, but along with the water fights and river floats comes the danger of drowning. Everyone is at risk, which means that everyone can benefit from taking a water safety or a weekend lifeguarding class, even if there’s no Baywatch beach running in your future. You’ll learn vital first aid and rescue skills that could help you save a life. Find a class through the Red Cross near you.
Leaves of three, let it be
Nothing ruins a backyard barbecue like an outbreak of itchy blisters. Recognizing poison ivy is 90 percent of the battle when it comes to avoiding the painful summertime rash.
Skewer your veggies
Vegetables on a plate are boring and prone to getting “hidden” in napkins. Vegetables on sharp sticks, on the other hand, are a fun novelty! (Don’t ask us why—human brains are weird.) Load up wooden or metal skewers with colorful, marinated vegetables, cook them on the grill, then watch your kids devour them.
Sign up for a color-foam-inflatable-glow run
The long days of summer are packed with all kinds of different races, and you don’t have to be a marathoner to sign up. Look for races near you that feature live music, sprinklers and slip-n-slides, foam, bouncy obstacles, colored paint, or glow-in-the-dark features. You’ll have so much fun, you’ll forget you’re exercising.
Stock up on insect repellent
Mosquito and tick bites are not only irritating (as anyone who’s ever had a bug bite on their eyelid can attest) but they can spread harmful diseases as well. Keep the summer fun going even when insects are out by stocking up on cans of insect repellent. If you’re going into a forest, experts recommend a spray containing DEET.
Hone your grilling techniques
A perfectly charred steak or chicken breast is… ? If you filled in the blank with “delicious,” you are correct. If you filled it in with “cancer-causing” you would also be correct. Sadly, recent research has shown that grilled meat contains carcinogens that can raise your risk of several deadly types of cancer.
Pack up the potato salad
What happens after you and your guests have had their fill of summer classics like grilled hot dogs, potato salad, cream cake, and deviled eggs? You may be tempted to lounge by the pool or take a nap on a chez lounge, but any responsible host will hop up and put the leftovers away.
Buy the superhero water bottle
Water tastes better when you drink it out of a cool cup—it’s a fact (just ask any kid). So make sure you’re staying hydrated this summer by investing in a water bottle that floats your boat. It can be insulated, made of renewable materials, brightly colored, or sporting a glitter-encrusted Wonder Woman logo, as long as it gets you to drink more H2O.
Throw on a UPF swimsuit coverup
All the sunscreen in the world can’t save you from sun damage if you don’t apply it properly, so lessen the room for error by getting a couple of pieces of UPF outerwear. “A normal T-shirt provides the equivalent of an SPF 4–6, but most sun protective clothes are rated with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) of 50+,” Allison Arthur, MD, of Sand Lake Dermatology Center, told us. “For running errands, I will often throw on a UPF cardigan or dress to cover my arms. When I go to the beach, I am covered head to toe with a broad-brimmed hat, UPF swim shirt, and swim tights that go down to my ankles. For sports like kayaking, I add gloves and a neck gaiter that can be pulled up to cover the lower face.”
One-ingredient frozen treats
Indulge your sweet tooth and keep cool without sacrificing your waistline? No, you didn’t fall asleep in front of a late-night infomercial. Whip up this zero-calorie treat by taking your favorite flavored water and freezing it into an ice pop. Easy-peasy! You can eat it as a popsicle or blend it into a slushie.
Protect your pout
The bottom lip is a highly sun-exposed area that’s often forgotten about, says dermatologist George Skandamis, MD. Take care of your kisser by making sure to use a lip balm with built-in SPF sun protection. It’s an easy fix that will keep you looking younger and smoother, not to mention more comfortable all summer long.
Take your pasta salad to the next level
Pasta salad is a staple at summer picnics, but all the mayonnaise, ranch, bacon, and other rich toppings can add calories fast. You can have your pasta guilt-free, however, by making a few simple-yet-tasty swaps, says Kara Golis, a registered dietitian and author of Byte Sized Nutrition. Her caprese salad halves the calories but packs in the flavor with cherry tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and light balsamic dressing. Or try one of these healthy main-dish salads that don’t taste like diet food.
