Top tips for a healthy summer

Media release

21 December 2018

With less than two weeks left of 2018, summer has arrived. Here’s a list of our top tips to help you and your whānau have an enjoyable, healthy and restful summer break.

Eat well

Summer means barbecues, big meals and parties, which can make the holidays an indulgent time. Follow a few of these healthy eating tips if you’re hosting or going to a party.

Tips for hosting or attending a summer event
If you're hosting…  If you're attending…
Provide a few salad options Fill your plate with salads and veges instead of meats
Make a fresh fruit salad for dessert  Take more fruit for dessert rather than cakes and other sweet treats
Leave the sweets and chocolates in the cupboard (or on the supermarket shelf) The sweets and chocolates have been left in the cupboard (on the shelf) so you won't be tempted
Provide your guests with non-alcoholic drinks - try water with cucumber and mint or lemon for a refreshing sugar-free option Reach for an alcohol-free drink first or maybe try going alcohol-free

The arrival of 2019 will mean a multitude of New Year’s resolutions, and choosing a diet and adhering to it is always a popular resolution.

If you’re thinking of moving to a healthier eating pattern, we recommend the Mediterranean and Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diets – there’s much more information on our website weighing up the pros and cons of several different eating patterns.

Another popular New Year’s resolution is to stop smoking. We have useful support online too for people looking to stop, and advice for their friends and whānau.

Physical activity

Summer’s an excellent time to get out and get active around Aotearoa New Zealand, seeing our country at its best. Whether you’re taking a leisurely walk around your neighbourhood or spending a few days on the Heaphy Track, there’s an activity for everyone. Even small increases in physical activity can improve your health and it’s never too early or too late to start being physically active.

Spend quality time with your whānau and get active at the same time by playing a game of backyard cricket or head down to the park for a game of football. Alternatively, you could spend a night on the wild side camping.

Buying gifts for whānau? Think about getting something that encourages physical activity such as a skipping rope or bicycle. You could ask grandparents and other whānau to contribute to the costs of lessons for physical activities, for example dance lessons or swimming classes.

Getting stuck into the garden is a great family activity if you’re having a stay-cation at home. Just remember to wear a mask and gloves whenever you deal with products like mulch, potting mix, bark, fertilisers and pesticides/herbicides, and use these only as directed on the package. See the Worksafe website for information about working safely with soil, compost and potting mix.

And remember to drink plenty of water before, during and after your activity.

Slip, slop, slap and wrap

It doesn’t matter what you’re doing or even if it’s a cloudy day, so slip, slop, slap and wrap whenever you go outside to protect yourself from sunburn and skin cancer. Slipping, slopping, slapping and wrapping is quick and easy:

  • Slip into shade or put on a shirt with long sleeves
  • Slop on some sunscreen with SPF 30 or above at least once every two hours
  • Slap on a wide-brimmed hat
  • Wrap on some close-fitting sunglasses.

Sunburn can strike even if you’re in a car with the windows up as glass doesn’t block all of the sun’s UV radiation. Wearing makeup which claims to contain sunscreen might not protect you either, as in most cases the SPF rating of makeup is well below SPF 30, the minimum SPF recommended – so be sure to slop on sunscreen even if you’re wearing makeup or travelling in the car. The Health Promotion Agency has published an infographic with handy information about how you can check yourself for skin cancer.

Getting stung and bitten by insects is an unfortunate side effect of a summer’s day. You can find out all about bites and stings (and preventing them) here.

Stay cool

There are plenty of simple things you can do to stay cool over summer:

  • Drink plenty of water. Try adding a slice of lemon, lime or mint to a jug of water and put this in the fridge.
  • Water is the best form of fluid. In contrast, alcohol can dehydrate you more in the hot weather so cut down on alcohol.
  • Eat frozen snacks – try eating frozen banana or other fruit as a cool snack.
  • Stay out of the sun by finding shade outside wherever possible and stay indoors when you can.
  • Exercise or do outdoor activities early in the morning or later in the evening. This helps you stay cool and out of the midday sun.
  • Look out for neighbours.
  • Don’t ever leave children unattended in parked cars as cars get very hot inside.
  • Open windows and create a cross breeze or turn on the air conditioning to keep your house a cool oasis.
  • Keep your children cool by giving them a water bottle, appropriate clothing, sunblock and a hat.
  • And remember to keep your pets safe, hydrated and cool too.

Read more about keeping cool.

Be food safe this summer

It’s especially important to remember food safety during summer, when foods such as meat are being prepared, served and eaten outside. It’s also the time when people eat lots of leftovers.

  • Buy safe food – check the ‘use by’/‘best before’ date before you buy food and avoid foods with damaged packaging like dented cans or broken seals. Choose undamaged and unripe (or just ripe) fresh vegetables and fruit.
  • Gathering food – always wash food that you have gathered or bought from someone who gathered it (such as pūha and watercress). Check with your local public health unit or the Ministry for Primary Industries website before gathering food so you can be assured the area it’s been gathered from is clean and free from pollution.
  • Storing food – keep your fridge temperature at 4°C or less and store raw meat away from other food. Read and follow storage advice on labels and cover leftovers, storing them in the fridge (within two hours). Use leftovers within two days of cooking.
  • Preparing and cooking food – always wash and dry your hands before and after preparing food, use clean surfaces and utensils to prepare foods, and make sure reheated food is steaming hot right through and only reheated once.

Some foods are more likely to have harmful bugs in them such as meat, chicken, fish, milk products, rice and legumes. Safely store and cook these foods, and, if you’re in doubt, throw them out.

Don’t forget the water

Welcoming in the New Year at a bach or somewhere else that isn’t lived-in regularly? Run each tap for a few minutes to flush the pipes. This helps get rid of stagnant water in the pipes that might have bugs which could cause illness.

Be sure you run the taps in the shower/bath for a few minutes too.

And thorough hand washing is important year-round – wash your hands for 20 seconds and then dry them for another 20 seconds.

Season’s greetings from everyone at the Ministry of Health. We wish you and your whānau a safe, happy and healthy New Year.

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