Urge to eat light, drink cool doesn't rule out pasta

July 18, 2006|By LINELL SMITH | LINELL SMITH,SUN REPORTER

When temperatures soar into the triple digits, Weight Watchers leader Karen Paris gets a hankering for pink lemonade sugar-free snowballs and frozen grapes.

Nutritionist and athlete Colleen Pierre reaches for blue Gatorade and fat-free Pringles.

At Obrycki's crab house in East Baltimore, customers request more crab mesclun salad, shrimp salad - and lots of water.

July in Baltimore is a time when food cravings go lighter and leafier - at least for some. Little Italy's pasta remains a summer mainstay. Baltimoreans continue to love their crustaceans. And few would deny the power of ice cream to make a Code Red day more bearable.

During hot weather, Paris often abandons her oven for carryout: low-calorie goodies from her supermarket's salad bar and a rotisserie chicken.

Pierre, a Baltimore nutritionist and competitive tennis player, makes sure that many of her fluids contain electrolytes.

"Sodium tends to make you hold on to the water you drink," she says. "A sports drink with sodium makes you a little thirsty so that you drink more. It also gives you some carbohydrates - which is your brain's favorite food."

Folks who spend a lot of time in the heat should also consider cutting back on high-fat meals, she says.

"Foods like double-cheese pizzas, burgers and fries take longer to digest. And the longer it takes your body to digest something, the longer it's diverted from working to cool your body down."

Instead, those who work or exercise outside should eat more frequently.

"Watermelon is great: It gives you potassium, tastes good and is refreshing," she says. "You can also try salty low-fat snacks like pretzels. Fat-free Pringles - any kind of baked chips would work. ... Just remember to take extra calories into account."

For most people, handling hot, humid weather is a matter of keeping fluids up and adding a little more salt. One Southern tradition combines both: Slices of cantaloupe and watermelon with salt sprinkled on them is a major summer treat, says Whole Foods spokeswoman Kate Lowery.

Yesterday, people clamored for cut fruit and salad at Whole Foods' Harbor East store, according to store team leader Alex Torres.

"When I saw how jam-packed the salad bar was at lunch, I was like, `Wow, this is incredible,'" he says. "I saw a lot of new customers. The fresh-cut salad vegetables -peas, cucumbers, onions - were going faster than the pre-made salads today.

"We're also seeing big increases in sushi. It gives people the sensation of being full and still feeling light."

At Velleggia's in Little Italy, however, diners are eating just as much pasta as ever.

"We made a cold melon soup the other day and didn't sell one order of it," laments head chef Enrico Velleggia. "People are ordering chicken fettucine alfredo, lasagna, stuffed shells - they come here with their favorites in their minds.

"It could be 100 degrees or 30 degrees and they're going to get the same thing. This time of year we sell more seafood, but when it comes to colder dishes like antipastos and salads, not really."

Dining al fresco shrivels as the humidity swells. At Bo Brooks crab house in Canton, no one is keen to grab one of the restaurant's 160 outside seats, says co-owner Chris Hannan.

Perhaps they're all headed to a snowball stand.

As many as 600 people a day can visit Tastee Zone during a heat wave, says manager Kelly Birmingham. One of the Catonsville store's most popular treats is a parfait combining a snowball with soft ice cream.

"Outdoor workers skip their lunches and come here to eat," she says. "We have people come back two and three times a day."

linell.smith@baltsun.com

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