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Tips to making your Memorial Day healthy and safe.

Toni-Ann DiSantis

Here are tips to making your Memorial Day healthy and safe. (WEBMD.COM)

After months of patiently waiting, it's finally here: the sizzling hot days of summer. With summer serving as the unofficial start to the celebrated season of sun, you want to make sure it's as healthy and safe for you and your family as possible.

From traffic safety to diet reminders, here are some tips that will have you starting your summer off on the right flip-flop.

The Season of BBQs

Summer is synonymous with barbecues: hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, and ice cream. But does the start of summer mean the end of your healthy diet and bathing-suit ready figure? It doesn't have to, and you can start by taking advantage of the healthy foods that are in season.

Enjoy plenty of fruits and veggies, which are fresh and delicious and starting to be more abundant.  If you're grilling, cook a veggie kabob as part of the meal.  Then, the trick is to eat the veggie kabob first, so you take the hunger-edge off before digging into the more diet-dangerous foods, such as burgers and chips.

When it comes to burgers, they can be enjoyed, but keep portion size moderate.  Similarly with chips, watch portion size and choose baked chips if you can.

And when you do indulge in that burger, balance it out with some exercise. It is important to remember that it's a balance of calories and physical activity.  If you want to have chips and a burger on summer weekend, incorporate some physical activity into the weekend to balance it out -- it's a great time to get outside and physical activity really is a key part of managing weight and staying healthy.

Hitting the Road

With millions of people starting the summer season by taking a road trip, the AAA recommends keeping these travel tips in mind:

·       Buckle up for safety -- and to avoid that ticket. Buckle up and make sure that kids are properly secured in child safety seats.  These simple steps greatly increase your odds of surviving and reducing injuries if a crash happens. You can also avoid getting a ticket.

·       Get a good night's sleep.  Drowsy drivers can be as dangerous as drunk drivers, committing many of the same mistakes behind the wheel. Be sure to get a good night's sleep before you take a long road trip.

 

And don't think that a cup of coffee or open windows will substitute for sleep.  If you feel yourself getting drowsy, take a break. Getting out of the car for some exercise or a caffeinated drink can buy you a couple minutes of alertness, but are not substitutes for sleep.

·       Don't drink and drive.

·       Do a pre-road trip checkup. Taking 10 minutes to ensure that your car's tires are properly inflated, that the fluids are topped off, and everything under the hood looks all right, can identify problems that could lead to breakdowns during your trip.  Breakdowns can put a damper on your vacation schedule and budget, plus leave you stuck on the side of the road -- a potentially dangerous place to be.

 

Rip Currents: No. 1 Beach Danger

What is responsible for eight out of 10 beach drownings? The answer: rip currents. This is common on many U.S. beaches -- even in shallow water.   They're often misnamed rip tides or undertows. But they aren't tides, and they don't pull you under water.

It starts on a windy day, usually before or after a storm. Winds blow up waves that crash over a near-shore sandbar. Gravity pulls the water back to sea, but more waves -- and the sandbar -- keep it from flowing out. Eventually, tons of water flow sideways along the shore. This is called a longshore current. If you've ever gone swimming and found yourself pulled far from your blanket on the beach, you've been in a longshore current.  But sooner or later, all that water has to go somewhere. 

When there's a break in the sandbar, the longshore currents head out to sea. As they funnel through the break, they get incredibly strong. This is a rip current. It can flow as fast as 5 mph -- faster than an Olympic swimmer and stronger than the strongest man on earth. Contrary to popular belief, someone caught in a rip current isn't pulled under water. And it won't flow to France -- the rip current dissipates just beyond the breakers. But it's still a killer.

When you're at the beach, rip currents are the most important thing you need to worry about.  If there's no lifeguard, it's not safe.