Adopt an aloe vera plant
Aloe vera is the perfect indoor plant: It’s beautiful, hard to kill, grows well in a variety of places, and its gel is the perfect soother for summer skin woes. Warmer temps make skin more susceptible to sunburns, rosacea, and heat rash. Nix the redness caused by these conditions by breaking open an aloe leaf and applying the gel to your skin, says Roshini Raj, MD, dermatologist and co-founder of TULA skin care.
Join a parade
Think your parade float days ended after marching band in middle school? Local parades offer lots of ways to be involved. Help create a float, lead a girl scout troop, support a friend’s business, or join a community group, and enjoy being a part of the action. You’ll have a blast and get plenty of steps in.
Check out the local farmers market
Summer is peak season for produce, and your local farmer’s market will have the freshest foods available in your area. While you’re there, you can also pick up some fresh-baked bread, local honey, grass-fed meats, fresh flowers, and even a new centerpiece. Best dinner party ever?
Take a hike
Nothing cures a bad day like being in the great outdoors, and hiking can lower stress and boost your mood, according to research in Psychology Today. Sign up for a National Parks pass or get recommendations from the American Hiking Society. You’ll get exercise and a fresh perspective.
Play a round of golf
There are way more summer sports than hiking and swimming. If you prefer to get outdoors at a more leisurely pace, golf is also great exercise. And yes, mini golf and frisbee golf count too! Play early or late in the day to take advantage of cooler temps. Bonus: You may get to see an amazing summer sunrise or sunset.
Swap sorbet for ice cream
Made from fresh fruit, this creamy sorbet will give you all the satisfaction of ice cream minus the calorie and sugar overload. It couldn’t be simpler to make: Puree your favorite fruits, freeze, and stir. For a little extra sweetness, add a dollop of honey or another natural sweetener.
Pamper your skin with a mister
You know those little spray bottles with a fan they sell at amusement parks? They’re awesome in many summer venues, beyond standing in long lines waiting for a roller coaster. You can make your own with scented oils and water, mixed in a small spray bottle. Then when things get hot you can discretely mist yourself.
Broaden your burger horizons
Hamburgers are a favorite summer meal but they’re also diet busters. Make over your burger by swapping out the bun for a portobello mushroom or a lettuce wrap, suggests Caroline Passerrello, MS, RDN, LDN, spokesperson for the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “It’s not that I’m anti-carb, but it’s more to save carbs for all the other summer fun side dishes,” she says. Her favorite combo? A burger patty on top of a grilled portobello mushroom, topped with pesto and mozzarella.
Snack on watermelon
The sweet, juicy melon is one of summer’s quintessential foods—and one you can enjoy guilt-free, Passarrello says. Watermelon’s high water content means it has just 46 calories per cup, compared to about 65 calories in a cup of chopped apple. “You can eat a little bigger portion than some of the other fruits for the same calories,” she says.
Throw a stick of Body Glide in your gym bag
Chub rub happens to the best of us, but left unchecked, it can ruin a fun time outdoors. Protect against chafing in between thighs, underarms, or other areas that rub together with a stick of Body Glide. It provides a physical barrier against moisture and friction to help you keep going pain-free. Bonus: You can also use it to prevent blisters from ill-fitting shoes.
Get a cool sun hat (and wear it)
Keep the sun off your face and stay cool with a broad-brimmed hat. Not only will it help protect your skin (although you still need to wear sunscreen!) but it can help ward off heat stroke, a potentially deadly condition from overheating outdoors.
It starts with HEAT: High temps; Exercise (or activity); Acting confused; Time to call 911. Make sure you know all the signs of heat stroke and how to treat it.
Put stuff in your water
Floaties in your drink aren’t always a good thing, as any parent of a toddler can tell you, but if they’re tasty fruits and veggies (and not of the backwash variety) they can take your water from plain to party. Slice up lemons, limes, strawberries, cucumbers, mint, basil, or other aromatic plants to give your drink a calorie-free boost.
Try this cooling eye mask
Sweat, melting makeup, sunscreen, sand—there are many reasons summer can lead to puffy, dry eyes. Pamper your peepers with a simple eye mask that you can make by soaking green or peppermint tea bags and then putting them in your refrigerator. Pull them out and place them over your eyelids to instantly reduce swelling and feel more relaxed.
Break out the bag balm
Scraped knees and elbows are an inevitable side effect of fun summer activities like playing on the beach, riding bikes or rollerblading but they don’t have to end the good times. Coat scrapes with bag balm—an ointment originally made to soothe cows’ udders—to reduce pain and help healing.
Put an ice pack in your pillow
Avoid heat stroke and cool down with gel ice packs—yes, the same ones you use in your lunch bag. Try wrapping them in a cloth napkin or soft T-shirt and placing them behind your neck or under your armpits for maximum cooling effect. For a fun (and slightly weird) sensation, place one inside your pillowcase. You’ll feel instantly cooler and will be able to drift off sooner. Plus, you won’t flip your pillow all night looking for the colder side.
Better your barbecue sauce
Barbecue sauce is delicious but when it’s one of the main high-cal culprits, thanks to all the sugar used in most recipes. This doesn’t mean you’re sentenced to a season of flavorless, dry chicken breasts though. You can make delicious, low-sugar, low-carb marinades, sauces, and rubs that will have you wondering why you were ever so attached to that bottle of processed sugar syrup in the first place.
Buy preservative-free hot dogs and brats
Grilled meat may be the official scent of summertime but some of the most common types of meat you find on the grill, including hot dogs and sausages, can be terrible for your health. Processed meats with artificial preservatives such as nitrates and BHT have been shown to significantly raise your risk of cancer and heart disease. Instead, opt for fresh, preservative-free varieties.
Pack a Sportbrella
Bring your own shade with this combination pop-up umbrella and tent. With the Sport Brella, you’ll stay cool and protected from the sun while you play at beach, watch a volleyball game, hang out waiting for fireworks start, or on a camping trip this summer. Plus it makes an awesome, easy fort for bored out-of-school kiddos!
Freeze some grapes
Why do grapes taste so much better frozen? It’s a mystery but a tasty one we dare you to try. They’re the ultimate healthy summer snack, packing antioxidants, vitamins, and fiber into perfectly chill balls. For even more fun, put them on a skewer first and let kids enjoy a grape-cicle.
Fall in love with sunrise and sunset
Dawn and dusk are the best times to enjoy the beautiful summer weather without getting overwhelmed by heat. Make an early-morning or evening stroll part of your daily routine—you’ll get fresh air, sunshine, and some exercise. Just make sure to bring your bug spray, as these are also the times mosquitoes are most active.
Run through the sprinklers
Don’t love getting socked with a water balloon? Another fun, less combative summer option is to run through the sprinklers. You don’t even need a swimsuit. If you see a sprinkler come on at the park, in your yard, or on any nearby stretch of grass, take a couple leaps through and you’ll feel instantly refreshed.
Try a new water sport
Water skiing and surfing get all the glamour, but there are lots of fun ways to enjoy an active day on the water. Paddleboards, canoes, kayaks, and tubes all offer a workout that’s as entertaining as it is good for you. If you have excellent balance, try yoga on a paddleboard.
Play rest stop roulette
Headed out on a road trip? Break up the hours of sitting with quick fitness challenges at rest stops. Write down different simple moves—think squats, burpees, lunges, crunches, and push-ups—on strips of paper. Put them in a bag or cup and have passengers take turns drawing one out. Do each move for one minute before leaving the rest stop.
Close your windows
Sleeping with the windows open on a warm summer night can feel amazing… unless you have allergies. Many people don’t even realize they’re reacting to pollen, dust, and other contaminants floating in through open windows until they wake up with a headache and stuffy nose. If open windows help you sleep more deeply, then by all means go for it, but don’t be afraid to draw them shut if you’re waking up more tired than rested.
Install a habit app
Summer, with its neat delineation of months, is the perfect time to make a new habit or break an old one. Whether it’s training for a race, learning to meditate, or cooking meals at home, technology can help you achieve your warm-weather goals. The Habitbull app can help you stay motivated and on track so that by fall you’ll be ready to take on a new challenge.
Bleach your pool toys
That rubber ducky hanging out in your swim bag may not be as innocent as he looks, especially if you look inside. Pool toys are a fertile breeding ground for bacteria and fungi, which can make you and your kids sick. Fortunately, a quick bleach bath or wipedown will take care of germs and have you back in the pool in no time.
Bring baby powder to the beach
Beach showers are really just a cruel joke. You may be able to rinse the sand off but unless you can fly back to your car, chances are good you’ll get covered again by the time you make it to the parking lot. Enter baby powder. Sprinkle the white stuff all over wet sandy feet and watch the dirt brush right off.
Make bruschetta your go-to appetizer
Tomatoes are a summer staple, livening up everything from salads to marinades. And it turns out that they’re just as good for you as they are tasty, protecting you from outdoor damage. “Tomatoes are a great source of the antioxidant lycopene, which helps protect the skin from damage from the sun and the environment (think pollution) that can cause dark spots, lines, dryness, and skin roughness,” says Brigitte Zeitlin, MPH, RD, CDN, and owner of BZ Nutrition.
Laugh. A. Lot
Laughter truly is the best medicine—it’s a proven way to lower stress and blood pressure while improving mood and memory—and summer gatherings offer lots of opportunities to share a giggle with loved ones. Incorporate humor into your daily conversations by reading through our joke archives. You can start with these 26 hilarious tweets from parents who can’t wait for summer to end already.
Go berry picking
Walking through fragrant berry patches is rewarding on its own but getting to take home a basket full of blueberries, strawberries, or raspberries is icing on the cake. They’re low-calorie, full of fiber, and packed with anthocyanin, an antioxidant that helps protect your skin from fine lines and dryness, says Zeitlin.
Make that sangria virgin
Having a beer or glass of wine may seem like the perfect way to wind down during a summer evening, but if health and weight loss are your goals, then you should cut back, says Gabriella Vetere, registered dietitian nutritionist, founder of Macrobalanced Nutrition. Alcohol is not only empty calories but also has a huge effect on the weight loss process, as it can interrupt and inhibit fat metabolism, making it harder to lose weight, she explains. If you’re going drink, sip one glass slowly.
Listen to ocean waves at bedtime
Unless you’re fortunate enough to live close enough to the beach and hear the real deal from your bedroom window, you might want to invest in a sound machine. Getting enough shut-eye is one of the best things you can do for your health, and for many people, the white noise of waves crashing helps them fall asleep faster. “Getting less than 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night ramps up hunger hormones and reduces impulse control, making it less likely that you will make healthy choices, explains Caroline Apovian, MD, Director of the Nutrition and Weight Management Center at the Boston Medical Center, professor at the Boston University School of Medicine, and vice-president of The Obesity Society. Getting less sleep than needed also heightens cortisol, the “stress hormone,” which can lead to many health problems, she adds.
Buy the bikini or pull out the shorts
Summer weather means summer clothing, like swimsuits, shorts, and sundresses. Yet many people worry they don’t have the “right” body to wear the clothes that will keep them cool and happy during the hot months. Forget about what other people may be thinking about you (and chances are they aren’t thinking about you nearly as much as you think) and wear what makes you comfortable and happy. Plus, wearing appropriate summer clothing will make you more likely to get outside and be active.